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Make Time for Family Meals

Updated May 20, 2019
Ann Schwader

Ann Schwader

SDSU Extension Program Assessment & Reporting Coordinator

Hectic schedules can make it difficult to find time for healthy, family meals. Work, running errands, homework, after-school jobs, sports, and many other obligations are often reasons why family members eat at different times. With good planning and flexibility, well-balanced family meals and snacks can be possible on a tight schedule.

Families that eat together have many benefits. Eating together can help improve family communication, help families feel closer and provide better nutrition. When youth take an interest in family meals it is an opportunity for them to learn life skills such as menu planning, cooking, healthful food choices, and how to regulate portion sizes. They can also learn responsibility through setting the table and helping clean up. 

Family Meal Tips

Here are some ideas for making time for family meals:

  • Have healthy microwave meals on hand for extra-hectic days. View Cooking in Small Spaces Using a Microwave Oven for quick microwave recipes.            
  • Consider choosing a different meal when everyone can be together; breakfast might be the one meal that works with everyone’s schedules.
  • Can’t make the location work for everyone? Get creative about where you eat together. As an example, pack a meal and eat picnic-style at a ball game.
  • To make mealtime easier, give everyone a job.
  • Consider doubling recipes that are freezable for “cook once, eat twice” meals. On busy days, you’ll appreciate the efficiency of defrosting and reheating these meals in the microwave. A good resource is Freezer Meal Planning.
  • A slow cooker is a helpful kitchen appliance that can assist with time management. Make roasts, soups and stews.
  • Stock your pantry with “quick foods” such as canned fruit and vegetables, low-sodium soup, pasta, peanut butter, rice and tuna.
  • Have prepared fresh fruits and vegetables on hand for fast meal preparation by cutting them up ahead of time and storing them in the refrigerator.

Make mealtime positive. Encourage each family member to talk about his or her day. Make the most of your quality time by eliminating distractions with a no-technology rule at your family meals. Turn off the television and discourage e-mail and cell phones.

Related Topics

EFNEP & SNAP-Ed, Nutrition, Health