Today, we're talking about our best tips on making homemade meals, being consistent, making good conversation, and how to make dinner time fun. You'll understand the importance of eating dinner as a family and realize just how important it is really is!
If your life is anything like mine, then dinner time is…well…shall we say…CHAOTIC (though nightmarish, stressful, and tumultuous came to mind as well). It's a hard time of the day – everyone is hungry, tired from a long day, and in a rush to quickly get things done before bedtime.
It's also often a time filled with sports, homework, and bustling from one activity to another. BUT… As crazy as dinner time can be, I am a firm believer that a happy family is formed at the dinner table.
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As you know, we’re all about focusing on relationships and making our family bonds even stronger. I can’t stress enough the importance of eating dinner together as a family! Yes, you may be in a busy part of your life. It might only be for 5 minutes and it might only be a frozen pizza. But it will be together and that’s what matters!
I want to help you make dinner time fun. Start applying these 5 simple tips for making dinner time a positive experience for your whole family (especially YOU). You might just be amazed at how much the whole family loves eating together around the table at home!
MAKE A GOOD MEAL TO EAT AS A FAMILY
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right? Well, chances are it's the way to your kids' hearts too! Who doesn't love good home cookin'? Food is more than fuel, it's a legacy and imprint you leave behind.
My friend recently said, “I feel bad…my husband and I have so many ‘oh my mom makes the best…' or ‘my grandma's ___ was the best you've ever tasted…'. But I don't think my kids could say that about me! I'm going to change that.” Profound, no?
Believe me, I am NO cook. In fact, I don't even really like to cook. At this point in my life, it's just one more thing to do/clean up after at the end of the day. But I believe in the power of a good meal.
If you feed your family the same 3 things day in and day out, or if it's frozen, pre-made, or comes from a box, chances are dinner time will most likely NOT be something your family looks forward to. I have learned that homemade meals don't have to take any more time than pre-made or frozen ones!
HOW TO MAKE DINNER EASY AND FUN
- Plan your menu – Meal plan at least one week ahead, but do two if you can!
- Set a “theme” for each day – This helps to make it easy. Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesday, Soup Wednesday… We have over 100 dinner ideas that will help you to keep things fresh!
- Double and freeze – If you cook once, double it and freeze it for heaven's sake! You're already taking the time to do it. Then on a busy day when you forget to plan out dinner, pull it from the freezer, stick it in the oven – frozen and all – and let it bake until it's done.
- GO EASY – If the meals are hard or labor-intensive, you'll burn out quickly. Crockpot, crockpot, crockpot! Casseroles that you can assemble the night before are easy, too.
- Share the load – Have your spouse and even kids help with dinner. Assign them to cook portions of the meal, or prep the food the night before. Enlist help, especially with clean-up!
- Use what you have – I like allrecipes.com because I can search for recipes by ingredient. Look at what you have in your pantry and fridge, and make something out of that rather than running to the store. Who has time for that on a busy day, anyways? Make recipes using what you have to simplify your life.
- Make it affordable – Only go grocery shopping one time per week no matter what, and buy/plan your meals around what's on sale. There are lots of details on how I do this HERE.
- Have a leftovers night – Just because you’re eating leftovers doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a bad meal! I have some great tips on how to reheat your leftovers and turn them into something new. Your family won’t even know that they used to be leftovers! 😉
Get TONS of meal planning ideas and free printables that will make you life so. much. easier. HERE!
BE CONSISTENT WITH EATING DINNER
If your family doesn't know what time dinner is served, or what days you'll be cooking dinner, that’s just a recipe for disaster! You'll find your family will “grab something” on the way home, or start snacking then not be hungry when mealtime comes, or they'll make food themselves without waiting for you. Pick a time for dinner and stick to it!
My mom was a great example of this. She always made it a point to cook a homemade meal every day. She would have the table set and the food ready and waiting at 5:30, even if no one was home to eat it. Whether we had to grab and run, or whether we could sit and enjoy, she knew the importance of eating dinner together as a family. Some days it was super quick, and some days it was the entire JV basketball team at dinner. Regardless of the situation, we always knew it would be there for us.
To keep from the 1,103,173 “what's for dinner??” questions and opinions every day, put your menu up for everyone to see. A simple dry erase board that hangs on your fridge for all to see can really help with this! It keeps you organized, and also keeps you accountable. No more running out at the last-minute to grab takeout because you don’t know what to cook for dinner!
