5 tips for making dinnertime something your family will actually enjoy.

5 tips for making dinner time enjoyable for everyone

You don't have to be the Brady Bunch to have a good time together! Photo Source: http://bit.ly/1gTY4Bf

If your life is anything like mine, then dinnertime 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, in a rush to quickly get things done before bedtime, and it's often a time filled with sports, homework, and bustling from one activity to another. BUT…As crazy as dinnertime can be, I am a firm believer that a happy family is formed at the dinner table.

This week's Focus on Relationships challenge is the “Dinner Together Challenge”. Every day this week, come hell or high-water, make it a point to sit down and EAT together. It might only be for 5 minutes and it might be Wendy's straight from the bag, but it will be together…and that's what matters. To help this be a positive and successful experience for you, here are 5 simple tips for making dinnertime a positive experience for your whole family (especially YOU):

5 tips for making dinner time enjoyable for everyone

1. Make a good meal.

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 dinnertime 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!

Here are a few simple sub-tips to help make sure good, homemade meals happen with ease:

  • Plan your menu at least 1 week ahead, preferably two.
  • Set a “theme” for each day to make it easy. Mexican Monday. Italian Tuesday. Soup Wednesday.
  • 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 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?) make recipes using what you have to simplify your life.
  • Make it affordable! Only go grocery shopping 1x per week no matter what, and buy/plan your meals around what's on sale. Lots of details on how I do this HERE.

Get TONS of meal planning ideas and free printables HERE.

5 tips to make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone

2. Be consistent. 

If your family doesn't know what time dinner is served, or what days you'll be cooking dinner, 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, and 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, some days it was no one, some days it was the entire JV basketball team to dinner. Regardless of the situation, we always knew it would be there for us.

Another idea…put your meal menu for the week, 2 weeks, or even for the month on the fridge for all to see. It helps avoid the 1,103,173 “what's for dinner??” questions and opinions, keeps us organized, and also keeps us accountable and helps avoid a last-minute takeout run because we don't know what to cook for dinner.

5 tips to make dinner time more enjoyable for everyone

3. Unplug.

This one 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.

5 ways to make dinnertime more enjoyable for everyone

4. 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! Conversing can be hard, so here are a few ideas to help:

We have a new tradition at dinner. 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, sour, and how they helped someone that day. It's a GREAT way to get the conversations flowing…yes, even with our 4 and 2.5 year olds. Beck can't talk yet so we have our big kids pretend to have him tell us what his SS&S's were for that day. It's pretty cute.

There are lots of great books and games out there to help get the conversations started at the dinner table like THIS ONE:

Dinner conversation starters


Or THIS GAME to help get conversations started:


5 ways to make dinnertime more enjoyable for everyone 


5 ways to make dinnertime more enjoyable for everyone

Or make up your own! Get your kids involved and sit down for family night one night and 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 to many to get the conversation juices flowing.

5 ways to make dinnertime more enjoyable

5. Make it 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…see HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE for recent examples). It's a way to lighten the mood in the kitchen and make mealtimes so much FUN, as Bubba shares HERE. 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. 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. 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 you see? 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 dinnertime enjoyable? Leave a comment and share, I'd love to hear from you!




  1. AvatarCarol says

    When i was growing up, we had dinner every night around the table at 5:30. My mom would alternate meats throughout the week. On Saturdays for dinner, it was either burritos or a barbeque. If we needed to leave soon after dinner, we’d have “5 min cleanup”. With 6 kids, it could get done fast.
    Now with my own kids, we have dinner around the table as well. I also try to alternate meats and Wednesday is usually spaghetti night. They are old enough to help and it makes the time fly. They’ve also started getting in the habit of asking if i need help. Also, even if they helped make dinner, they also help clean up. None of this one person doing all the clean up and dishes. I HATE that.

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      Those are awesome ideas! I, too, like the idea of everyone helping clean up. Sounds like you have a great system going, thanks for sharing!!

  2. AvatarSalina says

    I have our menu for the week posted on the fridge. I have three kids 10,7, and 1. The older two (boys) always help out with dinner but I let them choose how they are going to help. They love being in the kitchen so they usually pick ahead of time how they are going to help. Sometimes that means one will watch his sister while the other brother and I cook and sometimes we all have a job. I love that even at these ages they can both nearly cook several meals on their own. It makes me feel good as a mom to know they won’t be that guy who can’t make themselves a meal when they grow up ;). We have a bible study as a family during breakfast but sometimes we do it during dinner or continue to talk about it at dinner. Otherwise we laugh and joke and be silly. Their is nothing better at a table than good food and lots of laughter. We do something a lot like your sss’s we do highs, lows, and gratefuls. I have found that with an almost teenage boy sometimes getting him to talk is tough but this is an easy way to get conversation started. Lastly, everyone helps clean up somehow and it’s usually done dance party style (we are huge dance party peeps too!) life is way too stressful even in elementary school so our biggest role at dinner is to show our kids that family time is a time to cut loose and have fun. We are firm believers in living for eachother laughing with eachother and loving on eachother.

    • AvatarFunCheapOrFree says

      That sounds like bliss. Thanks for sharing your family successes, makes me so excited for when my kids get older!

  3. AvatarCindy says

    We made a “technology timeout” box we use when we are having “family time” like dinner or games. If we need to unplug…the cell phones and gadgets go in there for their own time out and we get some much needed uninterrupted time!

    I too post my menu on the side of the fridge. My kids can’t read yet, but it helps my husband know how to plan his lunches based on the size of the meal I am planning for dinner.

    We also share about our day…for kids, they have to tell us the same number of things as they are age (3 year old tells you 3 things)…adults go by decades (30 year old tells you 3 things). It’s a great conversation starter and it helps me to know what their favorite parts were!

  4. AvatarAngela says

    Once we were in middle school my mom would make us go around the table and tell one thing about our day. You weren’t allowed to use a cop-out answer either. Since my dad tended to dominate the table it gave each of us kids a chance to participate. Also, if she felt we gave a bad answer we’d have to share something else. It was a good incentive to provide a decent answer the first time around.

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