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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

Lizzylou Thu 10-Mar-11 17:25:36

At the moment as DH is home late I either eat with the boys or I wait and eat with him when he is home, at weekends we eat all meals together. I am returning to FT work soon and the boys are getting older so hopefully we will be able to eat together more in the weekday evenings as their bedtime will get later.

NO TV/mobiles etc at the table. We do occasionally have a picnic tea in front of the TV, picky food.

Space is OK, we have a table and chairs in the kitchen and a dining room where we all eat together. Kitchen has an easily wiped floor though!

At weekends I like to make a banquet type meal with lots of different food to try, some food that I know the boys like and some that are new to them. That way they won't get hungry but can try new foods. They also like to help cooking, which makes them more likely to try food.

Tortington Thu 10-Mar-11 17:53:01

its like 10 little indians in my house

when they wee school age it was my three kids and at least a friend each or tea.

the oldest one now has his own flat so that left two adults and two kids + friends

the twins turned eighteen last week and rarely come home for tea.Now DH and i sit at a dining table made for six people. i cook for two.

I can just see your sad faces as you're reading this. But nay i tell thee! cooking and washing up for two is fabbo. dh and i are able to talk about each others day uninterupted.

we no longer have to pretend we are interested in tales about how charlotte isn't speaking to james becuase of something dylan whispered at breaktime to tammy in geography class. no i tell you, now its grown up conversation at the table and we don't have to coerce and bribe anyone to eat anything. we cook and eat what we want.

unless they all descend with friends then suddenly there can be 10 people eating!

aristocat Thu 10-Mar-11 18:04:01

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 night at the table, use placemats and napkind for every meal - myself. DH and 2 DCs. this is our normal for our mealtimes and it suits everyone.

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 mobiles, consoles whilst eating but if there is a football match on TV DH is allowed hmm to see it

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

we are only 2 adults and 2 children so space is not an issue. when GPs come over for christmas lunch then extra chairs are needed but we are not too squashed

top tips

well firstly DCs like to help 'set' the table (help with napkins/placemats/cutlery etc) and they always help 'clear' the table and both enjoy helping me in the kitchen.

eating at the table is a normal family thing and i am proud that my DCs have good table manners smile

collision Thu 10-Mar-11 18:41:43

do you get the whole family together for an evening meal?

Yes. Most evenings we eat together though on a Saturday the boys eat earlier and we have a romantic dinner together.

Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? Occasionally as DH is away sometimes but then I would eat with the children.

Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? AS above

How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing?

My boys are 8 and 6 so no change yet but it is a time to catch up on the day and share funny stories as to what we have been up too.

Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?

Dont know

What about technology at the table - do you allow TV on, mobiles or games consoles at mealtimes?

TV can go on on a Saturday but if we eat together then NO TV or DS or Ipods!

Do you have rules or go with the flow? We always set the table nicely with table mats and candles and flowers and the boys know we like good table manners and that they have to try everything on their plate.

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family?
No issue

Meal times used to be HARD WORK and DH and I would dread them but we have relaxed a lot and try not to stress about meals and food. However if the main meal is not eaten then there is nothing else to eat. All food has to be tried.

We try and meal plan as a family so everyone gets a say in what we eat and we try and plan meals that everyone will enjoy some element of.

One child sets the table and the other one clears the table. They help to stack the dishwasher and DH cleans the kitchen.

maxpower Thu 10-Mar-11 19:24:33

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal? Do work, travel or other commitments get in the way? We try to as much as possible. DH works a really random shift pattern so it's not always possible for him to eat with us. I try to eat with DD on the days when he's not around. At the mo, I'm on mat leave so I can manage this quite easily. But I do foresee it being more difficult when I go back to work, esp as I won't be home until at least 6pm 4 days a week and DD's bedtime is 6.30pm.

Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed? I like to eat together but DD needs to eat so early, there are occasions when I'm simply not hungry enough to eat a dinner. On those occasions, I might wait for DH to get home (depending on his shift) or eat by myself later on.

How has this changed as your family has got older - or how do you envisage it changing? See above.

Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older? I think it#s become easier.

