Hassle Free Homemaking- Dinnertime Rules

Do you ever get in a homemaking slump?  Mine came early at the ripe age of 25 (and 3 kids 4 and under) and with it came a ferocious appetite to beat the slump, avoid midlife grump, and prevent housewife frump.  I did it... but not without  effort... A LOT of effort- which continues daily.  Now with 6 kids, I'm a happy homemaker... mostly (I'm still lacking a good June Cleaver apron).
Here are a few of my secrets that make dinnertime happen with a family of 8... go ahead and reduce or multiply the fraction to adjust for your size family... step number one is pray.. just pray you make it through the day. I've been able to make it through 14 years on this principal alone!
  • Plan your menu: I do 2 weeks and solely plan it around sales adds and seasonal garden items.  With our size family... every penny goes toward another gallon of milk. ... more to come on meal planning in the future. Head over to Jen's for inspiration. She's fabulous.
  • 10 o'clock rule: Know what I'm fixing for dinner by 10pm the night before or 10am the day of.  This helps especially for thawing meat, gathering supplies and ingredients and making sure dinner's served on time. 
  • Everyone Helps: Every kid has a dinnertime related job.  I know this can be more hassle than it seems worth the effort.  I began this when my oldest was 4 and I can turn my kids loose to fix a family meal now by the time they're 10... ladies, it pays off big time!  This is also a great one on one instruction time with your kids.  Job ideas can be dinner prep, set table, unload dishwasher, clean-up... pick what works for you.
  • Use Nice Dishes: Okay, since the hubby man has been is school I've slacked. BUT, now we're back to normal again (today's his last day) and even the 3 year old gets a glass dish and cup.  This is my effort to bring a little refinement into the home (for where else would they learn it?) and encourage good manners.
  • ROTATE: My kids are all assigned a birthright number... we use it often.  Too many fights over who was sitting next to mom or dad inspired this idea.  We have assigned seating that rotates each month.  Mom and Dad stay fixed and the kids all move down one chair at the beginning of the month... (it works like a dream in car seating as well!).
  • Everyone Cleans Up: We have a rule: Grab your plate and 3 thing and put them away.  Generally, this works... getting them into the dishwasher without salad all over the floor is another post.  With all 8 working to load the dishwasher, clean up, sweep, and put food away we're all free to enjoy our evening together sooner.
Oh, and I didn't include it in the bullets but, sometimes it's better to wait and sweep the peas and rice up the next day... I hate a dirty floor but those dang peas mush and the rice sticks to the broom... the morning after everything walks itself into the dustpan.  HONEST!!
FYI- If you already have the Christmas Story Leg Lamp, you may want to include the Leg Table in your collection... all the things you could create with that extra time you made by getting organized..
Thanks to all who participated in our Conquering Kids Clutter Party with ShabbyNest!

How do you manage the dinnertime game at your house?
Photos:bhg, flickr... you can tell the difference right?


Sara said...

This is a huge day for you and your family! I'm so glad your good hubby has finished his schooling. Whenever a married man I know finishes some type of schooling or training, I always congratulate the wife. Good job!

Kelly said...

This was such a great post! I may have to instill some of these rules in my own family. Because I am a stay at home mom, everyone expects me to do it ALL. Usually, I don't mind, but I think it would be nice to teach the kids some responsibility and help prepare them for their own independent lives as well. I like the idea of it being more equal instead of one person serving everyone else.

Kira said...

I am so happy the "man" finished school. I bet not as happy as you though :) When is the big trip?!?!?
THANK YOU for saying it is o.k. to leave rice till the morning. I always feel like a looser to go to bed when Keaton has littered the floor with rice but it is a 2 sec vs a 10 minute fix! ALSO, I guess I am the mean Mom. I already make the little mister help with dinner and clean up. I am trying to catch him young while it is still "cool" to help mama. I didn't know I was supposed to wait for 4 :)
P.S. I need to incorporate the 10 rule. Right now if I know what we are having by the time Lee comes home from work I am feeling great :)

KMR said...

We have a lot of the same rules as you. My husband and I grew up with many of the same rules so that makes it easy. Good dishes. We have 3 boys. We rotate by school year who sits where. So on the first day of school, the switch happens. But with the oldest one 15 now, he's not so picky anymore. One sets,one clears and one cleans dishes. You might think about a dog. It really helps with that under the table clean up! I like your idea about clearing your dish and 3 more things.

Lisette said...

Great Post! Love the pictures as well :)

Michelle said...

Great post today. We don't really have dinnertime rules. My husband works a very odd schedule, so he is not always home for dinner. But we almost always have breakfast together!!

Michael - Innkeeper said...

Thanks so much for your post!

I love the picture of the orange/green dining room. Where did you find this picture?? This is the 'feel' I want for my dining room. Please advise. Thanks

Laurel @ Ducks in a Row said...

I'd love to hear some of the different jobs you have your kids do. My oldest is six and I would love to get her and her younger siblings in the kitchen

SoBella Creations said...

Great post! I sometimes feel that dinner time is a free for all. My daughter likes to eat as soon as she comes home from school. And chances are she won't eat dinner. Hubby works late 2 nights a week. So we just eat what each person wants.

Sandy said...

We're more fly-by the seat of our pants, esp. in sports time (3 soccer players and a Varsity coach!) but we make it very memorable. Same ol' white dishes (but nice) and yummy food.
What's more important is the conversation - always! I was happy to be able to check out your blog!

Wendy @ The Shabby Nest said...

The rotating seat thing is such a great idea! I'm going to have to use that one! Awesome post!

Jen - Balancing beauty and bedlam said...

Thank you so much, you sweetie. Wish you were here with us at Blissdom.
There are 8 of us smooshed on a bed with our computers...it's too funny.
My friends have jumped out of their computer. :)

List Mama said...

I also meal plan for 2 weeks with a short trip to the grocery store in the middle for more bread, milk, and fruit. They say a person spend on average $10 more than intended every time they step foot in a store. Fewer trips to the store means less money spent! Great rules!!


Debbie @ Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen said...

This is the information moms need to continue to be "joyful mothers of children". When these decisions are made (what to eat, who sits where, who cleans up), then we are freed up for more imp. things like cuddling, reading to our kids, and training them for bigger jobs.

Keep up the good work. As a mom of young ones and older ones - I can say with authority, the payoff is great!

Debbie @Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen said...

I forgot to add something our family does -

I don't like to rotate chores too often. I guess it's according to what the goal is. If you're training, it's good to move on to other chores in order to keep building the skills in different children, but if your goal is efficiency, changing chores too often slows you down. I like to wait until a child is an "expert" and able to train the next in line before moving them out of a job. This motivates them to become proficient.

I also like to have a different cook's helper each night. Most of my children have a meal they can make alone after a few times of doing it with me.

(Can you tell my goal is to work myself out of a job? :)

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