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Talk to Schwartz about making mealtimes run smoothly - £200 cash to be won NOW CLOSED

(101 Posts)
KatieBMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 17-Jun-13 09:34:09

You may have seen a thread on MN recently looking for Mumsnetters to try the new 2in1 recipe mixes from Schwartz. The testers are busy trying out the mixes so do keep a look out for their feedback coming soon!

In the mean time, Schwartz would like to know what your top tips are for avoiding mealtime meltdowns. Here's what they say: "Preparing everyday family favourites just got easier and tastier with the launch of the new 2in1 range from flavour experts Schwartz. The new 2in1 range offers two easy to use recipe mix sachets in one handy pack: one sachet flavours the main dish whilst the other contains seasoning for a complementary side dish or topping. With five different varieties to choose from, and an easy recipe on the back of each pack, this is a great way to try out new dishes or transform an existing family favourite from ordinary to special."

So, how do you get your family eating together at mealtimes? Do you find mealtimes a treat or a chore? What are your top tips for making family meals interesting for your DCs? Do you have any quick and easy family favourites that are sure to be a hit every time?

Everyone who shares their thoughts on this thread will be entered into a prize draw where one winner will win £200 cash!

Thanks and good luck,


emily80 Tue 18-Jun-13 13:15:05

We always try to sit and eat together at the table. When my eldest son (now 4) was young we were quite relaxed about letting him eat in the lounge/infront of the tv, as it seemed easier and he'd eat better. But since my second son (18 months) was born we've been really strict about everyone eating together at the table and now they just accept that's the way it is and never even think of eating elsewhere. They do love to eat at the table in the garden in summer though, so we eat outside as much as possible (it's also a lot easier for mess!)

pregnantpause Tue 18-Jun-13 13:24:56

Meals are a treat, anytime of day, though the cooking of them can sometimes become a chore, particularly when toddler is having what is termed here as a meltdown.

I love cooking, and try at least three new recipes a week, though I always plan to try top tip, though rather at odds with others, is save TV time for cooking. In the 30mins it takes to prepare a meal I let mine watch TV- they are then wound down a bit, and ready to sit at the table to eat. Though I can see that letting them help would be a good idea and may adopt that when they are older.

I also feed them 'supper' at four, as the eldest is just back from school, the toddler is starting to lose it a bit, and food helps them. it might be beans, soup, toast and peanut butter, a small bowl of porridge, corn on.the cob- something to help lift their mood, and ensure that they will last till meal at 6.30. It also means that should they reject the meal, I don't mind-they've eaten something at least, so the pressure is off.

We try to sit at the table with dh, but sometimes this isn't possible, when it it happens meals are always more enjoyable.

ratbagcatbag Tue 18-Jun-13 13:33:28

Our mealtimes are a bit chaotic at the moment with having a three month old baby, who is invariably awake when we want to eat. Generally though, me, DH and DSS all sit at the table and eat together, I do try and turn the tv off though, however it doesn't always work.

Thanks to mn I've started meal planning a lot better, so after a day with LO, I love it when DH arrives home and takes over for an hour so I can get dinner done in peace. smile

I do try and make meals more interestingly but I'm not a fab cook, I love the packets with spices in one side and the bag the other, they make tea (such as garlic or paprika chicken) come out fab and they're effortless to cook, easy on the washing up too.

Quick and easy family favourites

Chicken curry with naan breads
Meatballs and pasta
Chicken fajitas where everyone grabs their own

MegBusset Tue 18-Jun-13 13:40:07

I find the best way to make family mealtimes a treat is to let someone else cook grin We eat out regularly with the DC and find it really enjoyable, especially as everyone can order what they want!

At home we don't eat together that often (Dh gets home from work late; I can't manage a main meal before about 7pm; plus DH and I are veggie and DS1 is allergic to eggs and pulses so there's a limited amount of stuff we can all have!). But when we do (eg when we have BBQs at weekends) I find the best thing is to put the food in the middle and let everyone help themselves. DS1 is fussy as well as allergic so won't eat that much but I have long since stopped caring tbh.

WowOoo Tue 18-Jun-13 14:00:48

We sit together and always have done.

Children like to help by getting the table ready: Clearing art stuff, placemats and cutlery and drinks ready.
Things can get interesting by asking them to guess the mystery ingredient or to suggest other things we can put in next time.

The children will sometimes help prepare stuff on the weekend when we have more time. On a work day I'm usually cooking pre prepped meals.

