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NOW CLOSED: Share your family meal time stories and tips with Bisto – you could win a £250 Sainsbury voucher

(152 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 10-Mar-11 10:15:57

Bisto have asked us to find out about meal times with your family as part of their "Power Down for Dinner" campaign. Bisto say "The aim of the campaign is to encourage families in the UK to dine together more regularly and to encourage families to re-embrace the quality family meal without the disruption of emails, calls and virtual pokes". You may recall we previously asked about tips to find time for a family meal. Now the focus is more on how technology may affect this.

We have some questions below for you to think about but Bisto would really like to know what you think about eating as a family, what happens in your home and any tips you have for other families.

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal? Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing? Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?

What about technology at the table - do you allow TV on, mobiles or games consoles at mealtimes? Do you have rules or go with the flow?

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family?

If you manage to get your family eating together in the evening, please share any top tips you have for other parents about how you manage to make it work.

Your stories and tips posted here will be used on the Bisto "Power Down for Dinner" pages on Mumsnet which are coming soon.

Any Mumsnetter can post their views on this thread - everyone who does will be entered into a prize draw to win a £250 Sainsbury voucher smile

Thanks and good luck
MNHQ

Dp works odd hours, sometimes he is here others he isn't, it does make mealtimes harder to plan ahead etc. Work definitely gets in the way sad

Sometimes if we have been out or just had a manic day I do feed the kids first then we eat after they are in bed, this can also be true if DP is working late as if we don't eat together he tends just to snack on toast and crisps hmm

I really hope that as the children get older mealtimes will become more of a happy occasion to all catch up rather than a battle to stop little ones having a meltdown!!

I think as they are getting older it is easier to all sit down together and actually enjoy our meal together.

I don't allow the tv to be on or any games/toys of any type at the table as the kids just then mess around and get distracted from eating.

Space is a huge issue for us, there are 7 of us in total and we only have a kitchen/diner big enough for a table that sits 6, which is fine whilst youngest is in a highchair. Not quite sure what we are going to do to all fit around table as she gets older!!

The only tips I have is to just be organised. Have dinner ready before the little ones start getting cross, grumpy and hungry as then it's no fun for anybody. It just turns into some kind of war zone!

ShatnersBassoon Thu 10-Mar-11 10:44:07

We eat together unless the children have an evening activity and need to be out of the house before their father gets home, or if one of us parents is out for the evening. I imagine we will eat together less on week nights as the children get older and have more activities and social events to get to.

We have no rules about technology at mealtimes, but I don't think any of us would think it appropriate to use a phone or watch TV when eating anyway. It's not been a problem I've had to tackle, yet...

There is plenty of dining space, in the kitchen and dining room, so no problems with getting everyone seated.

We manage to eat together because luckily my husband gets home from work in time for dinner, and I have plenty of time to prepare an evening meal. Also I don't mind compromising and making meals that we'll all eat, even if the adults might prefer something spicier or more adventurous. Having dinner together is the norm, so it's not something I have to make an especial effort to orchestrate.

Message withdrawn

CMOTdibbler Thu 10-Mar-11 11:04:49

On weekdays, no - DS has a full hot meal at school, so doesn't want one in the evening. And in the gap between end of work and his bedtime its much nicer to cuddle up with a bowl of fruit/cheese/toast together while we chat than making a meal none of us is hungry for. At weekends we do though. I'm sure when he is older we will do more evening eating - just tricky when dh and I don't finish work till 5 and ds needs to be in bed at 7.

No technology, or anything else at the table. I hate people with mobiles at the table with a passion, and don't get me started on games consoles.

Yellowstone Thu 10-Mar-11 11:26:13

My lot (there are eight of them but two at university) all eat together and always have done. Except for breakfast which they come to in dribs and drabs. Definitely no TV and not only because there's no TV point in the kitchen, which is where the table is. It's one time that they all get together and talk. Lots of logistics to juggle because someone seems to be out almost every night, sometimes I'm out at meetings myself and also because there's only one meal that everyone eats (a couple are vegetarians and they all have genuine likes and dislikes which I'd rather work around). Meals are now down to a pretty fine art!

