Eating Together is Family Glue

Guest post by Elizabeth at What Mama Knows

IT’S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

Meal times in our house are noisy, and getting noisier. There are more people to join in the conversation these days! Our 5 year old talks pretty much non-stop; our 3 year old twins have a lot to say, and now our 1 year old is making her voice heard.

The questions are fast flowing. Here are 3 questions lifted directly from a recent meal, asked consecutively without drawing breath:

  • What is grace?
  • How do babies come out of mommies tummies?
  • What does Uncle Chris have a big beard?

Some are easier to answer than others. It’s chaos, but we’re trying to instigate some ‘rules’.

You know, things like:

  • Don’t speak with your mouth full
  • listen to one another
  • don’t deliberately fall of your chair (we can’t be the only family with this problem)

IT’S A POWERFUL THING

Eating together is like family glue. I think so many of us intuitively know this. As much as possible, we have breakfast and dinner all together. The beginning and the end of the day is punctuated by sharing food. 

Often the day involves different places and activities for different members of the family, but as you come together and get stuck into the same feast, pass each other the applesauce, pour each other cups of water, you’re a team again.

And when the eating together is done, the family members trot off, a little bit stronger and feeling restored.

IT’S A PROFOUND THING

I find mealtimes are a natural point for family devotions, learning the Lord’s Prayer together, praying for our friends and neighbors, as well as hearing each other’s stories.  So many things flow from eating together.

But it’s more than convenience and it’s more than just a nice thing to do. It’s a heavenly thing to do. Just like many other wonderful aspects of being human, it’s a reflection of an even greater God-ly thing to do.

It’s how the Lord relates to His people. Again and again, eating together crops up in Scripture. Bread provided from heaven, a table prepared in the presence of enemies, the great feast God makes for us and eats with us, and the ultimate wedding banquet. And so many times we read how Jesus ate with sinners.

IT’S ABOUT RESTORATION

The story that often catches me the most is when Zacchaeus met Jesus. Come down, Zacchaeus! I must come to your house for tea! I must. It’s been providentially decided that you and I will eat together, and by the end of that meal, you’ll have repented, and our relationship will be beautifully restored. Now hurry up and climb down from that tree.

It’s nearly Easter, and I can’t help but think of the Passover and the Christian family meal that Jesus started. Our eating together at the Lord’s Supper is exactly that kind of glue. A grace given to us by Jesus, because we belong to him, and shared with our Christian family, because we belong to each other. It’s simple, just bread and wine, but it speaks of a restoration that will last forever.

No wonder eating together is so powerful. That’s how we’ve been made to relate.

IT’S ABOUT FAMILY GLUE

Sharing a meal requires a certain degree of peace and friendship. You know if you want to deepen, or heal, or celebrate a relationship with someone, you invite them over and sit down at the table with them. It’s something so simple, but sharing food is special.

It’s the same with our little families. Eating together is like family glue; it knits us together, tetchy moments of the day are put aside, we look after each other, and tired people get a boost of energy. It’s a designated time when we know we’ll regroup and start afresh.  And every day and without great drama, children absorb that they are loved, provided for, secure and full.

WHEN WE’RE WEARY…

Of course, family meal times with little people can be exhausting, demanding, even dare I say a little relentless in the frequency with which they seem to come around. I know that, really. I’m grateful for true foodies like Sophie who keep us inspired and interested in what we’re cooking and eating, because it’s a huge undertaking.

So for encouragement, I want to keep the bigger picture in mind. Eating together as a family is achieving something much more than we can see just from empty plates and sticky faces. It’s family glue.

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and also blogs at whatmamaknows.com. She’s a mom to 4 little ones, including twins. She’s passionate about encouraging moms in their Christian faith.

Quick and Easy Meal Planning

 

You guys I am so excited about part two of our meal planning guest post series! I know that meal planning is a crucial part of making eating healthy a reality. I also know that what works for one person might not work for you. I wanted to give you some other people’s perspectives. I hope this gives you inspiration!-Sophie

quick and Easy Meal Planning

by Molly Rudick

As a working mom, wife, and a bunch of other things I call myself, I don’t have the time to stand looking in my refrigerator every night for inspiration on what to make for dinner.  Additionally, my husband does most of dinnertime cooking even though I do the grocery shopping and meal planning.  Without a system, we would both be extremely frustrated and end up eating out more than necessary.

THE PLAN

A good meal plan starts before you go to the grocery store.  It starts with The Plan (in my house it has the extremely creative title of Meals for Next Week).  I always arrange my grocery delivery on the weekends, so I need to make my grocery order mid-week to ensure I get a timeslot that works with my schedule (for more benefits on grocery delivery services, see my post – The Financial, Health, and Time Saving Perks to Grocery Delivery). So I need a plan, to make this grocery list.  Here is an easy way to make your meal plan:

Step 1.  Grab a cookbook or two: Get a couple of cookbooks and flip through the pages.  I prefer cookbooks with pictures for every recipe.  I judge books by covers, wines by the bottle, and recipes by the picture.  If you’re not interested in cookbooks, scroll through your favorite recipe boards on Pinterest and pick out your favorites.  

Step 2.  Write it down: If you’re planning to make chicken parmigiana write that down.  Start an email to yourself, get a dry erase board for you refrigerator, or use paper and pen.  Make sure you write down where you found the recipe (the name of the Pinterest board or the cookbook and page number.  Believe me – you should do this.  You’ll thank me next week).  

Step 3.  Start your grocery list:  Check your freezer and cupboards to see if you have any of the required ingredients and whatever you do not have, put on your grocery list.

Step 4.  Finish  your plan:  Pick out all of the meals for dinner and write them down.  Don’t forget breakfasts and lunches also.

Step 5.  Finish your grocery list:  If you hard boil a bunch of eggs for your breakfast for the week, make sure those are on your grocery list.  If you plan on making chicken salads for lunches next week, don’t forget the chicken or the salad ingredients.  Simple breakfasts and lunches that you can repeat every few days or every couple of weeks is a great way to always have ideas for lunches and breakfast.  I eat eggs for breakfast every day.  I hard boil them one week and scramble them the next week.  Occasionally I make omelets.  Find a few great breakfasts and lunches and just rotate through them so that you don’t have to think that hard on it.

There you have it.  You have a meal plan for the next week.  It takes me less than an hour to do all of this while sitting on my living room couch watching tv one night a week.  The key is in the planning, but the execution is where you’ll see the benefits of the planning.

The execution

Now what do you need to do to successfully execute it?  

Step 1. Grocery shop:  I know, this is self-explanatory.  To make meals, you need food.

Step 2.  Keep the plan visible:  Hang it to your refrigerator.  That way, you always have it ready and waiting for you.  

Step 3.  Prepare your food early:  Make sure you prepare your food on the weekend or the night before you need it.  Make all of those hard boiled eggs and that package of chicken breasts on Sunday to have them ready for your busy week.  After dinner at night, look at your plan and decide what you’re going to have for dinner the next night.  Set out anything that needs to thaw, cut up vegetables the night before, and prep anything else you can do to make it easier the next night.  For more food prep advice, see my post – Food Prep Tips.

Step 4. Mark the meal off your Plan once you’ve made it.  That way if someone else has to decide for the next meal, they know it’s already been made.

Step 5.  Cook, eat, and enjoy.

I like to email my meal plans to myself.  That way I can reference them while I’m at work during the day or running errands.  Also, when I’m really crunched for time, I can just skip Steps 1-4 of making The Plan and just create a grocery list while re-using a previous meal plan.  

What great tips do you have for meal planning?  

Meet Molly the author of this post

Molly started Molly’s Pitcher to be a place where people could share ideas for how to balance work, life, finances, health, and all of the other aspects of life that we struggle to maintain during the busy day. As her responsibility increased in both her work and personal life, the amount of time she had shrank dramatically.  
Balance became her goal:  balance between work, family, health, and wealth.  Her and her husband work to balance their separate career’s, a toddler, their dog, and their lives all while ensuring that fun and learning continues to be a part of their lives. Visit Molly at http://www.mollyspitcher.com

 

Meal Planning 101

You guys I am so excited about this: I have two great guest posts coming your way. I know that meal planning is a crucial part of making eating healthy a reality. I also know that what works for one person might not work for you. I wanted to give you some other people’s perspectives. I hope this gives you inspiration!-Sophie

 Meal Planing 101 by KYlie

Start with Your Family’s Calendar

The first inclination for most people when sitting down to meal plan is to set up something to cook every night of the week. While this is the goal, this kind of “plan” can actually just set you up to throw away a lot of groceries. Before you plan your meals, talk to your spouse and children to create a clear picture of the week. This will help you plan for any events that might interrupt your cooking or meal time. On these nights, plan for leftovers, meals that can be prepared with little or no prep time, or a quick trip eating out. For example, my husband and I have a church life group we attend every Thursday. We plan for leftovers that night for dinner. Sometimes, if we have plenty left in our restaurant budget, we enjoy a quick trip to Chick-Fil-A!

Take Stock of Your Freezer and Pantry

 Be sure to take a look at what you already have before you plan out your weekly meals. Did you stock up on pasta during a sale last week? Sounds like you need spaghetti one night! Do you have a 6lb pound bag of frozen chicken in the freezer that you bought from Sam’s Club? Check out a fun new recipe, like Cleaned Up Chicken and Broccoli Casserole! Using the ingredients you have on hand will prevent food waste, create room in your pantry/freezer, and cut down your grocery bill.

Plan Your Meals

Now comes the fun part – plan your meals! We keep a running list of anything and everything we like on a spreadsheet. Each week, I create a new column on the spreadsheet and fill in what we’ll cook that week. Some families have themed nights (Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc) to help easily choose their meals. Find the method that works for you, and write it down! Use the computer, a meal planning printable, a cute chalkboard in your kitchen, or even a pad of paper on your refrigerator. Just have your plan where your family can access it to cut down on the ever repetitive “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Grocery Shop with Plenty of Time to Prep

Now that you have your plan, create your grocery list! Make sure you have everything you need for each meal in order to cut down on midweek grocery trips. Basic meal prep (as we’ll see in the next step) is important, so be sure to shop early enough that you’ll have time to get everything ready. We actually choose to order our groceries online and pick them up most weeks. Online ordering to pick up on Saturdays frees up precious weekend time, helps us stick to your budget, and gives us plenty of time to prep on Sunday.

Prep Ingredients to Set Yourself Up for Success

Make time on Sunday to prep your dinners so you have minimal prep time on the weeknights. Some simple steps? Brown up any ground meat, season and bake chicken breasts, wash vegetables and store them to prevent spoiling, and cook enough rice to cover what you need for the week. If we’re planning a casserole or dish that requires more than 30 minutes of cook time, I will make it start to finish on Sunday so that it only requires reheating before dinner. Be realistic about your weeknight expectations, and plan accordingly!

Meet Kylie the author of this guest post and blogger at http://www.keepcalmandcarrieron.com:
 My name is Kylie, and I live in Chesapeake, VA. After a lifetime of health issues that peaked in early adulthood, I’ve embraced a more natural lifestyle. I try to enjoy a gluten free life by eating plenty of delicious food, and I’m learning to phase out chemicals and additives in my beauty and cleaning routines. I hope you will enjoy following my journey, and chime in with your ideas and experiences! 

Budgeting Money and Time to Eat Healthy

 

I received an email with a really fantastic question, so I thought I’d just make a post out of it.

A Few Thoughts on Budgeting to Eat Healthy:

  • Eating healthy costs a lot. It just does. There’s no way around. It’s sad but eating pb and j and frozen pizza is cheaper. I’ve heard the argument so many times, “You will make it back in doctor bills.” While I believe that can totally be true, I know it doesn’t really help  in the immediate or make it any easier.
  • Do not believe the lie that’s it all or nothing! I don’t believe that for a second. If you can’t buy organic, do not worry about it. Seriously, don’t even sweat it. Now, I am no doctor, but if I bet money I’d feel pretty confident saying that if you stop eating processed junk and copious amount of sugar, but move to a more whole foods type diet your body is going to thank you! If you can afford some, do your own research. Consider the dirty dozen.
  • Find your family favorites and make them cheap. Not every meal has to be a production. Find a family favorite that makes your family happy, but is cheap. Make it regularly! It may take experimenting to find that meal, but I am sure you will find it. Shoot for at least one vegetarian meal a week. That will absolutely lower your bill. Two of my family’s frugal favorites are black bean burgers and cauliflower pizza.
  • Cut your costs in non-food categories. Since eating healthy does cost more find ways to save in other areas. For example, we don’t have cable but have Netflix. I buy my diapers at Aldi instead of using pampers. You get the idea!
  • Shop at different stores, but not all in the same week. I’ve found that certain stores have much cheaper healthier options, but no one store is overall cheaper. However, when I go to more than one store a week I lose valuable time and energy and I am more tempted to buy things I don’t need. Instead, I stock up on the cheaper items and rotate between Aldi, Walmart, Kroger, and Costco.
  • Slowly stock up. Always walk by the organic aisle and if something is marked down, grab it! Eventually your pantry will be stocked with healthy ingredients. Tailor this to your family’s needs. If you don’t have a soy allergy in your family, you probably don’t need to go out and buy the pricey coconut aminos, but choose the healthiest soy sauce you can find. If you are trying to lower your family’s intake of refined sugar start with honey, since it’s the cheapest low glycemic sugar. Eventually you won’t be buying this stuff every week, but will have slowly replaced your unhealthy items with healthier options.

Shopping and Cooking Healthy without Losing Your Mind:

  • If possible don’t cook three meals in a row. You think I make everything homemade, right? I don’t. I can’t. My kids like to see me, you know, occasionally not in the kitchen. We typically do Lara bars and fruit for breakfast. Yay for no clean up! Lara bars are pricey, though. Try these filling breakfast cookies that cost pennies. My kids love them! And if I am really winning at life, my gluten light kids eat a healthy sandwich and veggies and I eat left overs from dinner the night before. This also really helps with the budget!
  • Give yourself grace as you figure things out! It takes time. It’s basically like learning how to cook and shop all over again. Find what items are cheaper at each store and stock up on them when they go on sale or when you are there.
  • Get your entire family on board. Having your spouse’s support will help tremendously and will really help keep you on track with both eating healthy and saving money in other areas.
  • Cook in Batches. Make your time and money count! It’s usually cheaper to make more of one thing than than a whole bunch of different things. I love making a lot of shredded chicken and putting some in the freezer for later. This is great if chicken is on sale one week!

I’m planning some posts about my favorite (cheaper) healthy items from different stores! I hope this helps and I’d love to hear other people’s tips. I know we can all learn from each other!

Money Saving Mom Guest Post This Week

I am really  honored to have written a guest post for Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom!

She’s kind of my hero. For real. She’s been a mentor for me in many ways.  She’s taught me to be in the moment with my kiddos and value the every day blessings over perfection.

Her book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life, was truly a game changer for me. I can’t recommend it enough!

As I am sure you can deduce by her blog title, she blogs about budgeting (and a lot more). My guest posts covers how to eat healthy without losing your sanity or your whole paycheck. I also included a 5 day Aldi meal plan and shopping list for under $35!

Check out the guest post here.

To my fellow Money Saving Mom readers:

I am so thankful you stopped by. I put together another meal planning list for you guys. Have any of you tried the nifty meal boxes with ingredients delivered to your door step before? I have. While I loved it, it wasn’t cheap or easy to navigate with food allergies.

Piggy backing off that idea, I made you a meal plan and grocery list to type in to Walmart’s electronic grocery pick up.

Even though it won’t be delivered to your doorstep (some stores actually do that), it will be deposited in your trunk and all you have to do is type in my grocery list and cook the meals to get delicious healthy meals on your table. I included some of my families favorite meals and hope you guys enjoy them just as much as we do. All of the meals are gluten free, soy free, and grain free! Just subscribe to my e-mail list to get the meal plan and shopping list!  You will find 5 meals for 4 people for under $70.00. The grand total of the Walmart shopping list is $69.98, but the first 20 to sign up  will get a $10 off coupon making it $59.98!

