Things I Love Thursday: Our NEW Lunch Hour!
Breakfast is my least favorite meal to consume, lunch is my least favorite meal to execute. Lately, it has been the bane of my existence. Well no more! Lunch is getting a face-lift around here!
Several weeks ago I had a mental breakdown about 12:11 pm. We had just had an amazing morning of laughing, playing, crafting and learning. (Not necessarily the norm.) So I was so upset when that merriment came to a screeching halt at lunchtime. I just knew we weren’t doing lunch “right”. But what is “right” really? I am sure it isn’t the same for all families so asking my friends wasn’t necessarily the answer. So like I do with most everything in life, I looked at it from every angle and started dissecting it to figure out what was going wrong and what I could do to fix it. Here is a look at what use to be, my analysis, and our new plan.
How lunch use to be:
At about 11:30 am I would notice that one or both of the kids was starting to whine which was my cue to start lunch. I would walk to the kitchen and look around for things that I thought would be edible to them, but hadn’t been served yesterday, and then proceed to make lunch. The children would wonder into the kitchen as I was making lunch, standing under foot, until I placed them at the table to await lunch. Whining or pleading for food would ensue as I was clearly not moving fast enough.
I would then start placing lunch items in front of them one by one to keep them appeased as I finished the main dish. Eventually I would get all the items on the table but usually not before forgetting something and having to go back and forth to the table several times.
As they ate I would do one of two things: fix my own lunch and then attempt to eat OR do tasks like cooking or cleaning around the kitchen. My son (2.5), meanwhile would be fidgeting and playing around for most of the meal. Trying to get bites in here and there but trying to get my attention as well. So he would be turning around talking to me and inevitably spill something. By the time it was all said and done I was more than anxious to put them down for a nap and eat some lunch myself or I had a melt down resulting in higher levels of anxiety than were necessary. I felt like a bad mom when lunch was over.
The Identified Problems:
- First of all, waiting on the kids to cue me that they were hungry was TOO LATE! I didn’t have time to fix them a good meal when we reached this point.
- I could never remember what we had had for lunch the day before and wasn’t feeling good about the meals I was serving them. (Peanut Butter and Jelly is good in my book but I am not a fan of it every day.)
- Kids underfoot in the kitchen during the rush is not good for any of us.
- Kids at the dinner table too early is no good either.
- Eating our meal in “shifts” (One food at a time) isn’t working.
- Doing work around the kitchen while they eat isn’t working because they want my attention or are distracted by me.
- Fixing my lunch AFTER I fix there’s is not working because then I don’t end up eating. (= GROUCHY mom).
- Feeling like a bad mom each day around noon is NOT my favorite feeling.
The Solution, or New Plan:
Instead of waiting on the kids to cue me when to make lunch, I now cue myself. In the age of technology setting an alarm on my phone is not difficult to do. So I do. This reminds me it is time to start lunch BEFORE the natives get restless.
The next key component of the plan is to actually meal plan for lunch! I have been doing it forever for dinner, why not lunch too? For lunch I usually have leftovers but I feed the kids “kid friendly” foods. I see this meal as “their meal”. I introduce new things in their diets at dinner and sometimes at lunch but mostly I leave that task to dinner. You know, when dad is around for reinforcement! For lunch, I don’t like to make the day complicated so I stick to foods I know they will “like”.
For the meal plan I made a list of foods that fit the “kid friendly” like category and I look at that to start the week. I then write down our schedule for the week on paper in columns and write in what we have going on when. For instance, play dates, outings, visits from grandma, etc. (That is if we know they are happening). This dictates what it is I serve. It is really hard to make a dish that takes some time to cook if you are going to be at a play date all morning! That is probably going to be a PB&J day!
As I am “planning” for lunch I write down the main dish, vegetable, fruit and any extra that I will be serving for each day. I decide the main dish first keeping in mind our plans. I then look over the grocery ad and decide what produce I will be buying for the week and add a vegetable and a fruit to each days’ menu. I put fruit that spoils quickly at the beginning of the week so that it doesn’t go to waste. As we get to the end of the week we will likely be relying on canned/frozen fruit and vegetables if I can’t get to the store for fresh.
Aside from menu planing the other KEY component for me is making sure the ENTIRE lunch is ready to serve BEFORE serving it (including my lunch) and sitting down with them to eat. If they wonder to the kitchen during this time I either have them help me or I send them back to another room to read or watch television. (If Word World will buy me 15 minutes, so be it!) Once I have all of the components of the meal ready on the kitchen counter, I then move them to the table all at once. I don’t put them on the table as I have them ready because I know the kids will be begging to eat. Once it is all in place we ALL sit down to eat lunch.
I could not have imagined how well this plan would work when I started it. In fact, I didn’t have high hopes. But each day I revel in the fact that my children do so much better (and so do I) under this new plan. They like the consistency that it brings in knowing they are having lunch around the same time every day. I feel confident in what I am fixing them because I know that they are getting a variety of foods throughout the week. Even if we have a “bad” day and we don’t end up sticking to the meal plan I can look at the overall week and see that even though today might be a fail the week is a WIN!
And fidgeting at the table? It has decreased 95%. No running around, no jumping up and down, no playing with food. Just good whole-hearted laughing and merriment as we eat the selection of the day. (I should probably mention that if I even THINK about taking my phone out and look at it during lunch this whole thing falls apart.)
What about your lunch routine? Does it need a face lift? Perhaps you too need to sit down and think about what makes your lunch time so difficult. I would love to help you with solutions if you would like! But I definitely recommend this approach if you tend towards the Type A personality.
This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday at Diaper Diaries.