10 Dinnertime Tips

In our $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway, one of the entries is “share your favorite blog(s) to read” and today I’m going to share mine!  {The giveaway ends tomorrow night by the way}

A few days ago I read a blog post on fairlyhappy.com that was so inspiring to me.  In fact, it was so inspiring, that I asked the blog’s author Janet if I could share it with all fab fruGALS!

Why does this even matter?  How does this subject even pertain to a COUPON BLOG? Because couponing is about blessing our  families, not just about the thrill of  a good deal.  Here at Fabulessly Frugal, we try to bring it full circle by doing our weekly “Cooking From Your Stockpile” posts.

I have an opportunity to make an improvement on dinnertime at my home.  I’m really going to try to make it more of a priority in my day and find joy in cooking, instead of seeing it as a dreaded task (I wonder if I get that cute apron if that will make it more exciting – ha ha!).  Hope you enjoy this post as much as I did!  And with out further ado, meet my bloggy friend Janet:


I am a mother of four boys, a wife to one (boy also) and owner of a brand new puppy (finally… a girl!). As the nurturer in my home, I have the solemn responsibility of feeding my family. This is not an easy task. I have spent the last few years making family meals my top priority. Dinner time can be stressful, exhausting and frustrating… but it doesn’t have to be. When I wake up with a plan, dinnertime is fun, entertaining, enjoyable and sometimes even delicious. This list is for anyone who wants to make FAMILY DINNER a priority in 2011.

*There are no pictures because everyone’s table will look different. Please remember: It’s not about how it looks– it’s ALL about how it feels.

1. Use a menu.

You have to know what’s for dinner in order to prepare for it! (duh!) I make a rotating menu once a month and shop once a week, mainly for produce. We will talk about recipes in another post (be thinking of your own favorites to share!) Having a menu will calm you down and keep the kids from asking “What’s for dinner???” Make sure your menu is full of recipes that you all like 🙂

2. Let the children help!

Even the youngest kids can help find ingredients, mix a salad, open a can, measure a cup of water, etc. My three older kids rotate each day with the following jobs: help mom prepare the food, set the table & take care of the baby. Sometimes they rotate between all three jobs in preparation for ONE meal! Keeping all of the kids occupied before dinner will add a feeling of cooperation in the kitchen… and it will help build confidence in your children.

3. Put a tablecloth on the table.

This sounds simple, but it means you are preparing for something special. The tablecloth doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, it will be less stressful if it’s not… then the kids can spill without worrying about being scolded. Rotate your tablecloths– buy one for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc. Make sure it’s machine washable!

4. Set a TIME for dinner.

Set it and keep it. This will give help you know when to start preparing. Make sure each family member knows it’s time to eat! Be consistent. If it’s important to you, it will eventually become important to the entire family. (If dad can’t make it home on time, start without him!)

5. Turn off the television.

I can’t stress this enough…. turn the damn TV off! Dinner time is for family bonding. Do not let the TV take over this sacred time. Music is only allowed if it’s quiet and it contributes to the positive atmosphere. Be careful on which activities your family has going… Don’t allow soccer, dance, whatever-it-may-be to get in the way of dinner. It’s too important!

6. It’s ALL about the conversation.

Ask questions, tell stories, make up jokes, center your conversation around FUN topics. Avoid anything stressful or controversial (money, grades, behavioral problems, etc.) Ask questions that elicit conversation (with no wrong answers!) Start your own conversation jar with questions to draw from. If we can get our kids used to talking to us while they’re young, it won’t be so awkward when they become teenagers.

7. Keep a dictionary next to the table.

It sounds silly, but you wouldn’t believe how much you can learn from a dictionary! A dictionary can settle “arguments” as well as enlighten your already stimulating conversation. And if all else fails, learn a new word each night and make everyone use it in a sentence.

8. Start your own dinner time traditions.

We have tacos for dinner E.V.E.R.Y. Tuesday. A simple tradition we started that we just can’t (and don’t want to) break. Make pizza on Fridays. Pick a theme night once a month. Dance around the table before everyone sits down to eat. Hold hands while saying the prayer. Eat by candlelight. Have a picnic on the floor. Make everyone eat with a large serving spoon. Eat food only one color… the possibilities are endless! Start your own traditions that the kids will look forward to and will continue with their children.