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal? Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing? Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?-- We do eat most of our meals together around the table, however DH works terrible shifts which means he doesnt always join us. On some occasions i will wait for Dh but most of the time i just eat with the dc's. I cant see this changing in the very near future (and my eldest is 11 this year) but i should imagine when they are older family meal times will phase out

What about technology at the table - do you allow TV on, mobiles or games consoles at mealtimes? Do you have rules or go with the flow?-- Sometimes the TV is left on in the background but i say an absloute NO to game consoles and mobiles <dh often brakes this rule angry >

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family?-- We have a very large living diner that fits our huge table. When we look to move space for our dining table is a priority.

If you manage to get your family eating together in the evening, please share any top tips you have for other parents about how you manage to make it work.--My tip would be to stick to the same routine. sort a similar dinner time <if possible> and get the dcs to clear/set up the table. My dcs's love to get the cutlery out and get drinks for everyone, makes them feel part of helping with mealtimes.

LeninGrad Thu 10-Mar-11 11:38:23

DS1 sit down, DS2 off the table, we don't sit on the table, DS1 please come back and sit down, yes, that is a lovely picture, sit. DS2, off, off the table, sit, sit down. Everybody, sit down. Lovely, thank you, now, how was your day?

DP: can you get DS1 a drink please.

Repeat.

That's my family meal-time story, hth.

snice Thu 10-Mar-11 11:57:11

we have a strict 'no toys at the table rule'-otherwise, given the choice, my children would happily fork the food in whilst DSing with the other hand

no TV in the dining room either-although we have the radio on over breakfast

our mealtimes are improved by having food in serving dishes in the centre of the table so that everyone can serve themselves-it seems to encourage more converation/interaction and the children often try things

one of the biggest issues for me is trying to keep the dining table clutter free so that I don't have to spend 10 minutes before every meal clearing books/letters from school/bookbags/newspapers/colouring/crayons etc away. I don't have a solution to this yet as there doesn't seem to be anywhere else in the house to put all this stuff!

SpitSpot Thu 10-Mar-11 12:16:40

DCs responsible for clearing homework, drawings, pens etc off the table and for laying the table and getting drinks for everyone before eating. We dont all eat together every night but always on Friday evenings and weekends.

Absolutely no technology, tv etc while eating.

It has got easier as they have passed the toddler years but I can see when we hit the teenager era it will be hard to get everyone in the house at the same time let alone at mealtimes.

ouryve Thu 10-Mar-11 12:39:50

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal? Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing? Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?

We have 2 kids with ASD and assorted issues around eating and food, so eating together as a family in the evening is very important to us. We sacrifice breakfast all together by DH going to work early enough to get home in time for us all to eat together at about 5:30. DS2 often refuses to eat any more if one of us leaves the table for any reason, so having his family around him to encourage him with foods he finds a bit difficult is very important to him.

DS1 often refuses to food and tends to be demand avoidant, so when he is stressed he sometiems has extreme difficulty with the whole idea that "we eat at dinner time". This does mean that occasionally, dinner time just involves 3 of us, while DS1 prowls around the room in a rather agitated state. We don't try to force him to come and sit with us, though, as it's not helpful to him.

What about technology at the table - do you allow TV on, mobiles or games consoles at mealtimes? Do you have rules or go with the flow?

Nothing with a screen is allowed. TV, computers and everything go off as food is being served and we listen to the radio or a CD. We don't allow toys or books, either. Mealtimes are for eating.

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family?

It's a bit of a squeeze to get around it, but we do have a dining table, which we tend to gather at for more than mealtimes.

If you manage to get your family eating together in the evening, please share any top tips you have for other parents about how you manage to make it work.

