Heather’s Top 10 Meal-time Essentials in 2011

This is my very first blog post. Hi, I’m Heather.  I am the mom of two awesome kiddos, the wife to Craig who's a sports journalist and the Founder and CEO for Mom Made Foods. Regardless how crazy I feel my life is, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I love nothing more than to be with my family sharing a meal together.

I thought long and hard about what it is that I want to share with our readers.  I hope you enjoy ‘Heather’s Top 10 Meal-time Essentials in 2011’ list.  May one of these ideas help make your meal-times more happy, cheerful, healthy, green or best -- easy.

  1. We pack our son’s lunch every day using Lunchskins, reusable sandwich bags. Over the course of this year they have helped us save 100’s of clear plastic baggies.
  2. Mom Made Munchies instead of the ever-boring PBJ sandwich for son’s lunchbox. His favorites are the Cheese Pizza Munchie and Turkey Sausage Munchie.
  3. I bought fun, personalized placemats for my kids, nieces and nephews for Christmas last year from OliveKids. They’ve become a staple on our dinner table.  Best of all, they’ve helped my 2 yr old daughter learn to count and learn her colors as she studies her placemat during meal-times. If your child needs help learning geography, for example, look for one with the US map.  I highly recommend them as a gift for any child.
  4. Simple flower arrangements. In my next life, I will in some way be involved with flowers. It brings me peace and happiness to have fresh flowers in our house and makes every meal feel special, whether it’s delivered pizza or a home-cooked Sunday dinner.
  5. We joined a CSA ("Community Supported Agriculture") from whom we’d pick up fruit and veggies every Wednesday from June thru October.  I love that I and my kids have learned about and tried new produce.  Ground cherries, for example, are delicious!  Even better, all of it is freshly picked and locally grown.
  6. Our napkins and placemats were getting dingy. My dear mother gave me a whole slew of new placemats and napkins from West Elm for my birthday this year. They wash well and have brightened our table setting. Best though is that she gave me 20 of one color so I can rotate clean ones in without resetting the entire table.
  7. Mom Made Meatballs which we launched to the market in July are my picky 2-yr old daughter’s favorite protein food. They also became our go-to on our busiest weeknights.  They make a super easy, healthy meal that our whole family loves on spaghetti with sauce, just plain, on a skewer or my most recent concoction was putting them on a pizza.
  8. My 6 yr old son has learned to set the table every night. It is usually the first thing he does when he comes home from school. Just this simple change this year has enabled us to get dinner on the table a few minutes earlier than we’d be able to otherwise.
  9. The Six O’Clock Scramble has helped us with our weeknight dinners, enabling us to plan ahead, take the thinking out of the grocery list and enter the week feeling organized.  The Scramble has provided us delicious range of recipes getting us off the ol’ standards recipe list.
  10. Meal-times are a shared family effort in our home.  My amazing husband is a great help with weeknight meals. We share the duty / pass the hot potato of picking kids up and cooking dinner. Many evenings he has dinner prepped by the time I come home from work!  LOVE.

Please take a second and let me know what you think or if you have one that you would add to the list.

5..4..3..2..1 Blog!

I am so excited!  We are launching the Mom Made Moms blog and invite our Mom Made Moms to begin sharing their stories here.  Our Mom Made Moms program is off to a great start, and reaching out to these moms all over the country has become one of my favorite things about working for Mom Made Foods!  The Mom Made Moms are a diverse group of people from all over the US.  Some have one child and others have a basketball team's worth.  I hear from moms who rarely buy or serve prepared foods to moms who rely heavily on them and are trying to make healthful changes in what they feed their families. Getting to interact with these customers is also a lot of fun!  Just recently I got to take a Mom Made Mom out for dinner while I was in Boston, and that rocked!  My goal with this blog is to provide a platform so we can all get to know the Mom Made Moms!  If you are interested in writing for this blog, please send me an email at jennifer at mommadefoods dot com.   If you want to sign up for the Mom Made Moms program, we'd love to have you!

Kids are So Darned Impressionable -- Especially with Food

My favorite expert/author on children and food is Ellyn Satter.  Her books "Child of Mine" and "How to Get Your Kids to Eat" are really good reads, especially for parents who are worried about how their kids eat.  She, and many other parenting experts and educators, talk about the power of modeling behavior that you want to see your children exhibit.  This is true if you want your kids to put their dirty clothes in a hamper, or hang up their coats after school; if mom or dad drop things on the floor or not is going to have a big impact on your child. I know this because I go mad in my house, keeping after my kids and their messy messy room, only to walk into mine and see clothes piled on the foot of the bed!  "Do as I say, not as I do" will drive parents mad until the end of time.  Because. It. Doesn't. Work.

So goes with food!   When my first son was a toddler, I wanted to do right by him and serve veggies and healthy foods, but I was pregnant and couldn't touch a green unless I wanted to become green, yet I was befuddled why he would not eat his veggies!  Of course, it could have been a normal developmental stage, but a lot of it, I'm sure, is because he wasn't being motivated by parental modeling.

Fast forward another 6 years, and that now 8 year old is still so impressionable!  At a recent party, I observed that he liked what his friend liked, and surprise surprise, he just happened to not like what his friend disliked!  Well, it he didn't just happen to dislike the same foods, he is an impressionable child who likes to please others.  He was modeling the behavior (trying new foods when others are trying) and opinions in lock step with his peers.  Maybe not an Oprah "ah ha!" moment, but it was a Jennifer "ah ha!" moment.  I thought, I need to get him eating around more good eaters.  I need to use this to my advantage.

Even more interesting to me was that my not-as-much-of-a-people-pleaser 6 year old was also super impressionable by his peers!  This is a child who will go a week without letting a veggie pass his lips; or anything with sauce; or anything new for that matter!  But at the party, he made a couple new (girl) friends and they were "good" eaters, and it was a food party, and I watched him eat and like what the girl was liking; and not like what she didn't like.  Amazing.

So I know that as a parent I need to model good eating, and I do.  My husband and I eat pretty well, make lots of healthy salads and cook a few times a week from scratch (nothing fancy, mind you, but home cooked food.)  We practice a type of food parenting that Ellyn Satter talks about (modeling good eating, offering variety, not forcing choices, etc.) but all of that good food parenting has yielded far less in terms of our kids trying new foods than that single party!

The question for me now is, what's next?  I obviously can't create a party every week for dinner.  Or can I?  Instead of ending play dates before dinner, should I have them during dinner?  And what do I do if the boys befriend worse eaters than they are?  Might I be tempting fate by inviting super picky eaters into my house?  Or do I need to just relish in the memories of one food party where my boys stretched themselves and their perhaps expanded their palates just a little bit?