Having dinner together is a great way to connect with your family and relax at the end of a busy day.
However, getting to dinner time can be stressful.
As the dinner hour approaches, I often feel some anxiety. Not only do I have to figure out what to make, but I also have to manage my time carefully because meal prep can be time-consuming.
In addition to these concerns, I also worry about making meals that my kids will eat without complaining.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few techniques to reduce dinner time stress and make mealtime more enjoyable.
Although I don’t do this as much as I should, I try to plan my meals for the week as much as possible.
I usually spend Sundays evenings cooking a few full meals and prepping ingredients to cook later in the week.
For example, I will boil a whole chicken and use it to make several easy meals during the week such as tacos, chicken salad, or BBQ chicken sliders.
I also rely on meal subscription services such as HelloFresh, Blue Apron, or Home Chef to make meal planning even easier.
Knowing what we will have for dinner each night instead of winging it, significantly reduces my dinner time stress.
Every Meal Doesn’t Have to be a Gourmet Creation
I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to cooking.
I always want to dazzle my family with delicious, healthy, creative meals that will expand their palates.
Placing this much pressure on myself was making meal prep less enjoyable.
Although I still strive to give my family memorable dining experiences, I’ve come to terms with the fact that serving leftovers, frozen dinners, or an occasional fast food meal doesn’t make me a bad parent.
Make Dinner Time Flexible
I pride myself on being punctual and I like it when things happen on schedule.
Our designated dinner time is 6:30 pm and I do everything in my power to adhere to it.
A friend of mine convinced me that I needed to be more flexible if I wanted dinner time to be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
After evaluating my behavior, I realized she was right. I’d expend so much energy rushing to get dinner ready by 6:30 pm that I was exhausted by the time I sat down to eat.
Missing my designated time also made me irritable and my attitude affected my family.
Since I’ve decided to be more flexible with dinner time, our family meals are more relaxed even if we eat at 8:00 pm.
Enjoy the Time Together and Have Fun
Dinner time is perhaps the only time of day when your whole family can get together. Make the most of the time and use it to strengthen your family’s bonds. Play games, laugh, and catch up on each other’s lives.
We like to play The Original Dinner Games, a set of cards that include puzzles, counting, naming your favorite things, and more. Kids learn critical thinking, social skills, and math. These simple games help to break up the dinner routine and open up conversations. (P.S. – the game even encourages kids to eat their vegetables).
In addition, we like to play our own version of the game “Would You Rather.” Not only do these scenarios make us laugh, but they also give us insight into each other’s personalities.
Figure out what works best for your family and have fun.
Involve the Whole Family in Clean-up
Once dinner is over, another source of stress can rear its ugly head – clean-up.
When everyone goes their separate ways and one person is left to tackle the dishes, resentment and anger can build up.
To eliminate this problem, make clean-up a family affair.
Give everyone a specific task that they are responsible for and allow them to do it. Don’t worry if your kids don’t do the task as well as you would have. The more they do it, the better they will get.
When everyone pitches in, the work is less burdensome and it gets done faster. The greatest benefit of getting everyone involved in clean-up is that it extends your family time.
One final word of advice – Your family meal doesn’t have to be dinner. If having lunch or breakfast together is more convenient for your family, do that.
Eating meals together as a family is what’s most important no matter what time of day it happens.