Children's favourites are things like spag bol, shepherds pie and mousakka. Quite heavy and filling foods. They also eat a lot of pasta.

catwithflowers Tue 18-Jun-13 14:23:23

I find that giving my kids some say in what we cook and encourages enthusiasm and eating together. We don't manage every day but perhaps 5 nights a week. My kids are old enough to be involved (17, 15 and 11) in menu planning and I try to let each of them choose one dish each week that we should cook. I love cooking so that part is never a chore.

My eldest son is especially interested in cooking and has started to try out recipes and is gaining the confidence to cook not only for himself but for the rest of the family.

I try to shop with one of the older kids each week (helps with the packing!) as I think it gives them a good idea of costs, of what to look for eg bargains, long use by dates, good quality produce. Again, I think that if they feel more involved in the whole process of shopping and cooking, they are more likely to be interested in sitting together to eat.

Another thing which sometimes helps is their having friends over for dinner. Sort of adds a new dynamic/interest to proceedings!!

HugellaSlime Tue 18-Jun-13 14:40:09

Get something out the freezer the night before. Who ever gets in first Cooks, who doesn't cook washes up. I like Quinoa too.

OodPi Tue 18-Jun-13 14:46:37

If you are breastfeeding feed the baby first other wise they ask all the way through(current problem)
Use a high chair at the table during meal times as soon as possible (toys when too little for food)

TeaMakesItAllPossible Tue 18-Jun-13 14:51:18

I find preparing week day meals a bit of a chore to be honest but the eating an absolute treat with moments of laughter, news and blessed silence which doesn't often happen with four boys! Oh and the obligatory telling them to be eat with their mouth closed and talk with their mouth empty 'opportunities for learning'

I find the big challenge is getting everything ready for the moment of serving. What helps is to be organised - lay table, do drinks before the last 10 minutes. Target a time for serving. Giving the kids a five minute warning.

What doesn't help is a tricky homework problem, a funny thread on MN or forgetting a key bit of dinner. Or, thinking about it, having a husband with a broken foot.

Weekends cooking is a treat .... glass of gin in hand, no pressure to feed a hungry army of boys at a certain time and the opportunity to bake or try something new.

melliebobs Tue 18-Jun-13 14:53:53

Like a lot of mums I make sure the too drawer of my freezer is full of home made 'ready meals' for cba or busy days. So whenever I cook in the slow cooker I make sure I have 4 individual portions left over.

I plan a lot. When I go to do the weekly shop each tea time for the following week is planned in advance and stuck too.

The rest is luck of the draw on me getting home n making it as soon as I get in while entertaining a 15 month dd and hoping the dog will wait for his walk till we've eaten

We eat as a family (me, dh and dd) we all eat the same and I don't pander to dd. if we have something spicy I take some out for her before I put chillis in etc. if she doesn't eat it fine she can have yoghurt or fruit later grin

skyeskyeskye Tue 18-Jun-13 14:55:12

It's just me and DD here and we don't often eat together, although we should. Every night I think I will cook something proper for both of us, but don't sad But tonight, I am going to cook some potatoes and chicken, inspired by this thread and some sauces I have in the cupboard.

When we eat with friends or family, DD is encouraged to try everything, but not forced to eat it. She sits at the table until everybody else is finished though.

pasta bake or roast potatoes, chicken and peas are favorites

tanfastic Tue 18-Jun-13 17:09:30

I use the slow cooker to prepare a meal when I can. We all sit at the table. A variety of condiments are always at hand for ds. Ketchup on a roast anyone? grin

nextphase Tue 18-Jun-13 17:14:14

Food is supposed to be fun - so the kids help me out, and we do it all together. If they want to try something, they do (inc things I think yuck to - margarine on its own, fine).
And we all eat together as often as poss.
Sometimes people aren't hungry - don't stress if its a one off.

Keep something quick available for when it all goes wrong - for us mince in the freezer, and pasta.

But then I've not had fussy eaters, and I'm sure when you truely have a food adverse child, its hard to follow the "just put it down and make it fun" advice.

DesperateHousewife21 Tue 18-Jun-13 17:29:58

We have dinner at the same time every night. A trait passed down from my parents so it seemed natural!

Also kids aren't allowed to get down until they're finished and they have to at least attempt a new 'yucky' food hmm

Quick and easy meals I like- pasta bake, jacket pots with different fillings, eggs and soldiers (big hit with the toddler!) and spag bol is a big fav all round.

GetKnitted Tue 18-Jun-13 20:49:05

with working full time, having my rice cooker on a timer is an absolute God send!! Between this and freezing meals, is the only way we can cook ourselves nutritious food every day.

zipzap Tue 18-Jun-13 22:34:58

Both ds have completely different attitude to trying new food and what works for one doesn't for the other, so I try to encourage both of them in their own way...

