We have a family of 8, which is a lot of mouths to feed. I want to feed them the best food I can, which means I like to go organic. That is very meaningful to me to give my children good quality food starting right in their childhood. It’s important for us to begin those healthy habits now, not just in what we eat but in our overall lifestyle. And it’s important that the kids don’t just do those things, but also know why we do them.
With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life and that comes with caring for six kids, we like to create space for a lot of enjoyment within our mealtimes. For a time, I found myself dreading supper. It felt rushed and overwhelming, and I would toss whatever I could find onto the table and call it a “meal.” I didn’t want that to be what our sacred dinner time consisted of, and I didn’t want that to be what my children’s memories were made of. I needed a shift—in mindset and action.
So I made a point to slow things down and made our mealtimes more meaningful. This mindfulness also helped my husband and I see that we wanted to choose organic as often as we could. We decided to be the gatekeepers for what kind of food was brought into our house and served to our kids. As often as we can, we try to make choices based on these values, but as we all know with budgeting, there might not always be wiggle room for going organic. However, we can usually work it in when we keep our priorities in mind.
Being aware of what products you want to prioritize as organic helps a lot—start by making a list of what foods matter most to you. Start small if you need to, and work it into your budget slowly so that you have control over what food goes onto your families’ plates. You get to decide what that looks like for your family. For us, it’s normally dairy and meat and certain produce.
Here are some other ways that we chose to make our dinner more intentional and be more present:
Have the kids help.
Let them peel the carrots, set the table, and be a part of the process. Nearly any age child can contribute something to the dinnertime routine to take the load off of mom and dad.
We have kids ages 11 down to 2, and so giving them purposeful tasks to fit their age group is crucial and allows them to be a part of the team with their task. Our two older girls normally like to help me cook and the middle kids help set the table. When we make the ordinary meal a little special, they enjoy adding special touches like printed napkins or a small centerpiece for decor. Some of them will fill up water cups for each family member and the little ones help set forks on the table.
Don’t force yourself to feel rushed. Whenever possible, allow more time to prepare the meal, serve the meal, and enjoy it together with good conversation. Allowing more time can also help you feel more patient with having the kids help!
We begin preparing dinner early so that it is ready earlier, and then we have ample time to sit down and actually enjoy eating together. There is no rush or hustle. We sit and talk and laugh and eat. Afterward, everyone plays a part in the clean-up as well. From start to finish, dinner becomes a family experience, and the stress doesn’t have to lie just on one person.
I know that not all families may have time to start early and involve everyone, but this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Even if you’re able to make time to do this once a week, I’m certain it will improve your family’s connection and togetherness around mealtime.
Make it fun.
Let’s be real: dinnertime doesn’t always go perfectly. But I have found that when I make it fun, they all seem to have great attitudes in how they help. One thing we do often is play music and dance while cooking.
I definitely think that jammin’ some tunes always makes an experience more pleasurable! We have some special “dance party” playlists filled with some of our family favorites. When we loosen up, join together in dance and goofiness, our cooking and meal prep is really quite a fun time. And that’s what mealtime should be all about, right? Connecting.
Give the kids some slices of Organic Valley cheese, crunchy veggies, or a few scoops of yogurt to hold them over until mealtime. You could even give them little bites of the meal you’re preparing.
Giving them little nibbles of snacks during the cooking time is always a fav, and when I pretend I’m “sneaking” it to one of them, the little ones always give me a giggle. Our favorite snack during meal prep is sliced cheese, and they even love helping me slice it. It’s perfect because it doesn’t spoil their dinner but keeps them satisfied until the full meal is ready. And when we have Organic Valley, I feel so good about the quality of the cheese they are eating.
Make sure they try new foods.
They don’t have to finish every bite, but encourage them to expand their horizons and try some new foods. Getting kids to try new foods at the dinner table can be a lot of pressure for both them and you. What adult doesn’t have a childhood memory of being forced to eat something you didn’t want to eat? But giving kids little tastes of food while cooking and dancing in the kitchen and laughing together could help them view trying new things as a fun and positive experience.
At the end of the meal, give them a glass of Organic Valley milk.
It’s seriously the best you can get and it always feels like the perfect addition to top off a great meal. If the kids are still feeling a little hungry (growing bodies, you know), the fat and protein in a glass of milk helps them feel satisfied while also slipping in some extra nutrition.
I hope you’ll be able to integrate some of these tips and tricks into your family dinners to make them more relaxed and enjoyable! At the end of the day, we get to choose how our meals are done. If things aren’t working, readjust, try new things and find something that works for your family. And make sure to get some good organic foods on those plates and fill those precious bodies with nutritious ingredients.
Meghan Joy Yancy is an author, social media influencer, blogger, entrepreneur, and homeschooling mama of six. Through her many platforms, she aims to share the joy of living for today with others and create a community that strives for greatness in all we do. She shares her unique journey as a mother, small business owner, and online community builder in creating an inclusive and intentional space. Follow her on Instagram at @meghanjoytoday.