The Simple Life: Eating Together

Simple living involves more time than money. Summer Breeze, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

One of the things you learn, when you set out to live the simple life, is this:

It’s really simpler than you think.

You don’t need to join an Encouragement Group, or fill out a series of charts, or buy a box of Flash Cards for the Simple Life, to declutter your world. Many of the changes that you make are small, easy to comprehend, able to build upon one another, and low maintenance.

If you’re patient with yourself and allow time to do its work, you’ll find that the life you’re living one year from now is far simpler than the one you started with.

Let’s take eating, specifically, family meals. Regardless of the size of your family — and this could mean that there’s just one of you, since the cat died three weeks ago — eating is a regular activity that you can turn into something special.

Because we homeschooled, and because the Norwegian Artist, during his office years, worked out of our home, we were privileged to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, which I know is really, really unusual. But what is also becoming, unfortunately, more and more unusual, is people sitting down to eat — any meal, anytime during the week — together.

Evening Obligations

If there are school-aged children, there is inevitably an athletic game, or parent-teacher event, or evening program, that involves slapping something from the freezer into the microwave and eating over the sink.

It probably means more to our children that we spend time with them, than that we attend every one of their soccer games. Child of Eden, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Adults have community service meetings, extra work, basketball with the boys, or church related assemblages.

And regardless the age of the people in the home, there’s an increasing tendency for people to wander into the kitchen at disparate times, poke through the cupboards and fridge, and take whatever it is they’re eating into a separate room, where there’s generally a television or computer screen.

One thing eating meals together does is show us just how full our schedule is: if there is no point throughout the week when all of the members of the household can sit around a dining room table for twenty minutes and break bread together, then we may be just a bit too busy. And being a bit too busy is the opposite of living simply.

Being Busy — Part of Our Culture

Being busy — a major component of life in the United States — is not going to go away in a day, but just because this is a lamentable part of our cultural identity does not mean that we can’t make changes to simplify, and slow down, our lives.

Enter eating together — it’s low key, it’s relaxing, it doesn’t require extra gas for the car, it’s free, and it involves being around the people who mean the most to you: the members of your household. You catch up on what everyone is up to, you listen to problems and praises, you offer advice as needed and copious amounts of understanding and love. The more you do it, the more you want to do it, and at some point it becomes a part of who you are:

“We eat together because we enjoy one another’s company.”

Take time for tea together. Or lunch. Dinner. Breakfast. Anything. Afternoon Tea, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

This week, see if you can find one meal on one day that everyone in the family sits down to share together (and if there’s just one of you, that’s fine: sit down with yourself — no TV — and enjoy the pleasure of your company). Notice the food, whatever it is, and take pleasure in how it tastes. If applicable, thank the person who prepared it, because food is a gift, and people who prepare it are gift givers.

Our favorite time together is Sunday morning, when we have no obligations or particular plans, and we spend two hours at the breakfast table: drinking tea, discussing world affairs, observing the weather outside, and just enjoying the sheer feeling of leisure. What on earth could be more satisfying to do than this?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Fridays I write about financial health and simple living, which tend to go hand in hand. If you’ve read me for awhile, you know that I wrote a book on this, Live Happily on Less, which is a series of essays, like the one above, that address the simple, sustainable changes you can make to simplify your life and live better on the resources you have been given. (Paperback and digital at Amazon.com)

Enjoy the people in your life — as frustrating as they can be sometimes, they are far more valuable than any material possession you could possibly purchase.

This article is linked to Food Renegade, The Jenny Evolution, Small Footprint Family, The Mind to Homestead, Our Heritage of Health, A Peek into My Paradise, Christian Mom Blogger, Essential Things, Happy and Blessed Home, Living Well Spending Less, Graced Simplicity, Katherines Corner, Jenny Mullinix, Live Laugh Rowe, Thankful Thursdays, Frugally Sustainable, Serving Joyfully, Nourishing Joy, Natural Living Mamma, A Blossoming Life, The Prairie Homestead,  Mama Diane, The Chicken Chick, Moms the Word, My Joy Filled Life, Mop It up Monday, Teaching What Is Good, A Mama’s Story, Teaching What Is Good, Treasure Box Tuesday, Coastal Charm, Growing Home Blog, A Wise Woman, Walking Redeemed, A Little R and R, Wholehearted Home, Hope in Every Season, Raising Homemakers, Mama BZZZ, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Frugally Sustainable, Thriving Thursday, Live Laugh Rowe, We Are That Family, Jenni Mullinix, Graced Simplicity, Enchanted Homeschooling Mom, Living Well Spending Less, Katherine’s Corner,

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8 Responses to “The Simple Life: Eating Together”

  1. I truly enjoyed reading this article and enjoyed your husband’s art just as much. I am definitely passing this on to my friends.

    It seems that with every word I read, my spirit was leaping within me. This is exactly the path our family is on, in terms of living simply. HOWEVER, we don’t eat together in the same room very often. I see how I can slow down in this area, and enjoy my kids more. I am grateful for your encouragement.

    Thank you!
    ~Author Donna Marie Johnson,
    The Love Infused Marketing And Graphics Strategist

    • Donna Marie — Thank you for your lovely, encouraging words, and thank you for passing it on to your friends.

      Being on the path of living simply is a good place to be, and I’m glad that your family is enjoying it. Eating together is a pleasure, not an obligation, and the times that you do get to do so — savor them. We spent this morning with pancakes, tea, bacon, and long conversation — three of us to begin with, then the fourth once she woke up from sleeping in.

      I enjoy my kids whenever I can — and as more and more of them are growing up and out, and treasure the time even more. You are wise to live life, right in the middle of it, and love each moment.

  2. This is a great post, Carolyn. Busyness is something I feel passionate about and believe that it can takes us away from so many of the important things in life. Simple living is as much about our time as it is our possessions. I pray that as my kids get older and more independent we can have a similar family value of always eating together.
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Blessings
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

    • Busyness is another one of those aspects that, unfortunately, define American culture — but it doesn’t have to. We can be — as a nation and as individuals — what we want to be, when we make what we long for a priority.

  3. Denice Molby says:

    Carolyn,
    Thank you for sharing. Although we always sit down and eat together, with several children I often forget to truly appreciate this time we have together. Meals are a little bit noisy and chaotic, but are filled with much laughter and discussion. I loved your part about enjoying the food. After spending so much time preparing it, I often don’t even really savor the taste as I am eating. It is almost as though meal time has become one more thing to accomplish. So, thanks for the reminder and tonight, when all the family clatters around the table, I will look with new eyes of thankfulness and will truly take time to enjoy.

    • Denice: We have four children – the youngest is now 17. I remember the days you talk about — the preparation, the busyness, the tiredness, the noise, the chaos, and the mess — and I assure you that, in fewer years than you expect, these will be memories.

      The trick is to enjoy them now — and forget about the mess and chaos. Supermoms out there will tell you that you can, and should, keep a neat tidy house while your kids are young, and if you were a decent enough teacher, you would have them doing their chores cheerfully and well. Do not listen to these people — they are joy stealers, and they are so proud of their efficiency and ability that they foist it on others. They want you to admire and emulate them. They see no need to admire or emulate you.

      Love your children. Embrace the chaos. Laugh through the noise. When we get to heaven and sit with Jesus and the saints (and we are the saints), it will not be a solemn, quiet, dreadful time. It will be a time of joy and abandon, sharing stories and listening to jokes. That’s what we have the opportunity to do every single time we sit down to eat, with whomever we are blessed to eat with.

      If you feel overwhelmed at the end of the day (and I know this feeling), because you’re tired, and you’re facing a meal that needs to be started from its beginnings, then back off. Get an assistant — a 7 year old isn’t a sous chef, but he can put out rolls and butter. Maybe the ten year old can learn to boil potatoes and mash them into something that looks like mashed potatoes. The more they do, the better they’ll get. And there is absolutely no sin at all in pulling out the cereal boxes and saying, “Look, everybody! We’re having cereal for dinner! Someone cut up some apples and peel bananas, and somebody else, put the toast in!”

      Tonight, as I sit down with the people I love whom I am privileged to eat with, I will think about and say a prayer for your noisy, chaotic, clattering family, and for you — that you will bask in the love and acceptance you all have for one another. Blessings upon you, my friend. — Carolyn

  4. Family meal times takes a bit of planning but it is SO worth the effort! We have always eaten together so it’s a habit for us. We wait until my husband gets home from work and eat supper at the kitchen table. Eating in front of the TV is a special treat reserved for Friday nights. I really think this is part of the reason I can take my children out to eat or anywhere else. They have learned to wait on others and carry on a conversation while they wait. Thanks for sharing via Family Fun Friday and reminding us just how simple family time can be.

    • Stephanie — I apologize for taking so long to clear this comment — it’s an excellent one. I agree — you can take your kids anywhere with confidence because they know how to comport themselves, thanks to those family meals. We’ve found another bonus — our kids can TRAVEL anywhere because they are comfortable eating just about anything, and they know that one of the quickest ways to offend someone is to refuse to eat the food they’ve put in front of you.

      Growing up on Happy Meals does not give people this perspective or ability to be flexible.

      Most things that are worth pursuing are simple — yet complex — and nothing could be more simple, yet complex, then Family!

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