DS1 (8) is incredibly fussy and picky about what he eats - if he had his own way he would live off olives and pasta pesto and be done with it. He is getting better and is now open to bribery - I keep a list on my phone of the things he has tried and his verdict, and when he reaches 5 then he gets a pound. Seems to work out about a pound a month but goes in fits and starts. And it has to be a proper try, not a few molecules that come into momentary contact with his tongue!

DS2 (5) is really good at eating most things and likes to try new things. Seeing things on tv (not just adverts but when they are in tv programmes) helps. If we are in the shops he'll suddenly say that he thinks he really likes xyz and wants to try it so I'll usually buy some to capitalise on it, especially if it's something I like and so can eat up anyway! Most recently he's wanted sweetcorn (made a good attempt) and parsley - to make his 'superhero' sandwich (grated cheese, parsley and grated dark chocolate with a square of dark chocolate in there as a lucky superhero surprise booster grin - his own recipe). He ate it all - everybody else shuddered - and has had it several times since. hmm

Favourite meals are often a table full of bits and bobs for everyone to help themselves... lots of crudite, hummus, meatballs or little sausages, chunks of cheese or grated cheese, tortilla/fritatta, naice ham, german sausage sliced, dips, maybe a few pringles or mini poppadoms to dip along with the crudite as a treat, nice bread, garlic bread. I try to do things with lots of different colours and then say that they need to eat 5 different colours for example. There's enough stuff that they can avoid any of the bits they aren't that keen on and still have a good variety of food.

stealthsquiggle Tue 18-Jun-13 23:52:25

We used to eat together almost every night (unless DH or I were away) but complicated days now mean that if we wait for DS to be home then DD is too late to bed, so at least a fee nights a week DD eats early, DS has a snack when he gets in, and DH and I eat once they are in bed.

However, we do all eat together at weekends and any evening we can. We are all foodies, although DD is a bit picky and very easily distracted. The DC love to help cook and serve, especially if we have guests, and they will always lay and clear the table.

ThePortlyPinUp Wed 19-Jun-13 08:50:22

We eat together every night, tv off and in the dining room at the table (otherwise I end up wearing my meal) it's the time of the day when we talk about what the dd's have done at school, what we have planned for the weekends etc. Dp does the majority of the cooking as he enjoys it whereas I see it as a chore. There is one meal choice and you like it or lump it, funnily enough no one refuses it grin

Cies Wed 19-Jun-13 11:01:20

The best way to get ds to eat veg is for him to pick it from the garden. He prefers plain flavours so I generally just let him dress it with olive oil.

Generally at mealtimes we're all more relaxed if everything is on the table, so no jumping up to fetch napkins, spoons etc.

Indith Wed 19-Jun-13 12:24:23

how do you get your family eating together at mealtimes?

Cook, Serve, Eat. Of course there are days that not everyone eats together because of activities, work etc but dinner time is within the same hour or so every night and the people who are late just reheat theirs when they get in. One meal. We all eat it. I don't and never have pandered to fussy eaters and that seems to have worked so far. Dc3 is only 15 months though so there is time for that to come back and bite me on the arse!

Having said I don't pander though I do allow for genuine dislikes. ds1 is now 6 and has never, ever, even as a baby, liked potatoes, especially mash so we do work around it. I might make him couscous if we are having mash (as it is quick and no trouble to make) or if we have roast dinner with mash then he'll get an extra yorkshire pudding. He always, always tries a bit though. That is the rule,we all have to try which includes me eating a mushroom or 2! We either chop things like mushrooms up in sauces so we all eat them or leave them whole so the lovers can guzzle them and the haters can leave them. We never make separate meals.

Do you find mealtimes a treat or a chore?

They can be a chore, I'd be lying if I said otherwise. If we are really busy, working late, picking up, dropping off, flying around then of course they are a chore and we have to plan for that and make life easier by using slow cooker. But at weekends or quieter nights it can be lovely. It is nice to come round the table together and talk and it is a joy to see the children tucking in and enjoying their meal. Eating together is how they learn to try new things, to use knives and forks and table manners so it is important.

What are your top tips for making family meals interesting for your DCs?

Get them involved. They make suggestions for the menu plan, they come food shopping and choose the fruit and veg. They come to the farm shop and discuss what variety of sausage there is and see if there are any spare fish knocking around from the fisheries to bully dh into buying or ask the farmer if he has any ox tails. They have opinions and we encourage them to share them.

Do you have any quick and easy family favourites that are sure to be a hit every time?

