In the age of pandemics, we’ve lost the joy of gathering family and friends for a meal around the table. It’s likely that you either dined out or grabbed take out for the majority of your meals before the virus. Most haven’t changed much from this, only for many, take out, not dining in has been the only option. Hopefully we’ve turned a corner and people are starting to feel comfortable to gather again and we can get back to the very important time spent breaking bread together again. Don’t downplay the importance of this tradition. There are many benefits of preparing meals at home.

This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank or spend hours in the kitchen to make this happen. Here are some helpful tips for planning a family meal.

Opting for quick meals

Even if you’re working from home these days, having to prepare a meal at the end of the day can be unappealing. There are lots of quick meals that are easily put together and prepared. Quick meals can even be a healthier choice as many people are mixing in plant based ingredients to their menus. Brands like No Evil Foods provide a plant based alternative to more unhealthy choices.

A meal like spaghetti and meat sauce can be easily prepared. There’s nothing that says you must make your sauce from scratch! Simply brown lean ground beef, throw in a diced bell pepper, and a little diced onion and cook until brown and the veggies are soft. Then throw in a jar of your favorite prepared jar spaghetti sauce and voila, you’re done. Add a simple salad and some garlic bread and it’s a meal almost everyone will love. You’ll be eating in about 30 minutes start to finish.

Save money and improve your health by eating in

As discussed; before the pandemic began, the majority of Americans were more likely to dine out than eat in so were less likely to have home cooked meals. The number of Americans that dined out in 2010 was 41% of the population, compared to a mere 26% in 1970, and today is likely even higher.

Don’t get me wrong, the convenience of eating out makes it appealing. Not having dishes to wash and a kitchen to clean after a meal is always a plus. But there are some big downsides to eating out. The main one being your budget takes a huge hit. The amount of money spent on one meal in a restaurant could buy ingredients for two or three home cooked meals. Think of the savings if you cut down on eating out to only one or two nights a week.

Your budget isn’t the only thing that takes a hit when dining out. You are very likely to over eat when you dine at a restaurant. When you dine at home, you’re in complete control of your portions. Nutritionist Dr. Bergman believes that you are more likely to control what you eat when you cook at home, and perhaps opt for healthier ingredients too. 

Think about it honestly. At a Mexican food restaurant, you think nothing of eating basket after basket of tortilla chips and salsa. You’d never think of eating several bags of chips at one time when dining at home. It would seem absurd. Yet, in the atmosphere of a restaurant when the margaritas are flowing and the conversation is good; those chips just simply disappear into our tummies without a thought. 

Bonding time with family

A family meal at home gives us actual time together. A restaurant is fun, but you’re never as relaxed as you are at home. The family table is a great place to have meaningful conversations. It’s a place where you can actually slow down and enjoy the people with whom you are sharing the meal. Young children benefit by developing their social skills and manners while around the family dining table. Don’t forget, the number one rule when gathering for a family meal should be, NO CELL PHONES. Sitting next to one another staring at a mobile device is not developing any family bonds. 

Set aside an hour a week if nothing else, to sit down and dine together as a family; no matter what your family looks like.

Family meal time can become the time that everyone looks forward to. Be sure to keep it stress free and don’t make it a time to air grievances; it’s not Festivus, y’all. Make it a time that everyone looks forward to. You’re family may not realize how special it is at the time, but in years to come; they’ll understand.

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