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Beginning Family Dinners

For the past few years, Alex and I have given the boys dinner around 6pm, then played, read books, sang and put them to bed. Once they’re asleep, we have our own dinner around 8 or 9pm. I really like having that time to drink wine, talk about our days and just chill. But! Now that the boys are getting a little older (Anton is 1 1/2 and Toby is 4 1/2, sob), we’d love to start having family dinners more regularly. Blue Apron just launched a Family Plan, so we figured it was a good time to try it out…
I poured the wine while Alex cooked—my specialty!
Blue Apron’s family plan is awesome for feeding a family of four. Each delivery contains two different meals for four people, and you can opt to receive one or two deliveries per week.

The recipes are designed to appeal to both parents and kids (think: crispy fish tacos and sloppy joes), and to be cooked and served family-style. Here, we made the Blood Orange-Roasted Salmon with Avocado, Pepitas and Israeli Couscous Salad. The salmon dinner was a big hit, and a huge bonus was that we had tons of leftovers for lunches the next day.

The price for this plan breaks down to less than $9 per person per meal, and, as always, shipping is free. I also like that you have so much food every time you cook—makes it easy to feed the whole family healthy foods.

Thoughts? Would you try it? Do you have family dinners? Or split the kids and adults?
Bonus: Blue Apron is offering two free meals to the first 250 people to click through and get a box. Good for both the family and two-person plans. New customers only. Thanks, Blue Apron!

(Food photos by Yossy Arefi by Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Blue Apron, a service we really like for our family)

  1. We do family dinners – my husband cooks and almost always has dinner ready when I bring my daughter home from day care or from whatever “adventure” (i.e. errand) we were on that day. However, even though she is 3, he still prepares a separate meal for her! I am trying to encourage him to just feed her what we both eat …

  2. I received this order from Blue Apron also and was so excited to try it, but when I went to make it I found the container for the fish was cracked and the fish spoiled. :( However I will say Blue Apron’s service was very quick to respond and credited me for the salmon! High marks for their service.

    Both my husband and I grew up having family dinners and so we started doing the same with our son as soon as he was old enough for solids. He’d eat at the table with us and when he got passed the purees he’d get the same meal that we were eating. I love it!

  3. I adore Blue Apron. I feel like im eating restaurant food every time I make it. My husband use it for the opposite method though, we put our 18 month old to bed, then pour a glass of wine and get cooking. I usually save her a mini-meal from ours though so she’s not left out completely.

  4. Great idea! We’ve been planning meals using the Fresh 20 book (I believe it’s also a service but not in our area) – so much easier!

  5. Love the wine picture. I have been using Blue Apron for many months and I feel it has really changed how we cook and spend dinner time together.
    Thanks for sharing :)
    http://www.southernfolly.com

  6. Thanks JoAnna!! I am trying this for the first time. I live by myself but am thinking I can use the excess food for lunches at work and for feeding my two boys when they stop by! I plan on making the meals and freezing some of them. And skipping every other delivery at first until I see how it works for me.

  7. My parents used to do the 2 dinners thing, and my poor mom admitted years after my dad left that it was way too much work for her since she would cook 2 separate meals from scratch each evening! I can’t imagine eating dinner at 8-9 pm on a work night. My husband and I are starving by the time we get home from work and usually eat by 5:30-6. We’re in bed by 10. We are at work the next day by 7:30 am. Ugh lol. I think in NYC people generally eat later, though. Sadly I need my sleep. I imagine once I have a kid, we’ll probably do the family dinner thing simply because I won’t want to make 2 meals (the kid will eat what we eat as soon as he/she is able to eat solid food!).

  8. We usually eat all together around 7pm. Blue Apron doesn’t exist in France! I would have tried!

    Christine

  9. Family breakfast is our way to get everyone together daily for a finger-on-the-pulse gathering. It took some tinkering to figure out exactly how (neither us of us is a morning person), but now hubby gets the 18 month old ready while I prep the meal. 5 year old sets the table, et voila! Feels so good just to be together, pouring tea and munching toast, listening to quiet music. We look at the day’s calendar, read a book, and away we go! It’s the best.

