What’s for dinner in your house tonight?
If you’re not quite sure, I promise you’re in good company!
Dinner: a time when we want everyone to come together to pull off a meal during the busiest hour of the day. It’s a perennial family paint point. Everyone struggles with some aspect, be it getting everyone to sit down for a meal at the same time or getting the pickier family members to give the green foods a try. We struggle with all of the above here but have picked up a few tips and tricks along our roller coaster ride with family dinner. Here are some things we do in our home that help us feel better about our nightly meals.
Plan a menu
I have an on-again, off-again relationship with meal planning. When the school year begins and I fall into full on nesting mode, I dutifully sit down each week and think through the following week’s meals. I make grocery lists and find recipes and plan it all around the events on our calendar. Eventually, Fall chills into Winter and I fall into feeding the family on the fly, complete with 5pm trips to the grocery store and a few too many pasta nights. But each time I sit down and write out a plan, I remember why I keep coming back to the idea of menu planning. We all feel so much better on Tuesday at 6pm when there is a plan.
Think about dinner at breakfast
The last thing I want to think about as I’m sipping my morning coffee is what I’m going to put on the table 10 hours later. But a food blogger I love once shared this tip and it really does help. Even when I have planned out my menu, thinking about dinner when I still have the long day ahead of me helps me plan out any prep work and make sure we have ingredients well before dinner time. It’s amazing how having dinner locked down before lunch can improve how you feel about the day.
Aim for family dinner (but be ok with less than 100% success)
Sure, we should all try to gather as a family around the table every night. It’s good for us, for our kids, for our relationships. But in the real world of soccer practice and ballet class and French lessons, not to mention work and deadlines, getting every bottom into a seat at the same time every single night can be near impossible. So do what you can. And if you get to enjoy a meal with just your spouse or just one of your children, then make the most of that time. The point is to nourish and connect, no matter how many people are gathered around.
Try new things within reason
Do you sometimes find yourself in the pasta-chicken nugget-pizza shuffle? It’s so easy to turn directly to your go-to meals, the ones you know everyone will eat without an argument and that are relatively easy to produce. But new doesn’t have to be hard. Take a basic that everyone already loves and just mix it up a bit. Make a pesto sauce for your pasta instead of the traditional tomato. Dust everyone with flour and make your pizza from home with your own toppings instead of calling the delivery place. Baby-step your way into an entirely new recipe or meal.
And finally, do what feels right in your home. It’s when you find the rhythm that feels right for your family that everyone feels better about dinner.