I used to have a Xanga account. For years, I blogged about dating, I blogged about wedding planning, then I blogged about pregnancy and parenting until my community moved on to Facebook. I share/d things on Facebook but missed writing more detailed thoughts about topics that were important to me. My husband would ask me once in a while if I wanted to blog again and in my head, I wanted to… but thinking about what kind of focus I would want my blog to have would ultimately stop me because I couldn’t really express clearly what I wanted to write about. But recently, I was chatting with a friend and basically went on and on and ON about family dinners and how important it was to my family. I literally just kept talking about it even after my friend agreed that it was a good thing. And casually, I said, “I guess I’m pretty passionate about it”. A lightbulb then went off in my head. Yes, I am passionate about families coming together to share meals. Friends coming together to share meals. Folks coming together to share meals. It allows a space for people to share, open up, reflect and discuss their day. I personally love to cook and I work full time. I cook 4-6 nights a week. It takes effort and it’s not always easy and sometimes we order a lot of take out but the effort is usually there and I want to share easy recipes and encourage others to cook as well.
I looked back at one of my Xanga entries and here it is, from 2012:
July 12, 2012
Over the years, people have asked me how I can work full-time and get dinner cooked (usually from scratch) for my family. A good friend of mine actually just asked me this a few days ago. The answer is simple – I make it a priority. More so than cleaning (which I dread). Like many other moms, I juggle balls and the ball I choose to drop all the time is cleaning. But I don’t drop the cooking ball because I actually like it. I recently read an article in Good Housekeeping (geez, is this what my life is about now??) that really resonated with me.
Here is one excerpt:
‘Everyone has his or her own criteria for what defines a successful family dinner. These are mine:
1. Every member of the family is accounted for and seated, facing the others.
2. There is a wholesome meal on the table.
3. Everyone is eating (more or less) the same thing.
You may have other variables, like having the TV off and no punches or peas thrown between siblings, but the three above are the biggest for me. If I can honestly say that I’ve hit two of these three, then you better believe I’m marking it down in the Successful Family Dinner column. That means it counts even if everyone is at the table eating a Domino’s pizza. If Mom and Dad are eating grilled mackerel while their kids are seated next to them chowing down on turkey burgers, that counts, too. If only Dad is there, but everyone is eating grilled double-cut lamb chops and kale salad, you can also feel pretty good about your dinner situation.’
The part that really makes me proud is that i do it on a budget. It’s not always easy, but I stick to a pretty strict grocery budget and I usually do not go over. When we were going through financial difficulties last year, it was my stockpile of strategic proteins in the freezer that pulled us through that time. I do not plan a week’s worth of menus in advance. I used to do 4-5 days worth when I was starting out , to get the hang of it but now I can menu plan in my head 1-2 days. Sometimes it just works out where I can plan 4-5 days worth but it’s not necessary for me anymore.I can list a bunch of tips to help but frankly, I find that you have to WANT to do it. If you’re serious about it, you’ll make it happen. It takes a bit of foresight sometimes and it takes a bit of sheer will at others. But in the end, it’s so gratifying to sit down at the table with the food that I’ve prepared with my own hands. My kids mostly eat what I cook better than any fast food/restaurant food/take out that we put in front of them. They don’t’ usually have seconds of store-bought food but there have been MANY times where both kids have had 3 helpings of my home cooked meal. And although I like to cook complicated things for a challenge, I often have one hour from start to finish. From starting to break down that whole chicken (yes, I buy it whole to save $$) to hitting the table, I usually have 1 hour.
all that being said, i realized something about my kids – they eat more tortillas than rice! my kids are full korean american and yet eat korean meals maybe 2-4 times a month. i usually have something that can go in a tortilla ALL the time and our weekend breakfasts are usually an egg scramble with veggie leftovers and meat from the week prior, wrapped up in a tortilla. it’s what my son expects on the weekends….
- try it out. on a weeknight! start with baby steps – one planned meal a week. then maybe you’ll go to two.
- i started out by cooking one meal a week and only the main dish. bubba cooked the side (rice or noodle). i couldn’t even imagine how to put together a whole meal, let alone do it multiple times a week. but a good friend kept encouraging me to take baby steps and sure enough, i just became more confident because i was doing it so much.
I’m pretty much doing the same things as 4 years ago, I menu plan about a day or two ahead and I am still on a budget! I’m probably a little more creative and less stressed about it than I was even 4 years ago but I’m happy to say I still practice most of those things. I hope in this space, I can share recipes that work for me and DON’T work for me and perhaps even encourage others to eat together…. 🙂