Getting the Family Involved
A fun and creative dinner tradition that my husband’s family had when he was growing up was called Fend For Yourself Night or FFYN. The basic idea was simple - everyone fixed or prepared their own dinner using what was on hand in the house. This could be leftovers of some kind, something age appropriate that the kids would make for themselves, or most commonly, just a random mixture of whatever sounded good to each person. This was not only a nice break from cooking for his mom, it also gave her insight and ideas based on what each of her kids chose to eat . . . plus, it’s a great way to clean out the fridge!
We have adopted this idea and expanded on it a bit. Our addition is that each food group needs to be adequately represented. The goal of this rule is to help our girls understand and learn about the food groups and making healthy choices. If left to their own devices, one of my daughters would have an all-grain based dinner (crackers, pasta, and maybe some cookies to top it off) and the other’s plate would resemble that of a fruitarian.
Watching the kids learn to be independent and self-sufficient is one of the things I love most about this idea. When they were younger, we would help them by telling them what was available in each food group and then letting them choose. This usually led to little piles of randomness on their plates, but at the end they were full and satisfied.
When they got a little older, they would start to put together some of the food groups. Celery with peanut butter slathered onto it, miniature towers made from stacking crackers and sliced cheese, and bagels turned into pizzas come to mind. Occasionally, combinations of things they wanted usually made my stomach turn, but as miniature scientists, they loved it. And who am I to tell them they can’t eat a blueberry and pickle sandwich?
Now that they are old enough to use the toaster, the microwave, and the stove (with supervision), some of the things they come up with are pretty intriguing! Some nights, especially when our schedule is full, we limit it to only things they can pull out of the fridge, cupboard, or freezer and heat up quickly or throw together. When we do have time, however, they love to dig in! They have learned how to fry eggs, boil pasta, make pancakes, waffles, french toast, and a few other simple dishes. Can you tell they love breakfast??
Modifying this tradition to fit our lifestyle has been a really fun way to get the kids in the kitchen. Not only is it an enjoyable activity for all of us to do together, but they are learning valuable skills and gaining confidence that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Here's to Keeping it Simple and Sustainable,
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