It has to be something you actually do, rather than something you just talk about. And it definitely won't happen if your dining table is used as a storage space for laundry or piles of paper! Keep it clear and use it whenever you need to do things together with or alongside other members of your family, right from when your kids are small and sitting there to eat with each other (however many of you can eat together at once) will feel a lot more natural.

EngelbertFustianMcSlinkydog Thu 10-Mar-11 12:47:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ohmeohmy Thu 10-Mar-11 12:55:46

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal? Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing? Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?

It varies. Partner works away during week so I tend to sit with the kids while they eat, sometimes eating with them sometimes leaving it till after they're in bed or not bothering at all. Do try to have meal together when can but son with SN finds that very difficult so don't force it on him too much.

What about technology at the table - do you allow TV on, mobiles or games consoles at mealtimes? Do you have rules or go with the flow?
Sometimes letting DS with SN watch dvd at table only way to get him to eat. Prefer not to though.

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family?
Space ok but would like more.

ChessPiece Thu 10-Mar-11 13:02:49

We have a lovely kitchen-diner so we can gather while the meal is being prepared and spend extended time together that way while homework is done and mail opened etc.

We've always tried to eat with out daughter - just adjusted times so we were intially eating at 5 or 5.30pm (dh worked at home then so more flexible).

As she's got older the time has got later, so it's now ideally 6.30-7pm.

DH comes home at variable times so he'll give me a half-hour warning before he leaves work so I can aim to get the meal on the table when he walks in. This coincides with it being a reasonable hour for my daughter to eat with us about half the time. Otherwise I eat with her and he gets the reheated version.

(About once a fortnight he comes home and goes straight to a business call and eats at his desk sad.)

I nag away that meal-times are for quality conversation but often dh is completely pooped and will stare vacantly at his dinner and grunt grin.

Definitely no technology allowed or reading unless it's something we're all discussing.

We almost always eat togtether at weekends - dh does most of it and often dd helps out which is great for them to do stuff together (with her learning cookery skills - an improvement on her putting boiling water on a flavoured packet of noodles in a school cookery lesson - no kidding grin).

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal? Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing? Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?

We try to eat together every evening as DS although when DH has to work late sometimes DS and I have to eat separately. I would hate to eat seperately from DS as would not want to cook two meals.

What about technology at the table - do you allow TV on, mobiles or games consoles at mealtimes? Do you have rules or go with the flow?

The TV is normally on in the background but no toys are allowed. If DHs mobile rings then I try to get him to take the call later but this doesn't always happen smile

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family?

We are only 3 and we have a table that can sit 6 so no problems with that!

If you manage to get your family eating together in the evening, please share any top tips you have for other parents about how you manage to make it work.

It just has to be normal that everyone eats at the same time...... no discussion about "I'll eat later" etc.

gingercat12 Thu 10-Mar-11 13:27:13

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal? Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing? Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?

We always hev our family meal together in the kitchen. In fairness our 3-year-old toddler cannot normally eat after a busy day at nursery. First of all he eats so much there, secondly he is far too tired. But on the 4 non-nursery days we sit down together.
While my DH cooks, we discuss what happened during the day and listen to the news on the radio. We normally finish dinner by 6.30 pm.
We also read The Guardian and do the crossword.
It seems to be getting harder to make him sit down, as he gets older.

What about technology at the table - do you allow TV on, mobiles or games consoles at mealtimes? Do you have rules or go with the flow?

No TV, but Radio Five Live is sometimes on. No mobiles, but I often check my private emails, as this is the only time I can grab the family computer for my own.

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family?

Not in terms of mealtime. Our kitchen is big enough to have a table for four in it, and still be ebale to cook comfortably.

If you manage to get your family eating together in the evening, please share any top tips you have for other parents about how you manage to make it work.

