This is Part 5 of a collection of posts used to help write my book The Family Dinner Solution
I had my first child 9 years ago. It’s hard to believe she’s halfway to adulthood with her little brother trailing just two and half years behind.
I’ve learned a lot about feeding kids both by reading research, talking to parents, and simply living the ups and downs.
I feel a strange clarity in the direction I need to go. And to be honest, I wish it came sooner. I think in the feeding realm, parents spend too much time focusing on the wrong things. And I’m no exception.
What I’d do differently
I wish instead of searching for the perfect baby gear while pregnant, I was working on creating rewarding meals for my husband and me. And once I had my first child, instead of spending countless hours making baby food, I wish I had focused on what to feed the whole family, including my beautiful baby.
I wish that when I finally did turn the focus to family cooking when my oldest was two, that my meal progression wasn’t so painstakingly slow. I now know this is because I had no strategy or plan. Trying recipe after recipe failed as a strategy.
If I could go back, I would start the process I began in 2014, which really got kicked into gear last February with my 30-meal challenge. Since the challenge, I’ve been working diligently on refining family meals and perfecting my rotation. If I had done this before kids, the process of feeding them and dealing with the picky stage would have been 10 times easier.
Helping parents do their job
I document this process in my book: The Family Dinner Solution. This book is different from what I typically write about. It isn’t focused on picky eating or teaching moderation, it’s all about helping parents with their relentless job of getting meals on the table, day in and day out. It focuses on the three S’s:
Simplify: Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just starting out, scaling down meals to the ones you love helps you figure out what’s working and why. From there, creating a meal vision and choosing a dinner formula, like theme nights, makes it easier to add new meals to your repertoire. More is not better because it over-complicates the process of making meals.
Strategize: This is the recipe testing and cooking part of the book but it’s different than what’s typically recommended. You take your meal vision and pick the recipes you want to try, using my recipes as an example. But instead of trying a recipe and saying yea or nay, you keep working until you get it right. Here’s a before and after.
Try random recipes that look good → it is either a success or not (mostly not) →keep it in a binder or online whether or not it worked → big binder of recipes with few you use→ try to meal plan but end up making the same old meals
Decide what recipes you need → consider your cooking and family’s preferences while searching → try/modify recipe until you get it the way you want it → only store active recipe → big binder of recipes you use and love → rotate a good variety of meals
Strop Agonizing: This is the simple part. You choose a regular rotation of meals and stick to it. And it’s not hard to stick to because these are the meals that really work for your family. Of course, you update and change it as you go, but having a rotation in place makes dinner, planning, and prepping infinitely easier. With a regular meal rotation in place, all that energy that went into agonizing about dinner is yours again.
What other parents are saying
I had an amazing group of parents review the book and it really helped make it much stronger. Thanks to their advice, there will be templates available for download to help readers with the process. Here’s what some of the parents said about the book:
Your book has definitely inspired me to simplify our dinner strategy. Yesterday I just deleted a few years’ worth of recipes I had saved in my email account that I was “going to try someday.” Simplicity is so freeing!
You have completely identified why my kids are picky and why I am overwhelmed. Tooooooo many choices for me to pick from and food too often totally different so my kids don’t learn to love one thing.
Just after glancing at the first few pages, this is just what I need. I was just telling someone I want to cry whenever I think about planning dinner. I have tried so many different ways and none have seemed to stick.
The book is filled with common sense tips that seem to come from someone who has a real family to feed! I like that you didn’t get too detailed and were always giving the reader an option…if it doesn’t work, don’t do it or try it another way!
Is it time to revamp the way your family does dinner?
Although I can’t go back I can help others learn this lesson sooner. The key is to discover what works for you and your family and build from there. There are a million different ways to plan and prepare meals. Yes, finding the best way takes trial and error. But I believe it’s worth it.
Posts Included in the Series:
1. 30 Meals in 30 Days Challenge
2. 30 Meals in 30 Days: The Plan
3. 7 Dinner Rules That Will Transform Your Family’s Mealtime
4. The Side Strategy that Saved My Family’s Mealtime
5. If I Had to Start From Scratch Feeding My Kids, This is What I’d do
6. 6 Kitchen Shortcuts That Really Work (And Why) [Next]
7. The Famly Dinner Solution Launch Party
Want to see the final product with all the recipes and strategies? Check out Maryann’s book The Family Dinner Solution: How to Create a Rotation of Dinners Your Family Will Love