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? Definitely no mobiles or games consoles. We do allow the TV but if DD isn't concentrating on her meal, it'll get turned off.

What about space? Is that an issue for you and your family? No, plenty of space to sit together and eat.

We keep dinner time low stress, there's no pressure on DD to clean her plate and she eats a really good range of food so if she does say she doesn't like something, as long as she's tried a little bit, that's fine. She's also really excited when other people come for lunch/dinner eg grandparents. It's her job to lay the table for every meal. I also find I have to prompt her to make sure she has a drink and has been to the loo before we sit down or inevitably this is what she wants halfway through dinner. I find I do have to remind DH to stay at the table until DD has finished eating quite a lot though!

chrissycn Thu 10-Mar-11 19:32:10

We always eat dinner as a family sat at the dining table. If the phone rings we dont answer and we dont allow any other distractions at the dinner table.

Although I do let the boys watch TV at breakfast time whilst I have a shower.

KatyJ86 Thu 10-Mar-11 19:32:38

I try and make meals that everyone will eat and tailor the LO's mealtime for whenever DH is going to make it in.

I sit LO at the main dining table too so he is part of what's going on, and make him stay there until we're all finished - even if ITNG is on!!!

tyaca Thu 10-Mar-11 19:49:52

3 yo dd and 21 mo ds.

dh HATES eating with kids. i would love to do it more. we only really eat as a family at lunch at the weekends. Even then, I think dh gets a bit grumpy when i disappear into the kitchen for half an hour.

What he hates is them throwing food around and/or insisting he feed them. Also, the choice of food's always a compromise when we're eating with kids. He wants to relax with a dinner he likes later in the evenings in front of the tv hmm. For the record, he can't cook a thing. So if he is to get a dinner in the evenings, it'd be the 4th meal I'd prepared that day! Also we both get hungry in the evenings if we eat early with kids, and feeding them after 6pm is not really an option.

I am really looking forward to when the kids are older and I can do one big meal for everyone in the evening. That was how I was brought up, we ate good food together and my parents had wine and it was relaxed. Maybe 7-8pm ish. DH's family ate at 6pm, even when kids in teens, and it was really stressful I think.

Do you get the whole family together for an evening meal?

Yes. DP gets home at 5pm each evening so we tend to have dinner altogether then. If he happens to be working late, which maybe happens once or twice a month then I eat with the children at 5pm, as usual, and save DP his to have when he gets in. On a Saturday DP and I usually have a nice meal together with wine when the children are in bed.

Do you want to have a family meal in the evening or would you rather eat later when children are in bed?

No, we all enjoy the family mealtimes during the week. It gives us all a chance to catch up on what we've each done that day and it's really enjoyable (until DS decides he's had enough after two bits of dinner but still demands pudding....sigh).

Does it get easier or harder to eat together as children get older?

The DC are 6 and 4 at the moment and as DP gets in from work at 5pm it's perfect. DD goes to Beavers on a Wednesday but as that doesn't start until 6.45pm we still all eat together. I imagine as they both get older and have more stuff going on it will certainly get trickier but I hope and will definitely insist on us all eating together at least two or three times a week if poss.

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?

We eat dinner at the dining table which is in the playroom. We don't have a TV in there so there are no distractions. We did use to have a TV in there but the DC either wanted whatever they were watching left on or DP wanted the news on. Now it's not there it isn't an option and works so much better. An absolutely no-no would be games consoles or toys.

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

Not an issue as there are only 4 of us and we fit fine around the table. Although there are always arguments about who is sitting next to Mummy etc etc. ARGH!

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 is easy for us as I am at home during the day so have time to prepare the evening meal in the daytime so all that needs doing is the last bits. It always seems manic after school with homework needing to be done/spellings practised etc. We start laying the table etc at 4.30pm ready to sit down for 5pm/5.15pm. I menu plan for the week and on the days we may be busy after school I usually have something easy arranged (frozen shepherd's pie from the freezer for example). I like to cook in bulk so if I make meatballs I'll make the double the quantity, freeze the other half which is then dead easy to defrost on a night when we're busier. Ditto with pasta sauce, I make a big pan of it then put portions into containers in the freezer. Really handy for lots of different meals.