If you offer him carrots and broccoli, and possibly ice cream, he joins us. He then starts kicking his Daddy...
If he has not been to nursery for a while, he starts missing his regular sit-down meals and his little routines, so it is easier to entice him to the table.
Since his 1st birthday he only ever eats the food we eat. He looks disgusted if we try to offer him specially-cooked "baby / toddler food".
He also likes to share a glass of drink with us. We all say "Cheers" and drink some milk with him (sometimes we drink wine, which he calls coffee).
Involving him in the cooking also helps him to get interested in the dinner, but that is not an option when he can hardly keep his eyes open.

flamingtoaster Thu 10-Mar-11 14:04:44

We have always eaten the evening meal together from when the children were old enough to sit in a high chair at the table. Once or twice a week my daughter eats later due to her job.

No technology at the table (except, obviously, if waiting for an urgent call from a family member)

Space is not an issue - we have a large dining table which is used for homework etc. as well.

Due to family allergies I cook a "core" meal with variations for those who need it add I do avoid foods which people really dislike (there's only one or two). Meals together are for chatting and we try to keep things relaxed and avoid anything which might cause a real argument as opposed to a spirited discussion.

eyeofhorus Thu 10-Mar-11 14:18:25

Probably 4 out of 7 meals we will sit down together all four of us, due to children's clubs, eg, Brownies, dancing. I like the fact that the evenings when we are all together we will have family discussions about our days/ school/ homework, etc. We have a no TV/ toys at the table rule. I also enjoy the 3 eves when my DH and I get to have a grown-up meal (maybe a very spicy dish, or something a bit less child-friendly) and on those eves the children will eat earlier, about 5pm.

Occasionally, when there is a 'mad day' such as today (parents' eve at school/ piano lesson), I will have made the dinner early and we will all eat at convenient times. So, today I have made a chicken rissotto, which can be reheated as and when by each of us.

We don't use mobiles at the table or answer the phone.

We have a large kitchen table in our kitchen diner.

I have a no dessert unless you've finished your veggies rule, sit properly, (I do sound strict!), but it seems to work.

Should also add that my slow-cooker is an absolute god-send, and like most busy mums, some days I don't think we'd eat if it wasn't for this great invention!

Oh, and my kids are 5 and 8.

missorinoco Thu 10-Mar-11 14:52:51

We eat together at the weekend, and on days when I am not at work (work part time), DH is doing research so can make it back in time at the moment.

No mobiles or phone answering, although easy to enforce when all your children are under four.

We have a large kitchen dining room. The rule is you have to try the food. If you don't like it (i it's new and they aren't just pulling a fast one) then you can have bread and butter instead, but otherwise unless the children eat a large part of their dinner I tell them they don't have pudding as they obviously aren't hungry.

I put a large jug of water on the table, and after the children have finished their juice they get water from the jug, we drink it too to make it seem like a grown up treat. Previously I had felt like a waitress in a cafe of demented patrons.

I also allow my older child to serve himself from the serving dishes, can't remember which food guru I pilfered the idea from, but it works.

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal? Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing? Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?

We try to eat together but it does depend on various factors. Sometimes, if it's been a long day I'll eat on my own in the living room just to chill out a bit. Occasionally dh has to work late/away or misses the train and I'll then give the kids their tea without him. We've always done it like this and I think as they get older it will become easier in some ways but more difficult in others. For example, I imaging they might have after school activities or want to go to their friend's house for tea but it will be easier in the sense that they'll be a bit older and we can enjoy it a bit more. No toddler deciding to throw food on the floor in protest grin

What about technology at the table - do you allow TV on, mobiles or games consoles at mealtimes? Do you have rules or go with the flow?

As above I do sometimes sit in front of the tv. We don't have a tv in the kitchen so it's not an issue at mealtimes. The kids are too small to have mobiles, etc and I never have mine there. Dh usually has his nearby but it's v v rare that it rings. We do have occasional nights where we have something like Pizza Night - eating pizza in front of the tv type of thing. The only 'rule' we have is that we sit at the table until everyone finishes - though we go with the flow a little (e.g. nappy changes, going to the loo or if dd1 has been really good at eating her tea we let her go play early as a reward)

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family?

