Dinner as a Family…Tips & Tricks for an “Easy Dinner”

Can you guess what one thing all past Nobel Peace Prize Winners had in common? They ate dinner together as a family growing up. They described it as the time to:
• Reconnect
• Plan for the next day or week
• Laugh
• Pray
• Share their heart’s pains

dinnertipsWhy is eating dinner as a family such a novel idea and seemingly impossible these days? For starters, our children have schedules that rival the President and on many occasions you hear parents bragging about it. Many working parents have trouble breaking away from work to make it home in time.
And probably the biggest culprit… “what do I make for dinner?” This question seems too daunting after a long, hard day.
I’ve gathered my favorite Top 10 Tricks to get a hot meal on the table…quick & easy.

10. Check out Super Suppers and My Girlfriends Kitchen. These are small businesses started by busy moms. You can go in and make a month’s worth of meals and put them in the freezer. It is a great girls night out event…and it takes one night to finalize your meal plan for the month. Not bad.
9. 2 Hours Every Other Sunday: Similar to the Super Suppers but a little more cost effective. Dedicate 2 Sundays a month to meal preparation. I go to the store with a list for 5 meals. I come home and begin preparing…with the intent of freezing 2-3 meals. (In 2 hours, while the girls are sleeping, I’m ready for the next 2 weeks)
8. Quick Meal Ideas I use:
• Double a Batch of Chili (and freeze half)
• Jazz up a Bag Salad with; sunflower seeds, raisins, chick peas, buffalo chicken…and you have just made a meal.
• Check-out pork tenderloins (keep 2 in the freezer at all times)
7. Get Organized. This sounds silly but it works.
• Label Your Cupboards
• Clean Out your fridge before you put your groceries away
• Clean out your freezer twice a month
6. Create a Family Meal Board. After I grocery shop, I update the meal board. I outline all of the “potential” meals based on what I just purchased. Now, I never hear the excuse, “there is nothing in this house to eat”. When we hear that…we walk over to the meal board. Hmmm, it says here we have PORK TENDERLOIN! Or would you rather have the Taco Soup in the freezer?
5. Don’t offer a variety of meal options. As the youngest of four, growing up we never had the option of having something different from the rest of the family. We’ve adopted that same philosophy at our dinner table. Bear may not ‘prefer’ the meal we’re having, but she knows it’s not an option to ask for a special order. On a couple of occasions I hear my husband say; “Bear, if it goes in, it goes down”.
4. Call the Pizza Guy. Nothing wrong with that!
3. Create a weekly meal tradition. It’s the meal planning that becomes mundane. But if you play up a repeat-meal as a Family Tradition it will be a memory maker. Our neighbors have Meatloaf  Tuesdays. Now, I’ve started doing it. (the trick for this meatloaf – mix 1 cup ketchup with 1 cup of brown sugar and pour over before backing. YUMMM) You could create Spaghetti Wednesdays or Panini Thursdays or Dinner and a Movie on Fridays.
2. Daddy’s Grill Night. Mark it on the calendar. And ladies…who cares what he makes, brag it up. How to help make it easy for him (at the beginning)
• Marinate Chicken in BBQ sauce
• Purchase cut-up veggies for grilling
• Buy a tenderloin or Salmon Steaks with toasted coconut
1. Get the kids involved. My sister-in-law has her girls make dinner on Wednesdays. It makes your life easier and it teaches children about responsibility. Two birds with one stone.

(Karen has some good ideas too)

Calling all busy moms- what tips & tricks are working for your meal time?

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5 Responses to “Dinner as a Family…Tips & Tricks for an “Easy Dinner””

  1. christy April 23, 2009 at 10:55 am #

    We plan our meals ahead of time too – I meal plan on Saturday, shop on Sunday. And we’ve started going to Let’s Dish – it’s one of those place where you prepare ahead of time and freeze the meals. Both of these have saved me oodles of time and I just love that. Great article!

  2. Jenny April 26, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    Thanks for the great ideas! I want to know which highchair that is in the picture. I am trying to decide which one I want to get. :)

  3. Stephanie May 1, 2009 at 5:15 pm #

    These are excellent suggestions! I especially love #1 (I just went to Dream Dinners and LOVED it), #2 (I’d like to try that…do you have any recipes or tips to share?), and #7 (organization tends to help me “think” and plan head better). :)

  4. Stephanie May 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    Oops! I meant to say “plan ahead.”

    That’s what happens when you type one-handed while nursing a baby. ;)


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