If the DC have friends coming for tea homemade pizzas are a favourite. They each get a pizza base and I put lots of different toppings in bowls and they make their own.

Also on a weekend when we have more time DD (6) likes to help write the shopping list and she enjoys flicking through my recipe books to decide what we can make. On a Sunday we'll have a roast and the kids will decide which veg they'd like etc.

Both DC like to help cook and they always help to lay the table (not always with the right cutlery - last night I looked across the table at DD and she was eating her soup with a fork! She'd forgotten to give herself a spoon!).

emmabarron Thu 10-Mar-11 20:11:32

hmmmm, sometimes sitting down as a family used to make me anxious so i would avoid it, and just let the kids eat together and i would eat on my own - it has got easier as the kids have got older and now we sit down more together to eat. I always keep my table clear and clean at all times. No toys at the table allowed either.

joeygrey Thu 10-Mar-11 20:16:23

My parents were always strict about the evening meal - the tv had to be switched off and we sat at the table. I thought I would be a lot less strict about it, but as my little boy has got older I've realised that mealtimes become quite isolated if the television is on. Everyone is in their own little world and no conversation takes place. So now I have adopted my parents attitude and we sit at the table and talk while we eat.

There is no pressure to talk as each person concentrates on eating, but it has gradually become a happy time where we laugh and share the day.

Lunchtimes are different with everyone rushing in and out of the house. There is no real structure and there are no rules.

Mealtimes always include my son, we eat before he goes to bed to ensure he is part of this little family tradition I am trying to continue.

HannahHack Thu 10-Mar-11 20:18:51

We eat together when we can, we often have tv on though not all the time. Mostly watching the news. I grew up in a house where we weren't allowed TV at the same time as meals so it feels like an indulgence!

Eat at our little table every night though, unless we are feeling VERY lazy.

SAoemtimes we don't get to when one of us is working very late though!

mattytun1514 Thu 10-Mar-11 20:24:27

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..

Message withdrawn

littleme96 Thu 10-Mar-11 20:40:26

Whenever possible we try to eat our evening meal at the table together, although this isn't always possible due to my Husband's odd working hours!

We try to ensure that the TV is off and no toys are allowed at the table. We have recently implimented a new "no mobile phone" rule to try and protect our family time from outside stresses...

We do have a space issue as our dining table is too big for our new house and as we now have a new 8 day old addition to our family, we're going to have to look at getting a smaller table so that we can actually all fit round it when he is a bit bigger!

oiwhatsoccuring Thu 10-Mar-11 20:42:42

We only eat as a family when dh is home which is only on a Sunday - we generally have a roast meal together.
I try to eat with the kids at least 3 times a week during the week.
We have got sufficient space for us all to sit down.
We don't allow TV or games consoles at the table, but when it is just me and the kids, they generally have books on the table and flick through those.

DH and I eat together when he gets home at the weekend ( often 10pm so too late for the kids).
Best tip is to get the kids to choose how much of each food they want, and then expect them to finish it as they have chosen their own portion size.

TheAtterySquash Thu 10-Mar-11 21:24:17

It's hard if you work and have young children. I don't get home until 6.30 - they are basically ready for bed and stories at that point. So I'm resigned to eating alone (am single mum) for next few years during the week.

No games, no mobiles, no tv at the table. We talk, we sit ON OUR BOTTOMS until the meal is finished and talk to each other (ds is a major wriggler and prone to wandering off half way through). Space isn't an issue - we're lucky that we have a kitchen table and dining room.

When we do eat together (weekends usually) I try and make it fun - food they really like, stuff they've helped make, stuff they dug out of Grandpa's allotment etc. Sometimes (not often) we play dinner parties and dress up and sit at the dining table - they think that is hilarious. I want them to think of family meals as the time when the three of us spend time as a family and as something they remember fondly - as a child our family dinners used to take hours while we talked about the day.

angell74 Thu 10-Mar-11 21:33:35

We only manage to eat together as a family at weekends - otherwise I eat meals with the children or my partner depending on timings and work commitments. I would prefer it if we could all eat together more often but that will happen more as the children grow older.