It's ok when it's just the 4 of us, just a bit of squeezing past chairs if we forget something. If we have anyone else round (like parents/IL's) then it's a bit tricky. We have to pull the table out from the wall and it's a bit squashed.

The only tip I can think of really are to try and keep the table clear and not use it as a dumping ground for stuff.

michelle3000 Thu 10-Mar-11 15:40:49

DH works away during the week and DD has a hot meal at pre-school so doesn't want a 'proper' evening meal. She tends to have a snack of cheese, ham, cucumber, pepper etc at 5pm and then I eat once she has gone to bed at 6.30pm.

At weekends we eat all meals together. I am hoping as DD gets older she will eat a bit later in the evening so we can eat together....

No technology at the table. We eat in the kitchen so no TV although I sometimes have the radio on at breakfast.

Space is no problem as we have a large kitchen diner to eat in.

If you manage to get your family eating together in the evening, please share any top tips you have for other parents about how you manage to make it work.

The only way we get to eat together in the evening is if its a weekend and we have to eat early (5pm) to make sure DD isn't too tired!

We're at the other end of the age spectrum now, with DS1 aged 19 and DS2 aged 16.

We only started eating together about 5 years ago, when we no longer had our nanny. The boys were also much more able to wait to eat until later by then - sometimes we don't eat until 8.00pm, depending on what time I finish work/get home to cook the dinner.

To be honest, now they are the age they are, it's sometimes just as painful as when they were little! They would quite happily just sit down, trough their food and get up straight away, without having the bother of conversation!

I always set the table (cloth, mats, condiments) and serve food in serving dishes for everyone to help themselves.

No TV on whilst we're eating, and certainly no electronic gadgets.

Space isn't an issue for us - dining table easily seats 6 (8 if extended).

What makes it easier? When they are old enough to behave without too much nagging/shouting, and when they like food! Thankfully I have two boys who will eat pretty much anything, and so I only ever cook one meal for us all. They both enjoy their food, which makes it rewarding for me as well.

During mealtimes the focus is at the table. TV switched off. No consoles, computers, etc in the room, nor making sounds elsewhere in the house. Sometimes we might have music playing quietly.

Weekends we eat all meals together, unless any of us lie in or get up early.

Weekday evenings:

Once a week we have candles at the table. We try always to have a dessert at this meal. At the end, when the dishes have been cleared from the table, we will often switch the lights off and sit chatting by candle-light for a few minutes, before heading off upstairs to start the bed-time routines. All 3 dc are included.

Once a week dh and I eat together, after the younger two have gone to bed and the eldest dc is quietly engaged elsewhere. He is welcome to join us, but is not encouraged to do so.

The rest of the time we eat together if dh is home soon enough and it fits in with things like Cubs, Brownies, adult commitments etc.

RottenRow Thu 10-Mar-11 16:23:46

We like to eat together as a family but as DD is 2 and DP works long hours this only happens once every blue moon in the week, so we make a point of doing it at weekends. DD has a bit of a sparrow's appetite and she eats much better and tries food more readily when we eat together.

No tecnhology at the table although DP and I sometimes eat off our laps in front of tv.

Re space dining room tends to double as playroom so does look a bit randomn in there.

we try to eat together 5 or 6 nights a week. Im lucky enough to be at home all day and DH has a 9-5 job, however even when I worked we still did it.

Plan meals in advnace and if possible use slow cooker or cook earlier in quiet part of the day (if you have one) and reheat later.

Have a table and chairs. It doesnt need to be huge or fancy but enough that you can sit together.

Ban TV, mobile phones and Laptop being at the table, on at all and stick to it. Its only 30 mins surely anything can wait that long and if its urgent they will call back.

Get the kids to help set the table, this prepeares them for getting ready for dinner and makes getting them to the table eaiser.

Make it fun. Ask the kids about their day, talk about when you were young and also sing if needed. Dont pressure children to eat, it causes stress for everyone, trust them when they say they are full up.

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