THE IMPORTANCE OF UNPLUGGING AND EATING DINNER TOGETHER AS A FAMILY
Unplugging is hard for me, hence the Unplug Challenge this month. I tend to keep my phone in my back pocket at all times. If I get a text, email, or call, guess what happens? BING! I'm on it within a moment's notice…even at dinner (shame, shame, Jordan!). I've learned I have to physically remove myself from my phone to avoid the distraction and temptation of it.
Get a basket, decorate it cute if you must, and require every person at the table to literally hand over all electronics until dinner is over. Try it, I dare you. You'll be AMAZED at the conversations that flow once everyone is unplugged. And yes, that includes turning off the TV and music. The only thing that you should be able to hear is the sweet sound of your family conversing!
HARBOR GOOD CONVERSATION
Talk. Chit chat. Catch up. Blab. Gab. Stutter for all I care. For heaven's sake, just start talking! I'm amazed at the amount of times I go to dinner with my family, look around, and see people eating in absolute silence. Mealtime is the best time to let the cares of the world hide for a moment and enjoy pure QT with the ones you love! Why is talking so hard?? Here are a few ideas to help (some from our very favorite VIFreebs!)
My kiddos favorite thing at the moment is rhyming time each person gets a chance to say a word then we go around the table trying to rhyme that word and who ever can’t is out they say some words that don’t make any sense and we crack up!Brooke W.
SWEET, SOUR AND SERVICE
We have a tradition that we’ve been doing for a while at dinner that we all LOVE. It's called “sweet, sour, and service.” I got the idea from my SIL. Everyone takes turns telling something sweet that happened to them that day, then sour, and then how they helped someone.
It's a GREAT way to get the conversations flowing, even with our younger kids. Our big kids will even pretend to have our babies tell us what their SS&S were for that day. It's pretty cute. (Cue all the heart eye emojis!)
We go around the table and everyone has to give their peach and pit of the day (same as the sweet and sour). We have 4 teenage boys so usually doing that leads into interesting conversations. Whether it’s helping someone with a problem their having, laughing at something funny that happened during their day or having an in-depth conversation about politics, faith, “new” every day life topics like girls…Rosa P.
ENCOURAGE DEEPER THINKING
Dinnertime is the perfect time to ask questions to get the kids to stretch their thinking. Mix it up so that conversations are new and engaging for all ages. Use dinner as a time to subtly teach basic life values or other important things that might be hard to talk about in every day situations.
We have started having our kids pick something that they will look forward to during school. They can’t pick recess or lunch. We are trying to teach them how we all have to do things that aren’t our favorite and how to find the bright spots in them. It’s made for some good discussions.Tracy H.
HOW TO MAKE DINNER TIME FUN
There are lots of great books and games out there to help get the conversations started at the dinner table. It may seem a little weird at first, especially if you’re used to eating in silence or being entertained by the tv. But just give it a try! They’re really so fun for the whole family, for young kids and teens, alike!
You can also make dinner time fun by making up your own questions! Get your kids involved and sit down for family night one night. Come up with as many crazy, sentimental, or normal questions as you can. One question might take you all dinner long, so you probably don't need too many to get the conversation juices flowing.
Recently we’ve started these Best Of battles:
What’s the best chair? drink? condiment? etc.
We start by listing every possible one we can think of (like high chair, kneeling office chair, glider, toilet seat, and so on, set them all up bracket-style (32 or 64 options work great!), then we battle them out, two at a time. It’s been so interesting hearing from our kids what they think and why. We’ve not made it through a full competition in one dinner because we get so caught up in the conversation.Heather B.
MAKE COOKING AND CLEANING FUN
Make cooking dinner fun. Sing. Play music. ENJOY EACH OTHER! In our family, we have #PageDanceParties galore (if you haven't noticed on Instagram…). It's a way to lighten the mood in the kitchen and make mealtimes so much FUN. It's a breath of fresh air for Bubba or I to come home after a long day and walk into an atmosphere of energy and brightness. Part of that is due to our karaoke machine that has fun lights on it. 😉
Dance parties help, I promise. Same with clean-up! It doesn't have to be a battle, or be a source of contention or dread. Get that family cleaning together! Haven't you seen Mary Poppins?
…aaaaaand…SNAP! The job's a game. Add some sugar to your medicine and it will taste much better, I promise. Mary says so.
So now do you see the importance of eating dinner together as a family? Just put a little more thought into your mealtimes as a family, and it will pay off for generations to come. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a #PageDanceParty to attend.
What do YOU do to make your family dinner time more fun? Leave a comment and share, I'd love to hear from you!
Looking for more great ideas?
- We've got 7 cheap ways for you to start a family tradition today, so be sure and try them out!
- Need some after school snack ideas to help get the kids to dinner time?
- Try out these 5 daily activities that will strengthen your family!