We avoid toys and technology at the table - the youngest gets distracted and forgets to eat - it also causes arguments.

Mostly we eat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen - it is snug but closer to the action. At weekends or when we have friends over we tend to use the dinning room because there is more space and not all kids are used to balancing on bar stools!

The children have a lot of input into what meals we cook - they look through books and help with preparation - this has really increased their interest in mealtimes.

Asinine Thu 10-Mar-11 21:50:51

We eat every night all together unless dh away on business. In dining room, no tv or electronics, phones etc. As the children get older, the conversation is improving along with manners. It's a good chance to catch up with everyone. Occasionally around once a month dh and I have a takeaway on our own. On weekends we have lunch together, and always a roast with proper gravy( sorry ) ..on Sunday.

feefeegabor Thu 10-Mar-11 22:00:48

Our family eat together every day. We all sit around the dining room table. We may have a little music on in the background but no telephones, books or magazines or games consoles are allowed! We all really enjoy this time - particularly my 9 year old who can't wait to tell us about every single thing that's happened to her that day! Long may it continue!

TaffetasCatCameBack Thu 10-Mar-11 22:19:25

We eat together for every meal at the weekends and occasionally during the week in the evening, if DH is home in time. The weekend meals are sacred - no DSi, no phone calls etc but on Saturday evening we occasionally have a takeaway in front of a family show like Strictly Come Dancing. I don't mind this as we all watch it together and discuss it amongst ourselves, its not every week, and we eat 6 meals together during the weekend and its only one of those.

Everything in moderation.

TaffetasCatCameBack Thu 10-Mar-11 22:22:07

...........oh and during the week, DH and I always sit down and eat dinner together and talk to each other - no telly. I am stricter with him than with the DC sometimes.....

aaaagh Thu 10-Mar-11 23:45:18

My husband works away in the week and DS eats at my sister's or a grandparent's 2 or 3 times a week, as I get home after tea. When we're together we are always talking about our day etc, so I don't see why dinner time has to be a specific time to do this. He is very socially interactive and one of two in his class that joins the year above for reading, writing and communication and not at all behind his peers. We do enjoy going out for family meals at the weekends or to celebrate family birthdays.

We often have dinner in front of the TV but DS is a good eater and communicator and having the TV on does not distract him from doing either. I would not however allow games or phones at dinner time.

We sometimes have a take-away on a Friday or Saturday night, but if we are doing this then either DS has had tea and in bed or would have a snack-type tea and would be allowed to join in our take-away. He is much more adventurous with food than most children his age and will try anything once. It is wonderful to take him out to restaurants as he loves his food and as he is getting older he is getting quite a taste for spicy and unusual food.

One of the reasons we don't eat at up at a table every day is due to space. We do have a large table that is used for big family occasions but it is used for plants/paperwork/washing (!) and the sofas have to be moved around so that the table can be used.

meikhimji Fri 11-Mar-11 01:43:48

We always sit down and eat even if everyone has things to get on with such as homework or other activities. I do not allow any laptops or games to be played until after we have all eaten. This is good discipline so that the kids can talk about their day and also help with the food.

AlmaMartyr Fri 11-Mar-11 07:51:17

We like to eat together but work does get in the way. DH generally isn't home until 6.30/6.45 and the DCs (2y7m and 10 months) wouldn't be able to stay up till them so during the week they get fed separately and then DH and I eat later. I hope that as they get older we can keep them awake for longer so we can eat together more.

We do have a large dining table so plenty of space although it has to be in our sitting room because there's not enough space in the kitchen (I would LOVE to be able to have the dining table in the kitchen).

I don't like technology at the dinner table, especially if DH is there as well. I'm not too fussed about sometimes having the TV on, particularly if the children aren't well or are overtired. We don't really do takeaway very often (mostly due to cost - I can make most things from scratch quite easily) but occasionally treat ourselves to fish and chips.

We do have a room that could be a dining room although it's currently a study. As the DCs get older and rooms get moved around I hope to have it as a dining room.

DD helps me cook and get the table ready etc. DS doesn't yet but only because he's too young.

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