Family Lifestyle

6 Changes that Revived Our Family Dinner Time

22 August 2018

family meal struggles, how to succeed at family meal time. family meal time with kids, formal dining rooms, bell bottoms, striped shirt, ruffle sleeves, tips on how to enjoy meal time with kids

I’m not going to lie, I have had my share of dreading family dinner time over the last few years. Between constant table manner reminders, negative opinions on meal choices, and way more talking (over each other) than actual eating. Dinner time was starting to be pretty freakin’ annoying for me. Meaning mama’s bubble bath immediately after dinner was becoming a must!

What once was a meal that I thoroughly enjoyed preparing for my family now left me feeling frustrated and defeated. And honestly it was upsetting and bothersome that one of the most important family bonding times was my least favorite part of the day. So since my suggestion to just skip dinners all together was overruled I had to find a way to make it work.

So here are six changes we made at home that revived our family dinner time and actually became enjoyable again.

family dinners, family meals, dinner time, picnic ideas, tabletop, what I'm loving lately, quality time, family time,

Note – my number one is a bit lengthy. But try to hang in there. The rest get shorter, promise!

1. A Dinner Meal-Type Schedule

When it comes to hardcore meal planning I am not the greatest. The whole idea of sitting down every Sunday to plan out the upcoming weeks meals sounds nice, but also sounds daunting. I’ve tried it {a few times}. And it basically ends up just being a two hour browsing session on Pinterest. And that doesn’t include the time it took me to find out if I had any of the ingredients and then making the grocery list.

Needless to say the end result hasn’t been all that helpful for me and just leaves me with a headache from all the brainstorming. Definitely not a task I desire mentally to do every week! Of course this has just been my experience. I know many that swear by the whole meal planning process. It just hasn’t been for me.

Now on the other hand I have also tried the “wing it” approach and that ends up just turning into a whole bunch of cereal nights or chic fil a! So somewhat of a plan does actually help in the long run for our health and our budget.

I found for me assigning the same food/meal type to each day of the week limits the brainstorming and planning that starting from scratch requires. Generally each household has a handful of meal go-to types i.e pasta, meat and potatoes, tacos, vegetarian, etc. So assigning a type of food to each day narrows down the daunting question of “what’s for dinner?”. Then you only have to decide based on your mood, schedule, or have on hand to either make your go-to in that category or experiment with a new variation of that type.

For example our reoccurring daily meal outline currently looks something like this:

Monday – Pasta

I tend to be exhausted on Monday’s for some reason and the kids have extra curricular activities. So quick and easy is preferred. Most pasta dishes are quick and easy, viola!

Tuesday – Breakfast {or as we like to call it “Binner”}

Breakfast (all variations) is a meal that everyone in our family loves. And since most mornings are rushed and don’t allow much time for full blown breakfast’s, this meal type is always a winner.

Wednesday – Eat Out! {Wohoo}

Eating out is definitely an option that wasn’t always a possibility with our 3 kiddos. James and I are thankful our family has finally arrived to more civil days in public and can partake in food that gets prepared for us outside the home!

On a praise report note – in the last month or so we have received 3 comments at different restaurants from spectators admiring our children’s behaviors. People – miracles do happen! No seriously we have the best children in the whole wide world, but chaos has been known to happen a time or two in public!

Thursday – Crock-Pot Dish or New Recipe

I like to have a day to experiment with new recipes. Plus trying different foods helps expand my kids palette. Of course I tend to include at least one item I know they will eat with it, but feel it’s important for them to at least try new things.

Friday – Pizza

Ok anybody that knows our family or if you follow along on Insta-Stories than you know Pizza Friday is a big deal around here. I know we are not the only “Pizza Friday” people out there. But it’s definitely a favorite of ours (especially my oldest…he lives for it!). We do change it up depending on how our week went. Whether it’s heading to the local Pizzaria with friends and family, making our own at home on the grill, or pop a frozen one in the oven.

Saturday – Grill

James loves to grill outside so this tends to be his opportunity to prepare the main course on the grill and I add accompanying sides.

Sunday – Leftovers

I was raised that this day is the day of rest and feel meal time is no exception. Plus it helps clean out the refrigerator before the next grocery run.

When the seasons change I like to re-evaluate how the meal choices are going as well as changes in schedules and will then adjust types/days accordingly. For example, during the colder months I will assign a day for soups or in the summer assign a day to experiment with salad variations.

Basically determine your families meal-type preferences and assign them to a day in the week that works for your family.

This method of meal planning has really been helpful in our household. Not only does it ease my brain a bit by having one less thing to think about, but also helps the kids no what to expect too.

2. Eliminate Snacks (or at least limit them)

Where did all this snacking come from in our day and age??? I do not remember “snacks” ever being a part of my childhood life. We had 3 meals, that’s it! Maybe on occasion a special treat, but 2-4 snacks a day on top of our meals? – No!  My kids hounding me for snacks was starting to ruin my life, literally! It was becoming a constant battle with my kids and quite frankly getting out of hand.

Now when they were smaller I started a “snack tray” that worked wonders (let me know if you desire more info on that). But as they got older it didn’t work anymore and the battle worsened. So I stopped buying snacks all together this past summer. And should an urgent need to suffice hunger in between a meal there was fruit or pretzels. That’s it! In the end – you bet they ate their meals at meal time. Score!

3. Change Table Locations

About a month ago I decided to start having all our family dinners in our formal dining room (versus the “breakfast” table). And I have to say this change has been a key contributor to the subject matter “enjoyable family meals again”. Just the change of scenery within our home seemed to alter our mood for gathering at meal times. After all we gather there with extended family and friends so why not enjoy the space with just our fabulous five!

A location change doesn’t have to necessarily be the formal dining room. Perhaps move your meal outside on the back patio on a beautiful evening or arrange a nice display in an accommodating surface for a dinner and a movie night. The bottom line change your scenery to other spaces within your own home. Why not?

4. Bring Out the China

I happen to enjoy hosting gatherings with family and friends. Aside from the wonderful fellowship I also love creating nice displays and bringing out those special occasion pieces. My kids always know when we are expecting company based on the serving pieces and dishes I pull out during prep time.

I started thinking I would never want my kids and husband to think guests outside the home were more special than they were. And that our guests were only deserving of our prized dishes. The thought just really made me sad so I brought out the china! And in doing so actually turned out to work even more in my favor than I expected. Which brings me to my next change.

5. Assigning Meal Prep and Clean-up Tasks

Now I know this is something that should be in place for all households regardless. But it has been a real struggle getting my kids on board without constant reminders and in return only getting complaining and grumbles. Hence another factor for dreading our dinner times. When we started eating in our formal dinning room with intentional set-up and “specialness” my kids started asking {I repeat} asking if and how they can help. What??? That simple switch made them want to be a part of the whole meal process. I immediately jumped on the opportunity to include them in the prep and clean-up. Who knew?

6. Accept and Embrace the Less Than Perfect Meal Times

This one was a long time coming for me. I finally came to terms that it is perfectly fine to have those thrown together meals that doesn’t necessarily meet “proper meal” standards. Loosening up and having those less than proper food choices is completely ok every once in awhile. If the kids want popcorn and cake for dinner. Surprise them with a “yes, you may”. First off you will get an instant mood boost by being called “the best mom ever” and second we only live once why not relax a little and live on the wild side. Within reason of course! 😉

On the same note – stressful moments just come with raising a family and meal times are no exception. I’ve had to change my attitude and learn to accept and embrace those moments a bit better. I am trying to just take a deep breath and use those moments as teaching opportunities. I mean we are parents; therefore parenting should come with the territory.

The family dinner photo above was captured during one of our meals earlier this year that unintentionally encompassed many of the variables mentioned in this post. It was a Saturday meal that was thrown together last minute, with no plan other than to grill “something”. It was a lovely day outside so I spontaneously grabbed the dishes we normally only use with extended family and moved our meal outside. It was a simple no fuss meal, but very monumental to my mindset change for our family meals. I remember thinking these four amongst me are my special people and that I need to soak up as much of these family bonding moments as I can. From that moment on it was my mission to find a way to help revive our family dinner time and be enjoyable again.

Do you have anything to add that helps your family meal time enjoyable? Be sure to share them in the comments below.

