HOW TO ENJOY MEALTIME
By Elizabeth Foss
One of the most tragic casualties of the fast-paced nineties lifestyle is
family dinner time. When I was growing up, family meals were a constant I
could set my clock by. Every evening at six we all sat down, ate a real,
home-cooked meal and shared events of the day. Those dinners are actually
my strongest association with "home."
Today dinner is often rushed, ordered in or carried out, and eaten by
individuals apart from the whole family as they go from one activity to
another. It doesn't have to be that way.
When scheduling activities of various family members, try to find a common
hour of time to have dinner together. The meal may have to be served
earlier or later than a traditional time, but a late afternoon snack or
something light before bed (depending on when dinner is served) should
keep everyone happy while facilitating time together as a family. Before
allowing children to take on several outside commitments, prayerfully
consider whether the sacrifice of family time will be beneficial.
Practically speaking, there is a way to put a home-cooked meal on the
table every night while only investing about 20 minutes in the kitchen,
including clean up time. Debbie Brock, the mother of six children in
Seattle who introduced me to this method, calls it a modern day miracle of
loaves and fishes. Jill Bond, the Florida mother who has written a book
about it calls it
(The Bonding Place).
Simply put, it is a method of cooking and freezing multiples of the same
meal in order to save both preparation time and grocery money. Bond's
method suggests a family cooking weekend once every two, four, or six
months, where everyone peels, chops and mixes in order to freeze meals for
months. Marsha Jacobeen, a Fairfax mother of five boys, froze ninety meals
one weekend in August. She says she is hoping she won't have to cook until
While skeptical about the real benefits it would provide, I did decide to
adapt the system to my own needs. Seven months pregnant when I wanted to
start, a weekend of cooking sounded utterly exhausting. Also, I knew we
couldn't plunk down six months worth of food money at once, despite the
fact that there is significant savings when food is bought in bulk.
Instead, for four weeks, I chose three meals per week that I would
multiply by five. I froze four and we ate one.
By the end of the month there were 48 meals in the freezer -- 12 different
entrees. We eat from the freezer every night but once a week. On that
night, I cook five of one meal to replenish my stock.
The benefits have far surpassed my expectations. Now when the boys want to
play outside all afternoon, I play too. I am able to relax and enjoy them
rather than worrying about getting a decent meal on the table. If the baby
wants to be held and rocked and nursed during the "arsenic hour" familiar
to all mothers, that's what we do. All my peeling, chopping, and mixing is
finished. Finally, there is a much simplified clean up. It all computes to
a relaxed family meal.
The benefits to ministry of hospitality can't be over-estimated. When
there is an illness or death in the neighborhood, a hot meal is only
minutes away. If a friend is having a particularly bad day, I am able to
offer to cook dinner for her. Unexpected company is no problem; with 48
meals in the freezer, there is always more than enough!
The system is a study in wise stewardship of both time and money. It would
be an enormous blessing in times of illness or unexpected unemployment. It
is wonderful when a new baby arrives. I can only imagine the benefit it
would be to two career families and single parents. Instead of rushing to
cook or ordering out when the body and soul both are crying out for
replenishment and respite, there is a way to meet those very basic needs.
The most hectic time of day can be transformed into a relaxed, enjoyable
chance to focus on family.
This article appeared in the October 27, 1994 issue of "The Arlington
Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the
Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511
or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.