“Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.”
1. Plan ahead.
I try to take the time on Sunday evening to look through our family’s schedule for the next week to determine which nights we can eat at home and which nights we’ll have to eat out. I plan my meals based on the amount of time I will have to cook each evening. (This also helps our family budget, which makes my hubby happy!) My family’s favorite meal on a night I don’t have a lot of time is nachos. We each choose our own toppings, from ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. We also love to add sour cream and homemade salsa and guacamole. Make sure you’re signed up for our email list and join our Recipe Club to receive a Recipe Card with our Homemade Salsa and Guacamole recipes!
I go through spells of using my crockpot all the time, then not using it for a while. When life gets busy, though, my crockpot is a lifesaver! I use it for lots of soups and stews, but even if you just use it to cook your meat, the rest of the meal comes together pretty easily. There are lots of crockpot cookbooks and recipes out there, especially on Pinterest. My family’s favorite right now is Asian Pork Tenderloin with Ginger Glaze, which you can find here (shoutout to The Food Charlatan!)
On the nights your schedule just won’t allow you to cook, go ahead and decide what you can pick up and add to at home. Whether it’s a bucket of fried chicken, so all you have to do is cook a box of macaroni and cheese and heat up a can of green beans, or if you order pizza and add a salad, figure out what will take the most time and a way to reduce that amount of time.
4. Have a back-up plan.
Sometimes, even after planning ahead, you still end up with less time than you thought you would have. I try to keep certain items in my freezer and pantry, so that I can throw together my meals rather quickly. Cans of beans and diced tomatoes stay on my pantry shelf, and I know that my microwave can defrost one pound of meat in less than 10 minutes. That means I can throw together a pot of chili or taco soup in half an hour. Filling my pot with hot water before putting it on the stove helps it to boil faster, which means I can have pasta topped with canned spaghetti sauce and meatballs from the freezer within half an hour, too. Also, my kids love breakfast for supper, and they never realize it’s because I ran out of time! Scramble some eggs, boil water for some quick grits, and fry a little bacon (okay, a lot!), and get ready for smiles. Know what meals you can pull together quickly, then make sure you keep those ingredients at the ready.
You’ve tried your best to make family dinner at home work, but there are times when even your backup plan falls through. I know how you feel, but this still does not make you a failure. Instead, accept the fact that you’re going to have to eat dinner out, then have dinner at the restaurant table just as you would have at home: no phones, talk about highs and lows for the day, play word association games, tell stories, etc. Enjoy the service and the meal prepared by someone else, while you enjoy time together with family! You can even make it an event by inviting extended family!