Our family table has long played a central role in our home, whether in mealtimes, school work, or neighborly connection and yet, by the end of the Spring, it seemed to be dissolving somehow. Mealtimes were irregular or rushed. We struggled to find time for other people to join us for dinner. My children’s curiosity about food or what was happening in the kitchen seemed to be waning. I found myself shouldering most of the planning, shopping, and prepping meals again. Sometimes when life begins to spin, I become caught in the whirl, tossed by the chaos, when what is needed is for me to stop and rearrange our family life so that genuine connection regains priority. We have many regular family conversations about the collaborative work required to make a home. In short, everyone contributes; everyone’s effort matters.
On that note, last month, after a family conversation where I shared all of this, the kids took responsibility for four dinners a week again. They paired off, taking two nights per pair, rotating who leads the meal making/planning and who is the helper. Each child plans one full meal a week, checks what we already have, and writes down what we need for the grocery list. They do have to submit ideas to me for approval, mostly to make sure there’s diversity to our meals and that they don’t select anything that might be too complex for our schedule that week. I encourage them to flip through recipe books or think back to the meals they’ve enjoyed most. I still help them, of course, but I am an aid to them, available for questions and to help how they might need it, rather than leading the charge. And many times, they enjoy the freedom to direct the kitchen without my help at all. It has been refreshing.
I included a few guidelines for our meal planning below, as well as a few meals they have made. I linked to a few of the recipe resources, too. We have just started discussing meal budgets in meal planning and may in the future add that boundary to the mix. For now, the goal is simply for them to be creative and inspired by the kitchen again, to be reminded of the healing nature of community around the table and the responsibility we each have in cultivating it. I am the check-and-balance, keeping a loose idea of how rare or expensive the ingredients might be or how long a meal might take to create. It is all a part of a conversation in our Sunday meal planning together.
SIMPLE MEAL GUIDELINES
Vegetables are required at every meal. Meat is not.
Pasta only once a week, with veggies.
Limit oven meals in the summer. Use the grill when possible.
Eat seasonally, when possible.
MEALS THE KIDS HAVE MADE
creamy pasta pomodoro + mixed green salad
roasted poblano fish tacos (we make these a variety of ways)
pulled pork sliders + jalapeño coleslaw + caesar salad
grilled herbed salmon + quinoa edamame salad
BLTA subs + sliced watermelon
pasta with zucchini + carrot ribbons + spinach salad
grilled chicken + white wine, mushroom, spinach sauté
gemelli pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes, garden basil, spinach, and fresh parmesan
baked sweet potatoes with various toppings + spinach salad
grilled chicken sandwiches with avocado + sun-dried tomatoes + parmesan truffle potato fries