Step one: Pick a time
For busy families, this may seem like an impossible task. Knowing family meals can happen anytime and anyplace will make it easier to plan a family meal. Some families may find breakfast is the best time to enjoy a family meal. Other families may enjoy an evening meal together. Keep in mind family meals don't have to take place at home. If your family is on the go, try a picnic at the lake or sandwiches on the bleachers before a child's game.
Step two: Plan a menu
Family meals can be a cold sandwich and fruit or a hot turkey dinner. If you are new to family meals and/or cooking, start with a simple meal such as a salad or stir fry. Family members may also have good ideas on what, when, and where the family meal could be. Here are three simple ideas:
- For breakfast, try: pumpkin oatmeal and apple slices
- For minimal clean-up, try skillet lasagna and a salad
- For a summertime favorite, try baked fish with fruity coleslaw
Everyone will enjoy the meal more if you keep it simple and set realistic expectations. Turn off televisions, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Encourage family members to visit with each other. You can use these questions to get family members talking:
- What is your favorite color and why?
- If you could be any animal, what animal would you be? Why?
- Would you rather fly to the moon or dive in the ocean? Why?
A family meal does take some planning, but it is possible even for busy families. Family meals are important as it gives adults the opportunity to serve as role models, encourages healthy eating habits, and establishes family traditions. Other things happen during mealtimes as well, including: socialization of children; strengthening of family unity, safety, and security for children; decrease likelihood of risky behaviors; and increased literacy and language development.
Goal for This Month (choose one or more):
- If you are new to family meals, plan at least one family this month. You can view the Making Family Mealtime a Tradition video for more ideas on how to get started as well as ideas for how the whole family can help with the meal.
- If you have family meals on a regular basis, try a new menu item such as an ethnic dish or a meal made from foods at the Farmer's Market. Check out the University of Minnesota Extension's Recipe Box for more recipe ideas.
- If you do not have family nearby, invite friends or neighbors over to enjoy a meal together.
Please share your tips for making family mealtime a success in the comment section below.