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Turning mealtime into “family time”

Mealtime can be enjoyable “family time” too, especially when you plan ahead and ask family members to “pitch in.” Kids like being helpful so let them know they’re vital members of your “family team.”

Many moms and dads recognize the importance of family mealtimes, but often want helpful ideas to make it “the norm.” Here are some tried-and-true tips to get you started. Add these to your family’s routine gradually. And add new tips whenever possible.

Plan ahead

Meal planning makes all the difference if you’re trying to save time and money. HPRC offers some helpful suggestions on how to plan your meals in minutes.

Enlist helpers

Even your tiniest tot can set the table or unload silverware from the dishwasher, while others chop vegetables and mix ingredients. Don’t forget your cleanup helpers! If all hands are on deck, cleanup’s a breeze.

Be flexible with your menu

Dinner can be pancakes or scrambled eggs, fruit, and toast. Save complex recipes for when you have more time—during days off or weekends.

Create kid-friendly classics

ChopChop's website offers a variety of simple, delicious recipes that you can prepare with your kids. Or bring back treasured recipes from your own childhood.

Get outside help

What can be done ahead? When making your salad, wash romaine lettuce and add (already purchased and prepped) toppings from your local grocer’s salad bar, such as watermelon chunks or mushrooms. Or pick up wonton soup or egg rolls from the local Chinese restaurant after work. Once home, make this easy fried rice: Cook 6 cups of instant brown rice. Scramble an egg and cut into pieces. Brown ½ cup chopped onion and 1 tsp chopped ginger in 1 tsp oil. Steam 2 cups mixed veggies. Add 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken. Combine all ingredients and add soy sauce to taste.

Save time by using crockpots and/or rice steamers

Nothing’s better than arriving home to a meal that’s ready. Choose some recipes you can make with just a few ingredients. If your family likes them, add them to your roster of family favorites!

Location! Location! Location!

Enjoy your meal from a cooler packed for sports practice or host a picnic on the living room rug. What matters most is eating together.

Create a relaxed setting

Clear the table of mail. Light a candle. And turn off phones and the television.

Invite a guest

In many military families, a parent could be away or living far from home. Find ways to share good food, fellowship, and your family’s mealtime with others.