Subscribe and get your free meal plan and list!

 

Click here to sign up!

Thank you for stopping by the Real Foodie Family blog.

Here’s a little bit about me:

  • My family has (mostly) given up sugar.
  • I have a gluten and soy allergy, but the rest of my family is gluten light.
  • I don’t believe in all or nothing when it comes to eating healthy.
  • I created this blog to help others navigate allergies and have a little corner to celebrate the hard earned wins.
  • I have two kiddos under five and they are the best food tasters you can get. Here’s some of their approved snacks.
  • I have a total obsession with La Croix right now.

The links in this post are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

Crock Pot Buffalo Batch Chicken

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the hardest part about the healthy real food lifestyle is the time you have to invest into it. The hard part is not saying “no” to a cookie and eating a salad.  It’s the planning, prepping, cooking, cleaning, and then doing it all over again. Self-control is not easy, but if you don’t keep the junk in the house, it does get easier. However, food still has to be made and my kids usually like to eat at least three times a day 😉

The good news is you get better at it. You get more efficient and you learn what’s worth the effort and what’s not. I’m going to leave the stuffed zucchini ravioli for a different season of my life. I dream of the night where we eat a quiet meal where we actually don’t get up from the table five times before saying grace. I know we will miss this age, but will be miss the dinners?

One of my solutions to this seemingly endless amount of work is make a lot of extra food. Last night I made a  crock pot buffalo batch shredded chicken This chicken is delicious and flavorful. It’s not spicy, so it’s a huge hit with kids. You can put in lettuce wraps like we did for dinner, or use it for lunches. I made this last night and after eating dinner I had enough for two freezer bags and a half a bag of shredded chicken to eat on for a lunch this week. That’s what I call a win. I love knowing I meat already made for chicken sweet potato “tacos” or a yummy soup.

Crock Pot Buffalo Batch Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 onion peeled and halved
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic
  • ¼ cup of buffalo sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast

Instructions

  1. Place the onion halves on opposite sides of the crock pot. Add first layer of your chicken (it will probably take two layers of chicken to fit in the crock pot) and add half of the buffalo sauce and generously shake salt and pepper. Add the rest of the chicken and repeat. Add in garlic. Cook on high for 4 hours.
  2. Once cooked, trim the chicken. Shred by hand or with a Kitchen Aid mixer. I place the warm chicken breasts in bowl and turn it on low with my paddle attachment. Watch closely. You don’t want to over shred. I love that my Kitchen Aid does all the work.

Notes

The onion just flavors your chicken; discard it when you are done. You can add more buffalo sauce if you want your chicken to be spicey. We keep the spice down, so we can use it in multiple dishes.

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I served the chicken over butter leaf lettuce with homemade ranch. I rarely use a recipe anymore, but this one is delicious. You can make it healthier by using plain Kiefer or greek yogurt instead of the sour cream. I don’t buy buttermilk, but just throw in a little lemon or vinegar to make my own buttermilk. I then added grape tomatoes. To my surprise, my four year old loved this meal. It was a bigger hit than pizza night!

 

Meal Planning + A Freebie

Some days I really enjoy meal planning and other days I have such a hard time even thinking of two meals we enjoy aaaaaaand my kids will eat. I made this meal planner as a way to give me some sort of system to come up with meals. I don’t use it every week and most of the time I move the meals to different days.

 

meal-plan

 

Monday: We are actually going out for my son’s birthday, but will do the veggie plate meal Saturday. I plan on roasting brussels sprouts, making mashed sweet potatoes, and black eyed peas.

Tuesday: I am pulling my leftover pork out of the freezer and roasting some cauliflower and ricing it.  I am going to squeeze some lime, add avocados, fresh tomatoes, and cheese and call it a day! Yum.

Wednesday: I plan on trying out this recipe for slow cooker garlic parmesan chicken and potatoes. I’ll come back and let you know what I thought of it!

Thursday: I am making whole 30 chicken chili because I have ground chicken in the freezer.

Friday: I am making my favorite cauliflower pizza and salad!

Here’s the free printable!

Meal Planning Tool Download

Meal Planning Tool

Real Foodie Family Meal Planner