Tonight, we ate at our favorite dining spot. Our special table by the window had been reserved just for our family. Our food was cooked to perfection and seasoned just how we like it. The atmosphere was relaxed. No one even blinked an eye when I wore my pajama pants and an old sweatshirt instead of dressing up.
Where is this fabulous place? Well....it's located very close to where we live. In fact, it's located right in our house. It's our dining room. While our dining room isn't an actual restaurant, it does happen to be our families favorite place to dine.
One of our simple pleasures in life is cooking and preparing a delicious nightly meal together. Most of the ingredients we use are grown right here on the farm. Cooking is a family affair on the farm. We all have our favorite items to prepare. Joey's speciality is meat, mine is vegetables, and Elizabeth really loves to make deserts.
Unfortunately, it seems that in today's world, enjoying a nightly meal around the dining room table is almost a thing from the past. This is beyond sad and senseless. If everyone works together, it only takes a little time and effort to prepare a simple, nutritious, and delicious meal.
There are so many benefits that come along with eating and preparing a meal together. It is a great time to visit with your family and catch up on what has happened during the day. It's also an excellent teaching time for children. They can help measure and mix ingredients while the meal is being prepared. Table manners and conversational skills can (and should!) also be modeled and practiced during meal time. Another great benefit of eating at home (besides wearing lounge clothes!) is the cost. If you prepare your meals from scratch, the cost can be very cheap.
Now, usually when I start talking about making things from scratch, people turn pale and start to look at me like I have two heads. Before you do that, take just a moment to keep reading. Preparing meals from scratch isn't as hard as you think. In fact, it's not hard at all. Cooking from scratch usually requires basic ingredients such as flour, sugar, cheese, vegetables, etc. You don't have to be a master chef to cook from scratch. You can grab almost any cookbook and find basic recipes for just about everything. One of my favorite old standbys is The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It's my go to book for everything from pancakes to pie crust.
Another thing that you can do to help create delicious, cheap, homemade meals is to can and preserve your own food. I usually get the "two headed" look from people when I mention this also. Really, truly, and honestly, it's just not that hard! You will be absolutely amazed at the difference between food that you have canned or preserved yourself and store bought food. There is just no comparison. If you have never tried cooking from scratch, or canning/preserving your own food, you've just got to try it. It will truly change your life!
One of the biggest complaints that I hear when I talk to people about eating at home is that they don't have enough time or are to tired to cook. Something that really helps with both of these problems is preparing meals ahead of time. If you know that you will be pressed for time or worn out during the week, an easy thing to do is to cook and freeze some meals ahead of time. Then, all you have to do is heat it up in the oven. Some of our favorite meals to do this with are chicken pot pie and mini-meat loafs. It is wonderful to be able to come home at the end of a hectic day and still have a delicious home cooked meal. Another great time saver that we use is a crock pot. We love slow cooking pot roast, potatoes, and carrots.
Now, I know that some of you cook from scratch, can or preserve everything in sight and are reading this and saying, "YES!". I also know that some of you eat out way more than you'd like to and are reading this and thinking, "I wish my family could eat at home more." Well, guess what? You can! Go find your dining room or kitchen table. Odds are, it's still right where you left it. Sure, it may be piled up with papers, sports gear, or backpacks, but it's under there...somewhere. Clean it up and wipe it off. It's been waiting for you to come back!
Take the plunge and cook at home with your family this week. Start tonight! Your dining room table is calling. You can have your favorite meal, spend some wonderful time with your family, save some money, and......you can even wear your pajama pants!