Tuesday, October 04, 2016

10 tips for making meal times easy for the family

This post is brought to you by Jolly Food.

To be very honest, meals—especially dinner—are just the worst time for me as a parent. I tried my hardest to serve healthy meals, spent a few hours over the stove cooking, and then eating time arrives and it's a disaster! Either someone will complain about the food not being their favorite, or that they're not hungry, or that the food is yucky without even tasting it, or insist they'll just eat a few bites before asking for ice cream or for me to cook something else.

Then there's the fact that as parents, we have to not just feed them, we also have to teach them good manners like don't talk when your mouth is full, chew with your mouth closed, sit properly, don't spit, use your napkin, use your spoon and fork, don't climb on the table, stop walking around, don't eat from your brother's plate, stop killing each other!!! You know, stuff like that.

I have lost my temper many times. You don't tell someone who cooked good food to cook something else. My husband has also gotten angry at the kids. If my issue is the food, his issue is the manners. Meal times became a battleground and we just weren't enjoying eating together anymore.

I don't think there's a good parent anywhere who enjoys getting mad at their kids. Vince and I hate getting mad at our kids, especially at meal times, when we should be savoring our blessings of food and family! So Vince and I had many talks on how we can improve meal times. We tried this, we did that, we had to tweak rules, throw out what didn't work, and added new ideas we picked from other parents. Now, meal times are so much better. We are enjoying our meals again. Vince and I are more relaxed, the kids are happier, too. Best of all, everyone's eating!

Here are our 10 tips for making meal times easy for the family:

1. Serve everyone's favorite food.
Not every day, of course, but what's wrong with giving everyone something they like now and then? What we did is we listed down everything everyone liked. Tinolang manok, nilagang baboy, pansit, pork chops, tocino, hotdogs, fish fingers, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, rellenong bangus, scrambled eggs, pizza, and fried chicken. Then we create a meal plan based on that list.

2. Let them do the grocery with you.
I don't like doing the grocery with my kids because stuff like chocolates, chips and candy find their way in the cart. But I also found that the kids get excited about food when they see them before they become ulam. When they help pick out the vegetables, for example, they're more willing to eat it because they feel like they picked it so they have an obligation to eat it hahaha.

3. Serve dessert at snack time.
I used to offer dessert after every meal. It was my prize for finishing their food or eating their veggies. The problem is what happens when one child doesn't finish his food? He gets really upset because his brothers get to eat dessert. The whole thing just dissolves into a terrible tantrum. So no dessert after meals! I found that merienda time is the best time for sweets, cakes, ice cream and chips. They get to enjoy their sweets and snacks, and there's no stressful contests at meal times.

4. Cook in big batches.
Big batches save time, money and mommy's sanity. Do it. When I cook every meal, I'm more stressed out and rushed and definitely exhausted and hungry when it's time to eat. I do not have patience for any whining at the table when I feel like that. So I cook a lot then reheat.

5. Be creative with leftovers.

The problem nga lang with big batches of food is nakakasawa siya. So you recook them in a different way. Leftover spaghetti sauce is tomorrow's pizza pan de sal sauce. Adobong wala ng sabaw becomes crispy adobo flakes-silog. Chopsuey veggies will taste great in pansit!

6. Let the kids cook.
Oh yes, the easiest way to make them eat their dinner is to let them cook it! They get excited and they prepare it just the way they want it, and then they gobble it all up!

7. Try canned and frozen food.
This is for your sanity. Once in a while, you'll need to go for convenience. Instead of making your own spaghetti sauce, try opening a can. Instead of washing, removing stems, and slicing mushrooms, use a can of sliced ones. Instead of peeling and cutting fresh fruit for dessert, try a can of chilled peaches or lychees. All are delicious, easy to prepare, saves you time, and makes you relaxed!

8. Give the kids small servings.
I got this tip from a mommy nutritionist. Kids get overwhelmed daw when they see a full plate. They go, "I can't eat all of that! I'm not hungry!" What's best is to give them a little bit of everything, tell them just have a taste of this and that, no pressure. If they want more, then you can just keep adding food. But if they don't want more, then no food is wasted.

9. Give them healthy choices.
My kids' favorite food is always fried and oily. Their pediatrician says that's okay because my kids are naturally skinny and super likot so they can afford to eat lotsa fatty food. Still, it's good to add veggies or soup as a side dish to their fried food!

10. Always make meals a fun time.
Easier said than done but we try by talking about their day, sharing jokes. We try not to talk about serious stuff at the table. And we also really try not to lose our temper when drinks get spilled, food falls on the floor, and feet find their way on the table. We try! And we've improved a lot! Hooray!

I hope our suggestions helped! If you have more ideas, please do share in the comments below. We parents need to help each other in this great adventure of raising happy, healthy kids!

For more cooking tips and delicious recipes, like Jolly's Facebook page, Jolly Eats.


  1. I loooove this post! I am actually jotting down my family's favorite food while reading.

    I will reserve my other thoughts on this for our workshop / chikahan on Saturday, hahaha. See you!

  2. Yes to #4! I’m a working mom so I also cook in big batches. I don’t have the time to cook daily, so I cook most of our meals on a weekend. I have mastered to cook our baon and dinner for the entire week in a span of 2-4 hours. Jolly products are also a staple in our pantry! For leftover fried fish, I just put their salted black beans. When I feel like we need to make our meal healthier, I get the leftover steamed/boiled vegetables, put Jolly corn and green peas in butter, add some salt and pepper. So yey to #5, #7 and #9!

    My kid is just ten months old so I still can’t seek for her help in the kitchen. (But I have to constantly remind her to sit like a lady during meal time! Haha!) Anyway, my husband is also engaged in the kitchen since we don’t have a permanent house help. He has defied the men-are-not-supposed-to-be-in-kitchen thingy. He helps me cut the vegetables, he washes the dishes after I cook, and he usually does the frying when I breastfeed our little one. He knows that he needs to work hard for his food. Haha! :p

  3. These are doable for me!! Ang hriap pakainin ni Claud lately. :( she only wants pasta and simple food like fish and rice. nakakastress. Nakakaentice tuloy magsupplement with formula. :(


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