By putting a few plans in place, and implementing a new way of thinking, you’ll discover that you can make family meals easier and enjoyable.
Thankfully, embarking on a goal to spend more family dinnertimes together doesn’t have to be difficult. You do not need to fix a six-course meal each night. You don’t even need to be able to cook great to provide delicious, inexpensive meals that everyone loves.
Sometimes it’s taking the time to think about new ways of gathering the family that can make all the difference. It doesn’t have to be a traditional family dinner. If breakfast works best for you, do it.
The important part is the conversation and bonding that takes place while you eat.
First, no one is perfect so you’re not going to be either. Life happens, school events happen, and sometimes you’ll have to resort to eating out. When your family has an event that takes your usual mealtime, try to plan a nice family dinner at a decent place.
Even a nice place with big servings isn’t that expensive if you share. If you’re sitting down at a table for the dinner and conversing, it’s almost as good as home.
Switch to Breakfast Together When Necessary
One way to mitigate issues with dinnertime, if you see that your after-school schedule is a nightmare, is to wake the family up a little early and enjoy a nice sit-down breakfast at the table instead of dinnertime that night.
You can make things like overnight breakfast casserole so that all you do is pop it into the oven when you get up, everyone gets ready, then you will have a hot meal ready. You could even cook it the night before and reheat it in the morning.
Toss everything in the dishwasher on your way out. Don’t forget to let the kids help. Even a first grader can put their dishes in the dishwasher.
Create A Plan
One reason that you find yourself at a fast food restaurant may be a lack of planning. You really do need to look at the calendar to figure out what your work schedule is like, what each child needs to do after school, and of course what your spouse is doing too.
Either spouse can be involved in cooking and preparing dinner and so can older children. Just watch Master Chef Junior if you don’t think kids are capable. Look at your family calendar and be realistic about what you’re preparing for dinner and when.
If you need to teach your kids kitchen skills, consider the Ultimate Meal Planning Bundle. There is a class included in the bundle from Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship. She helps you teach kids of all ages about knife safety and skills.
Feed Your Freezer
A fabulous way to cut down on time and to save money is to cook in bulk. You don’t even have to set aside a special day. You can feed your freezer as you go.
Here’s how it works. Tonight, when you are preparing easy lasagna bake cook two and freeze one. Many casseroles are freezer friendly and they’re always awesome since you can cook them in one dish, saving time on cleanup.
Get Your Kids (and Spouse) to Help
It’s been mentioned but you really aren’t alone in this. You have your family. Even if you’re a single mom you can work with other single moms to help prepare dinners, eat together, and combine the work.
Even if you are married, mothers may be the one doing all the cooking. Instead, take turns with your spouse and older children. Teach them how to cook and clean too. It’s a life skill everyone needs to develop.
Don’t Be Fancy
You don’t have to prepare multistep meals to provide a healthy home cooked meal for your family. You can use some boxed ingredients and some homemade ingredients.
There is nothing wrong with taking shortcuts if you check the nutrition on the package to ensure it’s not high in artificial ingredients. For example, if you want to have pizza night, getting a premade crust from the store is preferable to ordering in. You’ll save on calories and money by making your own.
Consider a Boxed Meal Plan Delivery Service
There are fresh meal plan delivery services today that aren’t that expensive when you consider the cost of eating out in terms of direct price and how it affects your health. You don’t have to do it for every single meal, but it can help and supplement your plans.
Here is a list of 23 boxed meal services to consider. Plus, using these services will help you learn some great recipes that you can recreate on your own. This is also a great way to learn to cook.
Use Grocery Delivery or Pick Up Service if You Can
One way to save time is to never go inside to shop for groceries. Instead, shop online and either pick up your groceries or have them delivered. The small price you pay for this service is more than worth the time savings involved.
You can save an hour a week or more depending on your family size by shopping this way. Plus, when you can see the total of your food bill, you are more likely to put back things you don’t need. If you habitually go shopping while you’re hungry, this can help you avoid last moment hunger fueled purchases.
Implement Get Your Own Night
Use leftovers as a fun meal option. It is estimated that most families throw away about a third of their food purchases. This is a huge problem since it takes a lot of time and money to make the food you feed your family.
Don’t say that you don’t like leftovers and don’t let your kids get that habit. Instead, every three or four days set up a meal bar so that everyone can eat up the leftovers. In some cases, you can save small amounts of leftovers for soup by freezing.
Alternatively, take leftovers for your lunch each day. That can save you $10 to $25 dollars a day on lunch costs.
Get the Right Tools & Appliances
It’s hard to cook if you don’t have the right tools and appliances. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money. You need a large heavy bottomed pan with a lid for one-pot cooking, a stock pot, an oven-safe roasting pot, a saucepan, and it doesn’t hurt to have an iron skillet.
You can do most of your cooking in the large heavy bottomed pan. A baking sheet is nice, but you can use the iron skillet for baking too.
Think One-Pot Meals
There are many tasty one-pot meals or almost one-pot meals like stir-fry over rice or sauce over noodles, that your family will love. From stir-fries to casseroles, to soup one-pot meals are an amazing way to get dinner on the table.
One pot meals take fewer utensils, and you can include healthy ingredients that everyone loves to make the best meals. Everyone will leave the table full but happy and healthy too. Try one of the recipes from the article Eight One-Pan Chicken Dinner Recipes for Busy Days.
Develop a System
When you systemize everything that you do, you can do it more efficiently. Saving time is always a good thing. Plus, when you develop habits with a system to help you, you’re more likely to do whatever the thing is. That includes preparing a healthy family dinner.
For example, make it a habit to menu plan, make it a habit to check tomorrow’s menu so you can take out ingredients that need to be thawed, and so forth.
You can find dozens of premade meal plans in the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle. What’s a bundle? It’s a collection of ebooks, courses, recipes, and meal plans, at an extremely low price.
Assign different family members to different aspects of the meal that should be done by a certain time. For instance, your 11-year-old knows they have to set the table every night at 5:30 PM while your 9-year-old knows they have to fill the glasses with ice and water by 5:45 PM. Have another child choose the conversation starter for the meal.
Ensuring that you get dinner on the table each night, so you and your family can enjoy a healthy meal plus good conversation together doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t mean you have to miss out on things. But, it might mean you have to sign up for fewer activities, eat at different times, or plan to ensure you meet your goals.
We encourage you to use these 12 tips to make family meals easier. These tips are not hard, and they will make a difference in your family mealtime.