Remember those iconic Norman Rockwell portraits of families around the dinner table? Has life become so out of hand that couples, parents, and children rarely sit together for meals? The good news is that you can revive this tradition and have fun while doing it.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, eating together as a family creates strong bonds. In later years, you’ll remember those loving faces, the laughter, and the delightful meals.
Here are six helpful hints for making your next family meal a memorable one.
1. Prepare Your Menu
The first step to planning a successful family dinner is to decide what type you want. Will the meal be served buffet-style on a counter or family-style on the table? Is it meat and a couple of sides or several courses with dessert?
After you’ve decided on the style of your dinner, it’s time to prepare a menu. Use a notepad to list each dish you’ll prepare, plus the necessary ingredients. Consider surprising your family with some new recipes that could soon become favorites.
2. Make a Shopping List
Once you’ve made a menu and a list of the ingredients you’ll need, creating a shopping list will be a snap. Do a quick inventory of your pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and spice drawers. Check off things you have on hand and circle the ones you need to purchase.
You have a complete list of ingredients you can pick up at your local supermarket. If you want to save time and money, why not consider ordering fresh food online? For example, you can choose from a wide variety of fish and other seafood from an Alaska Seafood Company. These online companies specialize in custom grocery orders for busy individuals and families.
If you’re purchasing groceries online, allow enough time for delivery. When you shop in the supermarket, remember some ingredients are highly perishable. Consider waiting to buy them only a day or so before your family meal preparation.
3. Prepare Dishes Ahead
It’s not easy to juggle a family, career, and other social responsibilities. According to an article published by Harvard University, only about 30 percent of families have meals together regularly. However, learning tricks like preparing dishes ahead can make family dinners easier for you.
Look at your menu and see what you could do in advance, such as chop veggies, make stock, or prepare desserts. You can put many dishes in the fridge or freezer until you need them. Also, you can let your electric multicooker create a sumptuous dish while you’re at work.
4. Get the Whole Family Involved
Meal preparation is an ideal way to spend quality family time. You can cook together as a couple or as parents with children. Even younger children can help you set the table or gather ingredients for a dish. Older children can help with more complex preparations with adult supervision.
It’s a priceless gift to teach your children to plan menus, shop, and prepare family favorites. Parents have used opportunities like these to pass along family recipes and cooking methods from generation to generation.
In the meantime, you can catch up with what’s going on at school and the rest of their daily lives. Being involved in the whole process lends children a sense of pride and accomplishment. You’ll not have as many of these moments if you stick to fast food all the time.
5. Set the Mood
Who says that great-grandma’s China should only be reserved for special occasions? Make your family dinners even more memorable by ditching paper plates. Watch their eyes light up when you arrange a stunning table fit for royalty.
Depending on the menu, bring on the fancy tablecloth, china, silverware, glasses, and candlesticks. Even the humblest meals get an elegant boost by candlelight. Of course, you can integrate break-resistant place settings for young children as needed.
Does your meal have a theme, or is it globally inspired? Feel free to add some fun decorations to match. If you’re serving cocktails, have some refreshing non-alcoholic alternatives for non-drinkers or children. If you like, add some soft music to create the perfect ambiance.
6. Take a Break from Technology
It’s difficult to engage in meaningful conversation if everyone’s nose is buried in their smartphone. Make it a family rule not to bring phones or other mobile technology to the dinner table. If necessary for work or emergencies, put your phone on vibrate or let calls go to voicemail.
Who can savor the aromas and flavor of delicious food with a television blaring in the background? Turn off the tv and computers and only allow one device for soft music ambiance, if appropriate.
Doesn’t it seem like food tastes so much better in the company of your family? Even if you can only have one meal together each day, make it count. Gathering with your loved ones around your dinner table is time well spent.
By Samantha Higgins