Annette ♥

Pin for Later:

family meals with children, mom struggles, tips to help family meal time with kids, family meals, how to enjoy your dinner with kids


Popular Posts

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Aditi 22 August 2018 at 9:27 AM

    I’m saving this post to keep with me forevrer and reference. And omg! your house is sooo amazing. I just love all the ideas you have.

    • Reply Annette 22 August 2018 at 9:54 AM

      Thank you Aditi. And that is so not my house, it is a local furniture store. Wish it was though. 🙂 I appreciate you reading.

  • Reply Jackie 22 August 2018 at 12:51 PM

    Love this!!! Meal time is a struggle and I WILL be implementing several of these.

    I’ve come to realize the past few years that our breakfast area just is not a desirable setting and we just don’t like eating there. (We don’t have a formal.) So I thought about rearranging or doing SOMETHING. You have motivated me to make a plan and take action!! THANK YOU for this post.

    • Reply Annette 22 August 2018 at 2:34 PM

      I’m so glad to hear the post resonated with you and that I’m not alone! lol I didn’t even realize we didn’t like eating in our breakfast area until we moved. I was just desperate and trying everything. I think rearranging will definitely add an excitement to your meals with your family that perhaps was fizzling (or already dead! :)) I hope it gets better for you. xo

  • Reply Tanvi Rastogi 22 August 2018 at 2:27 PM

    Firstly you look AMAZING! Love all your tips. Family meals used to my favorite growing up.


    • Reply Annette 22 August 2018 at 2:35 PM

      Thank you Tanvi, I appreciate that. Family meals were a favorite of mine growing up as well. Thank you for reading. xo

  • Reply Leigh Suznovich 22 August 2018 at 9:55 PM

    Oh I love this plan!! I do the whole meal planning thing and it is daunting every week. A setup like this would make it so much easier.

    • Reply Annette 23 August 2018 at 7:53 AM

      Thank you Leigh. It has really helped narrow things down a notch for me. Thank you for reading.

  • Reply Bella 22 August 2018 at 10:21 PM

    Oh I love this!!! meal prep is key for me else I snack to much! I love breakfast for dinner. basically eat it everyday ahahahah

    • Reply Annette 23 August 2018 at 7:53 AM

      Yes, more and more I’m becoming addicted to breakfast food. 🙂

  • Reply Jazz 23 August 2018 at 11:47 AM

    These are great ideas. I especially like the meal schedule!

    • Reply Annette 27 August 2018 at 9:02 AM

      Thank you Jazz. xo

  • Reply Gloria Tiberi 23 August 2018 at 7:07 PM

    There are great pointers in this post. I like to MDA plan on Sunday I create a Menu by looking on Pinterest & in my cook books and Tastefully Simple recipes. Your meals are very similar to ours During school Year Monday is crockpot, Tuesday is Mexican theme, Wednesday is easy night or eat out because we go to church, Thursday is either yo-yo (your on your own) w/leftovers or new recipe depends on my mood, Friday is Pizza, Saturday we either eat out or Grill, & Sunday’s is always up in the air. Your post was a great read. Thanks for the tips.

    • Reply Gloria Tiberi 23 August 2018 at 7:09 PM

      **Meal not MIDA **

    • Reply Annette 27 August 2018 at 9:03 AM

      Thanks for reading Gloria. Happy to hear that you have a great plan in place. 🙂

  • Reply Patricia Hobson 23 August 2018 at 11:50 PM

    Being we are empty nesters, crock pot,vegetarian, seafood night. Soup & Salad is always fun for me. To change it up for us is a liquid meal. Smoothie, Fancy coffee or Wine & Cheese/Cracker Grazing Board. Favorite quaint Sat. Morning Breakfast place. Paradise Grill! Mexican Breakfast Taco🌮🥑

    • Reply Annette 27 August 2018 at 9:04 AM

      I wish we could have more seafood night. Unfortunately I’m the only that likes it. :/ Thanks for reading.

    Leave a Reply


    Text you’d like to show if your image didn’t load


    Sign up for my newsletter to receive exclusive updates and early access to Blog Posts and Giveaway opportunities.