Parenting

Bringing Back Family Dinners

Some of my best memories are of family dinners from long ago. My Grandma June used to come up to Pembroke for every holiday, special occasion and just because. She never missed a Boxing Day dinner and it just isn’t the same without her here. With my own family now, I would like to see us sit down together everyday and share a meal together. With a teenager and a daughter in weekly piano and swimming lessons, it’s just not a reality.

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Our lives are busy with work, lessons, sports, school and whatever else that eats up a good chunk of time. Even amidst the chaos, I’m putting forth an effort to carve out time for the simple act of sitting down with my family to share a meal at least four times a week. This means Olivia has to come home on the bus right after school and not go to her friends house and it needs to be a night that Bridget doesn’t have her extra-curricular activities. So far so good! I’m liking the routine we have started and enjoying the discussions (and a few laughs) we are having over the dinner table.

National Family Dinner Night

On Thursday, September 18th, M&M Meat Shops invites Canadians to share a meal with family and friends. It will be their 10th year inviting Canadians to participate in National Family Dinner Night. Participating is simple. Just prepare a meal and sit down to eat with your family. I’ve got Thursday night cleared on our calendar and am planning to make my Creamy Chicken & Rice Casserole again. It was a hit with my family if you want to give the recipe a try!

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If not, check out M&M Meat Shops for some dinner inspiration. They have some new products for fall that sound like they would tasty: Marinated Souvlaki Pork Kabob and Homestyle Mashed Potatoes. For dessert, I want to try the TOO TALL® Strawberry Shortcake. The best part about this dinner is that it won’t take me all day to make!

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The Survey Says…

M&M Meat Shops recently conducted  a survey about family dinners and the results were quite shocking! For instance, they learned that only 30% of families sit down together for dinner every night. On last year’s survey that same figure was 47%. It’s unfortunate to see this decline, but I know that our family is part of it. We don’t sit together every night. However, I’m making more of a conscious effort to make sure we eat together more times than not!

The survey also showed that 20% of families eat dinner together only two nights a week or less and 5% said they never eat dinner together as a family.

Why are less families eating together? My guess would be it’s because of busy schedules not allowing everyone to be home at the same time as dinner is being served. Canadians answered this question. 35% of people said conflicting schedules, 26% said it was lack of time due to activities and 14% replied they had no time to cook.

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I can relate to all three reasons given. Yes, we do have a busy schedule and are not always home at the same time due to work, friends and extra-curricular activities. The no time to cook reason is iffy though for me. I don’t spend hours slaving over a stove to prepare a meal. There are many ways you can get dinner on the table quickly and that doesn’t involve going through a drive-thru!

Some more interesting tidbits from the survey include:

  • Quebec is the provincial leader in eating dinner with the family with 43% of respondents saying they eat dinner as a family every night.
  • In Alberta, 11% of people say they never sit down to a family dinner.
  • 12% of parents surveyed indicated that they don’t know if their kids know how to set a table because they’ve never asked them to.
  • 40% of people over age 55 eat with their family or spouse every night.
  • Only 20% of households with kids age 18 and older eat dinner together every night while 7% of these households never eat dinner as a family.
  • Almost 75% of children in Manitoba know how to set the table as compared to only 33% of kids in Saskatchewan.
  • 2% of people said dinners are too boring and that is the reason why they don’t sit down together to eat. Another 2% said they don’t eat together because they already spend too much time with each other. 4% said they don’t do it because their kids don’t want to.

Very interesting indeed.

I was a little surprised by the number of kids who don’t know how to set a table. I guess it’s all part of the decline of the family dinner. At our home, we don’t serve four course dinners so the table setting is very basic. Plate, fork, knife, cup and sometimes spoon if it’s needed. We only pull out the good china and the fancy place settings for special occasions like Christmas dinner.

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Bringing Back Family Dinners

Andy O’Brien is the CEO of M&M Meat Shops and is hoping to bring back family dinners as something we do more often than not. He is right when he says that dinner is so much more than the food you eat. It’s the time you spend connecting with your family that is the most important thing.

He also is aware that some young families don’t know where to begin with dinner preparation because they’ve never been shown. He wants them and other families in Canada to know that getting dinner on the table is easier than you think. It is possible to create simple and delicious meals that your family will love.

M&M Meat Shops has some simple tips to help get you started on putting the focus back on family dinners.

1. Make a commitment. Start small by participating in National Family Dinner Night on September 18th. Then decide what is realistic for your family to sit down and eat together. Establish your routine and work to increase the number of meals you eat together.

2. Be realistic. Don’t think you need to serve a four course gourmet dinner every night. I think I’d be burnt out if I had to do that every single day! If meal preparation becomes too overwhelming, it just won’t happen. M&M Meat Shops has hundreds of meal ideas including gluten-free, vegetarian and calorie conscious options. Many of these meals have little or no prep time needed. I love easy!

3. Plan ahead. Remove the panic over what’s for dinner by thinking ahead and planning what you make each night for dinner. I started meal planning a few months ago and it’s helped me to stay organized and feel less stressed out.

4. Add new tastes. Add a little variety to meals by trying new dishes. In the M&M Meat Shops survey, 9% of people said they were bored with making dinner. Falling into a dinner rut is not hard to do. There was a time when we were eating frittata almost every night. Now John won’t even eat it at all! With all the variety that M&M Meat Shops has to offer, dinners will never be boring.

5. Think about time differently. M&M Meat Shops has a long list of products that take less time to prepare than waiting in line-up at a drive thru! Their Meat Loaf Minis, Three-Cheese Pasta Bake, Spaghetti Bolognese and Chicken Fajitas can be on the dinner table in 20 minutes or less.

6. Just start. Don’t think about it- just do it even if you don’t cook. M&M Meat Shops has lots of meals you can prepare for your family- no culinary skill is required!

7. Be flexible. It’s ok to change things up if it means the whole family can eat together. Sometimes its just not doable for a sit-down dinner. Even a snack-time is better than nothing and can bridge the gap until dinner is served. Try a fruit smoothie with M&M Meat Shops flash frozen fruit or dine on a finger-food buffer with options like Sweet Potato Fries, Mini Franks in Pastry and Cod Nuggets.

Get the kids involved. Enlist your kids help in making dinner even if its just setting the table. It allows for more family bonding time. My girls love cooking and often help me put dinner on the table. Olivia has even started preparing the meals on her own to give me a break!

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Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 18th and connect with family and friends over a delicious meal. Also, if you know what you are serving, make sure to enter to tell M&M Meat Shops what you are planning to cook for dinner. When you do, you’ll be entered to win 1 of 3 M&M Meat Shops gift cards.

Remember if you need some inspiration, visit M&M Meat Shops for recipes and their product line. I’m looking forward to Thursday’s meal!

Connect with M&M Meat Shops on Facebook & Twitter.

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Stacie Vaughan

Stacie is the mom of two girls and lives in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys cooking/baking, photography, reading, DIY and is fueled by lots of coffee!

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