There are few areas in which the intersection between living your life well and eating responsibly is so tricky and yet so important as the family dinner table and family quality time. There is a fundamental challenge that isn’t easily overcome which is this: You need to prepare delicious meals so that your family is excited about dinnertime. You need to prepare healthy meals so that your family is happy and healthy. And you need to prepare meals quickly or at least within your daily and weekly schedule so that you yourself are not snippy or disinterested with exhaustion.
Especially if you start feeling unappreciated, you’re likely to be more of the problem than the solution. At the same time, you should recognize that you’re never going to be able to deliver on the perfect family mealtime every time. Heck, if you get it right once or twice a week, you’re already not doing too bad. Here’s how you can hopefully do it even better:
FAMILY QUALITY TIME
As corny as it sounds, don’t underestimate the importance of family quality time. In my family, it used to be known as just “FQT.” I think we phrased it that way to avoid some of the corniness of the concept. Much like courting a romantic interest, there is a degree to which FQT can’t be forced upon family members. Often, it’s not so much any single conversation that needs to be had as it is a consistent sitting together to create consistent opportunities to share our lives together. Come what may. Again, this is why Life to Table is so important in this area of our lives. The quality of the food and the efficiency of its preparation—day in and day out—has a direct, if subtle, effect on FQT at the dinner table.
USE A SLOW COOKER
It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard this advice, but slow cookers can be an incredibly time-saving and cost-efficient way to make a meal for a large family, or else have leftovers for a second day of meals. There are a ton of slow cooker recipes out there. You can find free online recipes. You can buy a slow cooker recipe book. More than any particular recipe, however, we’ve found the trick when it comes to Family Quality Time is finding a couple different dishes that your entire family won’t object to. No matter where you go for recipes, there are a plethora of general soups and stews that you can make in a slow cooker.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF TAKEOUT: Seriously, don’t feel like you’re a bad home-maker if you don’t home-cook every meal. That’s crazy talk. More than just nice, fancy sit-down meals, you can use the takeout option to create a low-hassle meal option for your family. Admittedly, in most areas, even in major urban and suburban areas, there isn’t an overabundance of takeout options that are both healthy and reasonably priced. But even if you have 1 or 2 good options that you can use during the week, this can make a big difference on the rest of the week and the home-cooked meals.
Here’s another tip about takeout: Don’t feel like the option has to be all-or-nothing. Mail coupons combined with a targeted takeout strategy can be used to great effect on the results as well as the pocketbook costs of your dinner. Maybe you can use coupons to get grilled chicken sandwiches for really cheap, and then instead of fast food fries, you can put baked sweet potato fries in the oven. Cheap. Fast. Delicious. Healthy.