By delegating a few tasks, you can make mealtimes a breeze
It can sometimes seem like the whole process of dinnertime from start to finish is an endless marathon. Not to mention, by the time everyone is done eating and the kitchen is fully clean, half the night is over already! I love to cook, but I still sigh some days at the unavoidable chore of cooking, serving and cleaning up dinner. And my son is such a super slow eater that dinnertime can be terribly sluggish and frustrating. I often just want him to hurry up so I can start cleaning and be done for the night!
If you follow the practice of developing a mise en place while cooking, which means prepping all your ingredients and organizing your workspace in advance, you’ll be able to slash lots of time off dinner preparation, and cooking the meal becomes much speedier. That said, the “dinner rush hour” of a busy family can still feel overwhelming and take much longer than you want it to even after the cooking is done and it’s time to sit down for the meal. What’s my advice on making the whole process a bit faster, as well as easier on the main cook of the house? It’s simple: delegate!
Assigning other family members with specific tasks related to the whole getting-dinner-ready-cleaning-it-up routine is important not only to teach responsibility to your kids, but also to alleviate some of the stress of having to do it all yourself. What’s more, you’ll find once you let someone else do some minor chores related to dinnertime, it shaves time off the whole process, even if the tasks seem so minor!
Here are five easy job titles you can assign to children and other members of the family to help teach responsibility and trim time off of your own duties at the dinner table:
1) “The Table Setter”: This person is in charge of setting the table well before the meal is ready, including all plates, silverware and napkins. They should also lay out items needed for dinner that night, like ketchup and other condiments, seasonings and butter. This is an important, yet easy job for younger children or even a spouse who is looking to help out.
2) “The Barkeep”: This family member is in charge of getting all beverages, as well as ice, ready and served right before it’s time to sit down to eat. They should be prepared to take everyone’s beverage “order” before dinnertime officially starts and have all cups properly filled when the meal is ready. This is another great job for a child. It helps them practice handling beverages out of the fridge without spilling them!
3) “The Busboy”: This person’s job is to bus the table after dinner is over, including scraping trash into the garbage and packaging leftovers. If you prefer that each family member clears their own plates, the Busboy of the family can still oversee these tasks, as well as assist younger ones.
4) “The Kitchen Manager”: This important job also occurs after the meal is over. The kitchen manager assists with expediting the overall kitchen clean up. They can put items and ingredients used during cooking away, such as placing vinegar and oils back in the pantry and the egg carton back in the fridge. They can put appropriate food scraps into the compost bin, help move dishes to the sink for cleaning or help load the dishwasher. This job would be great for older kids you are looking to assign more household duties to.
5) “The Crumb Catcher”: This is a fun role for little ones. The main job of the Crumb Catcher is to be responsible for picking up all the mess that’s accumulated on the floor. I don’t know about you, but my kitchen floor is filled with food bits and crumbs after every meal, no matter how neat we all try to be! The Crumb Catcher can help out with this as you are cleaning up the rest of the dishes.
Even though we are a small family of three, delegating these little roles to my son (and husband!) has helped tremendously with shaving time off the evening rush of dinnertime. More importantly, it reinforces to everyone that it’s crucial all family members are responsible for contributing to running a household and working as a team. You can have your family take turns with the roles, or think of other job titles that would be most helpful in your own kitchen. Play around with the concept and have fun!