Busy schedules mean that you just don't have time to stop. You're running around, frantically trying to keep track of your schedule and your kids' schedules -- and some things just can't help but fall by the wayside. If dinner is one of those things that gets forgotten in the frenzy, it's time to stop and regroup. Dinnertime is not just about nutritional value -- it's an important tradition that can help you and your family slow down, relax and reconnect.
Food expert and mom Dana McCauley understands the everyday pressures and dishes up these tips for getting your family back to the table.
How do you get your family to the table? Share your tips and tricks with fellow readers in our comment section below.
Make dinnertime a family priority
"Have a family meeting on the weekend or one night a week to map out what nights will be family dinner nights so that everyone knows this is an important time," says McCauley. Having trouble connecting with your teens? "If necessary, text-message teens a reminder about family dinner nights to ensure they remember to be home," she suggests. (Click here for advice on talking to your teen.)
Plan the menu together
Make everyone feel like they're involved. "Plan the menu together so that mealtime is not just about mom or dad but about everyone sharing their mealtime favourites," says McCauley. (Click here for some quick and easy menu suggestions.)
Assign tasks for dinnertime prep
"If your children are old enough, assign tasks for dinnertime preparation so that you can cook together as a family," McCauley suggests. "Not only is it a great way to teach kids important life skills, but it is a lot more fun and much faster than cooking alone."
Organize the fridge
"Once the menu for the week is set, go out and do the shopping," says McCauley. "Organize the food in the refrigerator so that the ingredients for each dinner are together. That way anyone can start preparations if you happen to be running late."
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Make it fun
"If you find family mealtime a hard sell, plan some fun activities that are compatible with dining," McCauley says. One idea? Tell a progressive story. "For instance," she explains, "have each person add a line so that the story travels around the table. Start out with a simple line like 'It was a dark and stormy night.'"
Pick a theme
"Add fun to dinnertime by letting each family member pick a theme. If Mexican is the theme, get one of the kids to download some appropriate music while another makes some fun placemats using crayons and craft paper."
Keep the shopping list accessible
McCauley suggests keeping a shopping list on the counter or fridge so that as items run out, you can jot them down. That way, she says, when you go shopping, you won't have to take the time to do a big inventory check.
Monthly, weekly and twice-weekly shopping
"Divide your shopping into monthly, weekly and twice-weekly trips," McCauley advises. "Monthly shops for bigger staple items, weekly shops for things such as dairy products that keep well and twice-weekly shops for fresh items like lettuce and meat."
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