Spag bol is never turned down and is nice and easy to stick the sauce in the slow cooker. Anything like that really, stews etc or with leftovers from a roast chicken we love chicken pasta soup. Stock made from teh carcass, left over meat tossed in. Brothy soup with onion, carrot,lentils, pearl barley and whatever else you have knocking around. stick a couple of handfuls of pasta in towards teh end and there you have it. Another perfect one to leave simmering all evening when people are ina nd out at different times.

CheeryCherry Wed 19-Jun-13 13:13:35

We generally eat in the dining room, where we share news from the day, and plan the following day/week. On occasion we have a tv pizza, for example X factor final etc. When we can, we'll eat outside.
I usually make one meal for all, and don't find it a chore. I usually plan meals for the week, making them in advance when I can.
When they were little, we used to take it in turns to answer silly questions like 'what made you laugh today?', 'what was your favourite lesson' etc.
Quick and favourite meals in our house are chilli&rice, stew&dumplings, stir fry&noodles.

MikeLitoris Wed 19-Jun-13 13:30:40

We always eat at the table together, even if eating outside.

We try to let the dc help deciding what we will be eating. That seems to go down well.

The older ones help with prepping meals and clearing up wtc. I think it really helps when they feel involved. Not just having any old meal plonked down in front of them.

Also I have learnt after 2 dc to just relax. Sometimes they just really are not hungry. They wont starve if they dont finish a full meal sometimes.

takeaway2 Wed 19-Jun-13 13:35:56

getting them involved is the key. from cooking, to getting the plates on the table to even tidying up. It gets them to the table. Sometimes, we also have the laptop on and they can watch some Cbeebies which helps (sometimes!)...

Having prepared food that you can heat up easily is always helpful. So it's either something that we've already made (bolognese) that we can heat up or defrost, or a pizza or something that's been bunged in the slow cooker the whole day. Alternatively, something quick to cook like fish, or stirfry is great.

lborolass Wed 19-Jun-13 13:36:34

Obviously it depends how old your children are and whether you're at work during the day.

I meal plan to the last detail and the complexity of the cooking varies with whether it's a work day. My children can help if they want but only the youngest normally does. I have no problem with getting them to the table as they are always starving after school. I don't really understand the question about making mealtimes interesting, eating is a necessity of life in my house doesn't need to be made into anything iyswim, food goes out and children appear grin.

I have never served the food onto plates, even the youngest child is able to make stab at helping themsleves but I gather from visiting children that this is rare. I always have to tell them to get stuck in or there won't be anything left and my own DC would think it was odd to have someone else choose what/how much they wanted to eat.

By luckoif the draw my DC, whilst of course they don't like everything, have never been fussy eaters and I've never used any strategies for eating. All my meals have options so that there's always something that everyone likes.

lirael Wed 19-Jun-13 14:16:30

I have two sons, one of 12, who eats everything and loves cooking and trying new foods and another of 10, who is severely autistic,has a more limited diet as well as a number of food intolerances, but still enjoys his food. Both DH and I love cooking and so mealtimes aren't a problem for us. We always sit up at the table and eat together for dinner during the week and all meals at weekends.

I meal plan a month at a time, mostly for budget reasons but also so I can make sure DS2 has enough variety in his diet, as he generally has to have something different from the rest of us. I batch cook and freeze his food (shepherds pie, fish cakes, lamb and beef burgers with hidden veg, rice patties and veg/potato cakes) so that I don't have to cook two different meals from scratch. If given the choice DS2 would exist on chicken nuggets, sausages, fish fingers and chips, so we are trying to widen his food choices gradually. At the moment we're working on him eating separate veg (ie not veg that's mixed into something else) by giving him a teaspoon of mixed veg with his meal and then giving him a piece of flatbread (his favourite) every time he eats a piece of veg. I don't make a big deal of him eating or not eating it, but if he does, he gets a piece of the bread. Not sure whether I would do this with a child who wasn't autistic, but it seems to work for DS2, who has gone from gagging every time a piece of carrot touched his lips to eating a few pieces happily. Still have a way to go with peas though!

Quick and easy family favourites - noodle dishes with left over meat from Sunday roast and stock made from carcass; fish pasta with tinned mackerel, green veg and horseradish; Jamie Olivers quick veg curry; devilled chicken thighs with rice.

DS1 loves cooking and is keen to cook a meal a week for the family, which we're starting this week. Am trying to encourage him to be as keen about the clearing up... We also play the Masterchef palate taste game sometimes - 'how many ingredients of this meal can you identify by taste, smell etc'.

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