April 28, 2009

Ending Mealtime Maddness

At my home, we have to have some sort of method to our madness or else I'd go insane. A few of the ways that I keep down chaos are by using a few tried and true tips I've put together for meal time. I've learned to have a weekly meal plan. It's like a cafeteria menu, so that I know what to buy and what I'm cooking for that week. I actually plan three weeks in advance. I usually hate defrosting in the microwave, because I sometimes I let it defrost so much that it cooks the food a little. I hate cooking with already half cooked foods. So, if I know ahead of time what's on the menu, then it takes the last minute defrost off the table. I can get my food out of the freezer and let it thaw in the sink. I even save time at the grocery store when I know exactly what I'm there to buy. I can use coupons and shop at stores that have what I need on sale, if I know what's on the menu for the next few weeks. I keep up with all this in the meals section of my home management binder... (click the link to see)

Home Management Binder

The kids have assigned seating at my home. I know it may seem like it wouldn't go well, but they actually like having their own chair at the table. It really helps keep down fighting over who's sitting where at the table. If someone comes down later than the rest, they don't have to worry about whether their spot is taken. Even the babies have their own special high chairs. Everyone knows exactly where to go when I yell, "dinnertime!"

kids at dinner-->

Another tip that I use to help keep things flowing smoothly is color coded flatware, plates, cups and bowls. I assign each child a color and they know which plate belongs to whom. I usually just line the plates and cups on the counter after I call them for dinner. They each pick up what's theirs and go to their own personal seat at the table. (Except for the babies, both are assigned pink!)

kids dinner-->

I hate having water cups piling up in the sink. With nine people in my home and with everyone getting a new cup each time, they pile up fast. So, I have designated clear water cups just for the kids. When one child gets water, they rinse out the cup and put it back on the counter for the next time or child who wants some. They are easy to spot because they are the only two clear cups in the cabinet. Color cups are for juice, milk, etc only. Mike and I have plastic sports bottles that we use for water. We wash all water cups/bottles in our home daily. This really helps cut down on washing all those dishes!

Last but not least is cooking for all of us. Mike and I share the cooking because he really does like to cook. But mostly I throw down in the kitchen. I have extra big pots and skillets to get the job done. Also, to cut down on all that food getting on me, I have my trusty apron. Yes, some may call it old fashioned but I can stay clean after I'm done cooking for my big crew. And I have a lot of cooking to do in this house. Plus, it is sort of a mind thing for me. When I put it on, I know its time to mix it up! Even when I don't really feel like cooking, I get in a better mood after I put it on and load the pockets down with all my spices and spatulas I'm using for that meal. It's kind of like when I get dressed for work, I'm ready for my day after I get dressed. I am after all getting dressed for work as the chef for that day. I get a lot of help from my huge pots and pans I can cook fifteen chicken legs in one pan, or four pounds of spaghetti in my big pot. This helps save my time because I don't want to spend most of my time cooking than with my family.

my giant pan and my apron-->

normal vs huge pan-->

I have found ideas that really work for me and my family. These tips helped turn hectic meals into a peaceful time to catch up with each other for the day. I've truly been blessed to have found a system that works to help make my life easier. Happy eating!
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