Meet the Siglers! This family of four is constantly adapting to each new age and stage of life to make family meals a central part of their lives.
Ken and Kristie Sigler and sons Gabe (12) and Sam (10), of Columbus, Ohio.
Getting to the table is one thing; staying there is another. While the Siglers all gather for family meals most evenings, dinner tends to be rushed and isn’t the relaxing time Kristie and Ken envision. They’d like to find ways to slow down just a little and help everyone enjoy the meal.
Because of the family’s demanding schedule — including frequent late-evening sports practices for the boys — Ken and Kristie were faced with the choice of either serving meals later than desired, or not being able to prioritize eating dinner together. Following her personal philosophy that families should “do whatever works at each season of the year or stage of life,” Kristie shares that they decided to keep dinner together at the top of their priority list, so “if we have to eat at 8 p.m. or later during the school year so everyone can be together, that’s what we’ll do.”
The downside to the later dinnertime in the Sigler household, however, is that it makes rushing through the meal all the more likely. Because they’re sitting down to eat late in the evening, when everyone is tired and hungry, the family tends to eat quickly. Kristie and Ken know that the late meal means they’ll be handling cleanup at a later hour, too, making it hard to relax and focus on connecting with each other at the table. And since they’ve all put in a full day before getting to dinner, Kristie says it sometimes feels too easy to just turn on the TV to catch their favorite sporting events — a family bonding activity that she enjoys, but wishes could happen separately from dinner.
With so little time and so many competing priorities, Ken and Kristie have had to find ways to simplify dinner and keep meal prep and cleanup to a minimum on school nights. Kristie says that she got some help from her own mother several years ago in putting together an easy meal plan template that she still uses to keep dinnertime on track. Sundays and Tuesdays are for slow cooker meals; Mondays and Wednesdays are quick items that can be made either on the stovetop or in the oven; Thursdays are leftovers and what Kristie calls a “free-for-all;” and Fridays are always pizza. Having a predictable rhythm to the meal plan makes it easier for the Siglers to shop and prep.
In addition to the meal plan, Kristie makes weeknight cooking faster by using the slower pace of school vacation times to get ahead. In August and January, when the family’s schedules are less hectic, she prepares a variety of meat options to freeze for later use. Chicken breasts go into the slow cooker and are shredded, portioned and frozen for quick tacos, enchiladas, soups and pot pies; Ground turkey gets browned, divided and put into the freezer for later casseroles, chili and tacos. Shaving off the prep and cooking time for a main-dish protein means that meals come together more quickly on busy evenings, leaving more time to slow down and relax.
As for taking advantage of that relaxation time, the Siglers are still working on a solution! They’ve printed off a variety of conversation starters from The Family Dinner Project site and are planning to use those to help the kids stay engaged during dinner and remind them all to focus more on each other, rather than rushing to the next thing or zoning out on the TV.
Like many families we know, the Siglers are big fans of both tacos and pizza — quick meals with endless variations that suit their busy lifestyle!
The Best Part:
Kristie says, “Laughter has always been incredibly important in my life…I often call it my survival skill! I want my kids to learn to find joy in life even when things are hard, and I think family dinners are where we do that best.” 12-year-old Gabe agrees and says that the best part of family meals, for him, is when everyone jokes around. The Siglers agree that when they can relax and focus on communication and laughter, the result is almost always positive. “When we prioritize as we should, it gives us uninterrupted time with each other.”
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