9. Teach your kids to clean up their own spills.

Don’t cry over spilled milk. Have plenty of napkins available and let them do the work. I also allow my children to make their own food if they don’t agree with the food on the table. Many a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have been made over the years. I don’t care as much as long as I don’t have to do the dirty work.

10. Invite friends over!

Once you’ve got a routine going, invite someone to join you! Of course, this cannot and should not be every day. But inviting friends (either yours, your kids or both!) can really break up a dull routine and it will force you to prepare in advance. Be sure to use a recipe that’s been tested and tried… and make sure to invite the right family! jk. sort of.

Very soon, Janet is putting up a post with her favorite recipes….  you can get yours up on your own blog and then link your favorites on her post.  Her goal is to help her readers build their 2011 menus!  You may want to subscribe to her blog or add it to your favorites so you don’t miss it! You can also get links to recipes right here on Fabulessly Frugal!

Before I finish this post, I wanted to share a few fascinating statistics on family dinner. If these don’t convince you the importance of eating together as a family, I don’t know what will:

  • Family dinners are more important than play, story time and other family events in the development of vocabulary of younger children. (Harvard Research, 1996)
  • Frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs; with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts; and with better grades in 11 to 18 year olds. (Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2004)
  • Adolescent girls who have frequent family meals, and a positive atmosphere during those meals, are less likely to have eating disorders. (University of Minnesota, 2004)
  • The average parent spends 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children. (A.C. Nielsen Co.)

For more on the information and statistics of family dinner read HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.


Feel free to click over to Janet’s original post at FairlyHappy.com and leave her a comment!

Thanks for inspiring us Janet!


  • mel

    I love this post!

    My husband laughed at me when our daughter was born and I told him we would no longer be eating on tv trays in the family room (he didn’t think I was serious)… now we all look forward to dinner together every night!

  • Susan

    This is a great post. Great reminders.

    #5 tho, that’s a toughie. I’m not talking about turning off the TV; that’s easy. I’m talking about not letting outside activities interfere with dinner time. It’s doabe when your kids are little, but once they get older, many activities will fall during the early evening hours. I have only one child and therefore can schedule my dinner around her schedule, but if you have more than one child involved in just one outside-school activity, the chances are high that you’ll have a conflict. I recently spent 10 days with my brother and his family. Four kids between 10 and 17, and every single night except Sunday at least one of them missed dinner. And they are not overly scheduled kids. They’re involved in their church, and they each have one outside activity in addition to that.

    In my humble opinion, every child should get involved in an activity of some sort outside of school. It doesn’t matter what it is … sports, music, chess club, anything, as long as it’s positive and that they enjoy it. The benefits are enormous. I think involving the whole family in preparing meals isgreat, and eating together as a family as often as you can is important. But sacrificing outside an activity if it means missing a family meal — not a good tradeoff, in my opinion. There are plenty of other times and ways to spend quality time as a family.

    • Cathy

      I took a parenting class where the instructor suggested taking one season “off” when it comes to sports. Extracurricular activities are good, but sometimes they really do create nothing but chaos! This past fall we determined not to have anyone in a sport and it was heaven! Just sitting and enjoying each other rather than run run run run!

    • Sarah

      i doubt she’s saying NEVER let anything get in the way of dinner because as mother’s we have to be flexible. But parents need to make spending time together as a family importnat. It starts when they’re little, but it’s even more important when they’re teenagers. I agree that outside activities are vital for their development, but it shouldn’t become a regular habit. What I find so disheartening about the extra-curricular activities is that usually mom is running ragged trying to get kids to and from activities, and that leaves little time for any time together at home. which is vital. I really agree with her ideas.

      I found it interesting while reading the stats that family dinner is the MOST important factor when considering suicides, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression in teenagers. Eating together was the most common factor, more important that religion, race and parental marital status.

      Thank you so much for the link to her blog. I absolutely loved it!

  • rena

    Great post. Good reminders loved the statistics. As a mom that;s been cooking for 23 years I have to say that spending every evening preparing and eating meals together has made for 2 very well balanced boys.
    We all look forward to this time together. Yes there are other activities that we do together daily like working out and participating in sports but winding down together every night over a meal sharing our day helps keep our family close.

Leave a Reply

Want to see your picture by your comment? Get your custom avatar by registering for free at Gravatar.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *