How can we fit a family meal into our already-busy schedule?
Below are some ideas for making family meal times as easy (and fun!) as possible.
- Choose a specific meal time that works for your family and stick to that time as best as possible.
- Set a timer for children who have a hard time sitting at the table for a reasonable amount of time. You can gradually increase this length of time as children get more used to sitting at the table.
Engage your children!
- Compile a collection of “conversation starters” and let each family member take turns drawing a prompt out of a bowl/hat. Ideas include:
- “If you could invite any one to eat dinner with us tonight, who would you invite?”
- “What is your favorite dinner?”
- “If you were at _____ (restaurant) ____, what would you order?”
- “What is the best thing that happened to you today?”
- “What is one thing you are looking forward to tomorrow?”
- Take turns being the “Meal Time Leader,” who is responsible for (age-appropriate) tasks such as calling the family to the table, excusing people from the table, or refilling drinks.
- Assign each family member a meal-related task, such as setting the table, clearing dishes, or packaging leftovers. This not only expedites the process, but teaches kids important skills such as responsibility and accountability.
Make it Fun!
- Incorporate themed dinners, such as Build Your Own ____, Picnic in the Living Room, Dessert First, Chopsticks Night, Finger Foods, Fondue/Dunk Night, etc. to keep meal times fun and motivating.
- On the weekends, prepare meals that can be reheated throughout the week.
- Double recipes so that you can freeze one portion for a quick dinner another night.
- Set aside a few “Cooking Days” throughout the year, dedicating a day to preparing multiple dishes that can be frozen in serving sizes appropriate for your family. Recruit friends and make it a social affair! There are numerous blogs and websites with Freezer Friendly or Make Ahead recipes. Here are two examples:
- Develop a list of a go-to list of “Family Favorites” and refer to this list when meal planning. Sometimes thinking of what to make can be the hardest part!
- Plan meals a week at a time and post the weekly menu.
- Don’t forget Breakfast for Dinner! Breakfast foods are often quick to prepare and tend to be foods you have on-hand.