Family Dinners: What’s the Secret?

This post was originally published on Feed Our Families in January. Many of you have asked about how we do family dinners lately, so I thought you would want to read this. Let me know if you have any tips at the end!


What’s the secret to a perfect family dinner?

The truth is, I don’t know!  But I do know a few things that help our family have a better experience at the dinner table.  We are far from perfect in our house, so I don’t always follow my own advice, but when I do family dinners turn out to be a much more joyous experience.

When I don’t do these things, dinner quickly turns into a whine-fest.

Plan ahead: Plan your meals a week in advance and make sure to have everything that you need in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer.  If you will be gone all day, plan a slow cooker meal.

If you aren’t organized enough to do this (sometimes I’m not either), it’s important to learn a few recipes that you can throw together in a pinch.  My go-to quick meals are usually one of the following: stir-fry, breakfast for dinner, tacos, tostadas, or roasted veggies and lentils.  Keep ingredients for your quick meals on hand so that you won’t be tempted to grab fast food in a rush.

Get the kids involved: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, kids enjoy eating foods that they have a hand in picking out or cooking themselves.  Heck, my kids will even eat tomatoes and basil straight off the vine if I let them!  Even if it’s too hectic to get them into the kitchen, invite your kids to choose vegetables or fruit at the store.  You might be surprised at what they ask for (Joe begs for things like cauliflower and artichokes).  Another way to get them involved is to let them plate their own food.  Since our family has switched to family-style meals, the kids have been much happier and more willing to try new foods.  Some of our favorite family-style meals are tostadas, pizza, and lettuce wraps.  Even if I plate their food, I try to offer some topping choices so that they can still have some choices.

Dinner games: Our new box of dinner games is probably the best thing to happen to our family dinners.  If the kids are feeling especially whiny, we whip the dinner games out and they are instantly engaged.  We laugh and have a great time, and the best part is, there is no more whining!  Of course you don’t need to have the official dinner games to have fun, you could easily make up your own based on the age of your kids.  Our beginner pack includes things like making up songs about your favorite toys, seeing who can do the best impression of a cow, and “i-spy” games.

I hope these tips help you as much as they help our family.

Do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment!