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The smiling family gathered around the table, eagerly dishing up heaps of healthy vegetables while I carry a perfectly cooked chicken/turkey/roast to the table, swirls of savory scents filling the air; hair perfectly coiffed; apron tied neatly in the back in a big celebratory bow. That’s the Norman Rockwell picture I envisioned when I set out to start preparing more family meals at home. In reality, meal prep and mealtime are an awkward juggling act, and most nights I consider dinner a success if we make it out alive with everyone happy and fed.
On one hand I’m trying to keep an eye on my toddler—who more often than not seems to be preparing for a career in living room gymnastics—and on the other hand I’m trying to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of preparing a meal that is healthy, appeals to everyone’s varying tastes, and hopefully generates enough for leftovers the next day. Throw in couple of panther-sized cats who circle my feet like they’re getting ready to go in for the kill, and you’ve got a veritable meal prep circus.
So, in the spirit of Family Meals Month, I challenged myself to turn the entire mealtime experience into a fun family activity—in part for my own sanity, but also to teach my son the importance of healthy, balanced meals. Recognizing that I surely don’t have all the answers, I set out to see how other families manage to make meal prep an active part of mealtime.