Dinner is a time when families can get together and discuss their day and share some quality time together. It can also a hectic meal when trying to juggle work and school activities, but with some planning and prep, it can be a great time to reconnect with your kids.

  1. Schedule your meals in advance: If you’re someone who craves organization, use one of the free meal-planning and shopping list creators available online.  Some let you pick your own items, others give you a week or months worth of  menus with links to the coordinating recipes.  Create your shopping list from the list of ingredients and then check it against your current pantry/freezer/refrigerator stockpile to avoid buying what you don’t need at the grocery store.
  2. Look for bargains and schedule meals to fit: Clip coupons from advertising circulars, print online coupons at the manufacturer’s website or coupon sites.   Plan meals around the discounted items.
  3. Search online for new recipes: Don’t fall into the dinnertime rut – it can lead to boredom and trips to the fast food restaurant.  Look for natural and organic choices and move away from canned, boxed, and prepared food for health reasons with the side benefit of saving money as well!
  4. Have a leftover night: When preparing meals, be sure to make about 10-20% more than you need to feed your family on that night.  That leaves room for leftovers, lunches, and reformatting of the leftovers into new menu items without additional prep-time.
  5. Cook your meals in advance:  I’m a huge believer in bulk cooking.  Once a month cooking (OAMC) can be overwhelming, but I do the make three and we eat one and freeze two so we have dinner for tonight plus two for the freezer.  I also do bulk preparation.  When I chop onions, I chop 3 and freeze 2.  Same for potatoes – it’s as easy to peel 10 pounds as it is 3 and we have mashed potatoes for the freezer or for a base of Sheppard’s pie.
  6. Work as a team: No matter how small your kids are, there is something they can do to help with food prep.  Wipe tables, chop ingredients with a lettuce knife, reportion bulk nuts or cheese into smaller packages.  All of these will save the family money and time.

Don’t skimp out on dinner – it’s a time for teaching your kids about food, nutrition, math and more and gives you time to learn more about each other.