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A lot of  the “food rules” that I’ve shared here are new rules that we’ve adopted that have evolved out of my own research and learning.  Examples of this are my decision to eat less canned foods, eating quality – not quantity, and eating less processed foods and more single ingredient whole foods.  However, a side effect of my decision to eat less processed foods and to cook more single ingredient whole foods is that I am making dinners that I feel proud to serve my family.  This sense of pride has in turn birthed more changes. These changes aren’t to the foods themselves so much as they are changes in behavior.  Which leads me to today’s tip (or food rule):

Experience Dinner

Many of you have already expressed your love for having family dinners around the family table just like you did when you were a kid.  That is where “experiencing dinner” begins.  With the busyness of today’s families it has become less and less common to find families sharing a leisurely dinner in their own homes around their own dinner tables.

By challenging myself to cook from scratch and to ditch the processed foods it almost seems criminal to eat dinner anywhere except the dinner table.  Besides being tasty, dinner seems beautiful and it has become an experience in and of its self.  It makes me think of the way the French might prepare their dinners.  First, a leisurely stroll through the farmer’s market choosing the freshest ingredients, then bringing them back to prepare a delicious meal.  The smells fill the space in your home and brings everyone running to the kitchen to taste and share in conversation well into the evening.

While this paints a beautiful picture this isn’t how dinners go at my house.  First, I live in the boondocks, so shopping the day of the meal is impractical (though I would enjoy a stroll through the farmer’s market if this were an option).  Second, I usually have a young child pulling at my apron or hanging on my leg squealing to see what I’m making and to taste the ingredients before the meal is finished.  And, since that same child shares the meal with us, eating a leisurely meal is out of the question since he is ready to get out of the high chair and get into the tub as soon as the last morsel on his plate is devoured.

However, while there is a dissonance between the image of dinner in my mind and the reality of dinner in my home, it has still created some change in our habits.  For instance, I am proud of the meals I place before my family.   We’re trying new things and experiencing new flavors.  Judah has become a wonderful eater as a result -at an age when several of my friend’s children have become picky.  I think this stems from putting vegetables and fruits in front of him (and modeling ourselves) each and every day.

Besides being a time to fuel our bodies, dinner is a great time to share a little conversation with my husband (and one day my children – when Judah {and siblings} are old enough to take part) about the day’s events.  It is an opportunity to stay connected and to stay in touch with what is happening in each others lives.  The dinner table is a perfect place to socialize and civilize our children (it’s no wonder children have lost their manners when the dinner table has been exchanged for the backseat of an automobile).

Eating wholesome meals together has made me take a look at how I can set the “stage” for dinner.  I’ve added simple things to make the space beautiful, like a centerpiece and cloth napkins.   But, if you have older children you can have them set the table or even host ‘theme nights’ such as Italian or Mexican night and enlist the kids to decorate the table accordingly while you prepare a dinner fitting for the event.  What a fun way to make dinner even more special!

Cooking meals at home can save you a bundle of cash, but the benefits of eating at home can’t be counted.