With summer over and the kids back to school, chances are your family’s schedule is getting filled up quickly, making it difficult to get everyone around the table at the same time for dinner. Scientific research and experts agree that having a family meal around the table has many benefits for kids, including a healthy viewpoint about food, more self-confidence and better family relationships. Here are some tips to keep a family meal in the daily schedule regardless of busy schedules.
1. Try Breakfast
Afternoons can be busy between homework, sports practices, after school clubs and parents getting home from work. If your schedule is more flexible in the mornings, consider making breakfast the family meal of the day. It doesn’t have to be a full brunch spread, even just gathering together for cereal and coffee is a time for everyone in the family to check in and catch up together.
2. Use the Slow Cooker
One of the hardest parts of having a family dinner is making the time to cook it. If you are the one shuttling the kids to and from activities, it can be difficult to have any time to get dinner on the table. Adding several slow cooker meals to your routine means all you have to do is a little work in the morning and dinner will be waiting for you. You can even prep some meals ahead of and freeze them so all you have to do is empty the freezer bag into the slow cooker in the morning.
3. Try Interactive Cooking
If you have certain days of the week with a little extra time in the afternoon, take advantage of it by inviting your kids and partner into the kitchen with you. Think about fun, hands-on foods such as make-you-own-pizza, omelets or a baked potato bar. Getting everyone to participate not only lessens your workload, but encourages your children to learn and enjoy cooking.
4. Stick With Sandwiches
Sandwiches aren’t just for the lunchbox. With a little extra pizzazz, they can be the center of a quick and easy meal. Try gourmet grilled cheeses or paninis with your favorite fillings. Breakfast sandwiches with eggs, cheese and meat work just as well at dinner time too. Sandwiches are a great choice if you have picky eaters because everyone can choose his own fillings and condiments.
5. Find Fast Recipes
If the main issue with a family meal is the lack of time to cook, make it a priority to research quick recipes and choose some that fit your family’s tastes. It’s even better if you choose dishes that use ingredients you commonly keep on hand so even on the busiest days, you can spend a few minutes in the kitchen and get a meal on the table for everyone to enjoy.
6. Utilize the Market
Another trick to getting dinner on the table quickly is to take advantage of convenience foods at your local market. A rotisserie chicken or take-and-bake pizza are quick and easy dinner options, but still healthier and less expensive than takeout.
7. Have an Afternoon Snack
Despite your best efforts, there may be days where schedules just don’t work for an evening dinner together. Try an afternoon snack time instead when the kids get home from school before homework starts. For the occasional treat, try something decadent like milk and cookies. HamptonCreek egg-free cookie dough is easy to scoop and bake, and even safe to eat raw if you don’t want to turn on the oven.
8. Make the Weekends Count
Chances are your schedule has a little more freedom on the weekends. Take advantage of that and make a family meal together a priority. Whether you roast a chicken for a traditional Sunday supper or head to your favorite restaurant for brunch together, take the time to share a meal and discuss the week with your whole family.
With multiple conflicting schedules, especially during the school year, it can be hard to get a family mealtime to happen. However, with a little planning and some help from the market and your slow cooker you can make the time you have truly count. If dinner just won’t work, try having breakfast together or even an after-school snack. Interactive meals such as homemade pizza and simple favorites like sandwiches add variety. With a little effort and creativity, you can make a delicious meal your family will love enjoying together.