  10. I feel like something like Blue Apron would be good for my faince, who is not very comfortable with cooking. So the directions and pre-measured ingredients might help him.

    Also – love your top. Where’s it from?

  11. I am allllll about the family dinners! We have almost three year old twins, and we sit down and eat as a family at the table every night, all of us eating the same meal (sometimes the kids’ food is deconstructed or less spicy if necessary). We recently spent a weekend with two other families with toddlers, and ours were the only ones that sat well at the table and ate what everyone else was served, and it’s not because they’re better kids or we’re better parents, but just because that’s what they’re used to. It’s made it nice because they are very well-behaved when we eat out.

    I will say, $9 per person for a home-cooked meal seems a little high for me, but we’re largely vegetarian, and that saves us a lot of money.

  12. This is so silly, and I am a happily married woman, but I just have to tell you that every time you post a photo of Alex, I swoon. Lucky lady :)

  13. We have 3 littles (4 years old, 2.5 years old, and 8 months old) and do mostly family dinners.
    Once or twice a week we’ll have dinner after the kiddos are asleep (we almost always have the same lemon pasta) but otherwise I get dinner on the table for 5pm family dinner.
    We light candles and serve everything in proper serving bowls so the kids can serve themselves. The baby has little taste tests of whatever we’re eating. We don’t use a meal plan (partly because we don’t eat meat) and we’re just about to start meal planning as a family (until now I have just done it myself and ordered groceries for delivery).
    We’re going to let the kids get involved in choosing a couple of dinners a week and even participating in shopping and cooking those dinners. Hopefully that will encourage them to be a little more adventurous with what they eat!
    I find that the kids eat better when we all eat together. And it actually feels pretty good not to eat so late, like it ends up being on the nights when we eat after them.
    Enjoy your family dinners – I think you will all love it!
    http://www.minipiccolini.com

  14. I totally excel in pouring the wine myself!

  15. These are very interesting. I really think it depends on your family set-up. If you are both coming home from work and picking up children, sitting down together would be quite tricky if the kids need to be in bed by 8pm at the latest. Perhaps aiming to always eat together at the weekend is less tiring and then it will be easier to phase weeknights in when they get bigger. Should be delicious, not boot camp!

  16. That looks amazing!! How simple is it/how long does it take to prepare? I love the idea of this :)

  17. We eat as mom and two kids at 6. They eat “adult food” sometimes or I make two dinners (like mac and cheese and spicy curry). Hubs wanders in at 8, serves himself.

  18. My Blue Apron question: How long does it take the prepare the meals?

    We try to eat together as a family every night. Sometimes my husband or I are late (we take turns with pick up), and sometimes one of us misses dinner entirely, but always someone is sitting with my son for dinner time. The challenge is getting a meal on the table by 6:30 (so we can still get the little dude in bed by 8). I would totally do Blue Apron if I felt like it would save us time. I’m all about out-sourcing to reduce stress whenever I can afford it. Certainly it saves time in meal planning and grocery shopping, but what about on the prep side?

  19. We try to do family meals at 6ish – my 15-month daughter eats a huge amount of very adult food, so since I have to make her a ‘real’ meal anyhow I’d rather only make dinner once (she’ll eat anything my husband and I eat; it’s pretty great). Plus, my husband leaves for work super early (often before five!), so we try to go to bed early and early dinners allow us some hang out time after she goes to sleep. I’d love another post on healthy lunches/snacks for kids. We joke that our daughter is a hobbit based on how much she eats, and I’m always trying to come up with easy things that aren’t repetitive, but it’s hard when you’re doing about four meals and two snacks a day!

  20. I just ordered. Am excited to try it! Thanks

  21. Loving that wine glass, Jo

  22. My son is eight months old, so he’s just learning to eat. He seems to do much better when we eat with him. He sees how we move food to our mouths and chew. We eat dinner every night as a family at about 6pm. Then we put the kido to bed, clean up, and then my husband and I often enjoy wine or dessert together, just the two of us.

  23. It doesn’t always work out this way but ideally we have a few evening meals as a family a week, ideally on the weekend, and most evening meals split so kids eat at 6 ish and we eat around 8 just the two of us! Mainly because eating with kids can be so stressful!! It;s easier to manage this now my 3 year old daughter is dropping her nap and going to bed earlier – on no nap days she’s definitely asleep by 7. On nap days she tends to go to bed 8-9 which makes it harder to wait for dinner so easier to all eat together. Love reading about other peoples’ routines!

  24. would love to eat as a family (I grew up eating as a family every night!) but unfortunately my husband doesn’t get home early enough to accommodate this, so he and I eat after the kids are in bed, around 8:30. I really like that time to connect with him. We have family breakfast every morning! Hey, sometimes you just do what you can do.

  25. we love blue apron! we do it about once a month. most nights we eat with the kids but some nights we eat after them.

  26. I like Blue Apron but actually find that the prep can sometimes be very involved (chopping too many herbs, etc.). I sometimes use a company called Scratch DC (local to Washington, DC, sorry NYC)- they do a bit more of the prep, use locally sourced ingredients, and let you add things on like chips and salsa, side salads, and cookie dough. Beware though, it caters to grown-up couples, not families.
    http://scratchdc.com/

  27. My husband works out of town 3 weeks out of every month but I still make family dinners happen every night with our three boys 6, 3, and 1.5y. Dinners are extra special when he’s home. We sometimes lean toward dessert after the kids are in bed though!

  28. We used to do the same thing–their dinner first, ours second. Then we had dinners at the table. Now that they’re teenagers and our schedules are all over the place, we split time between the table and the couch! Our version of dinner and a movie.

  29. We are a family of 3 and since my son has been on solid food (he’s 7!), we’ve eaten together as a family. It just made sense to role model everything from good table manners to eating what’s in front of you. We don’t use any meal delivery service b/c i love to cook and plan meals (if only i didn’t have a full-time job, i’d rule!). I get a lot of help from dinneralovestory.com, for sure. But that salmon looks delish!

  30. We always ate dinners as a family. I would’ve felt so left out if I knew my parents were hanging out and eating good food while I was moda in bed!

  31. Someone said the previous method (eating separate) was so very European? What? No one I know would separate meals, except from the British families I know. There is a whole lot of more of Europe.. My family always ate together for as long as I can remember – mind you I don’t remember when I was a toddler so might have been different back then. But growing up, Tobys age and up at least, we sat down for an early-ish dinner all together. Everyone talked about everything, we saw our parents eat all kinds of food and tasted the less kid friendly versions or sides they might have had. They had a glass of wine on occasion. Awesome family time.

  32. So is THAT why you had dinner with DALS the other night? ;) Pretty good mentors to have!

  33. family dinners are really important and should be mandatory for every one! great post!

    styleandchocolates

  34. I’m from Australia and we eat 5 out of 7 dinners sometimes more with our children between 5pm and 6pm. It was a goal of ours last year that our two and four year old boys would eat with us. My husband starts work an hour to two hours earlier in order to get home at an earlier hour for their dinner. Yes it’s early for us to eat but we digest our meals better and sleep better as a result. We have a glass of wine together and a chat once our boys are asleep. Our boys are better behaved at restaurants and cafes as a result and their communication levels and manners are so much better as a result of our ritual. It’s busy, there are spills, sometimes tears but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. They are eating a greater variety of food as well.

  35. I just finished a free week with them–I like the idea and the ease and the food, but I CANNOT get over how every little item is individually wrapped up. In this day and age, there’s gotta be a better way…and I know they tout their horn saying its all recyclable and biodegradable but in most cities it isn’t.

  36. love your flatware! do you mind sharing where you got them?

  37. Kids eat at 5. We eat at 8. Kids are 1 and 3. Meals with them are stressful. Why suffer. We will do it sometimes. Hopefully it will get better sooner….. LOVE Blue Apron…do it about once a month. My kids would not touch the family meals with a ten foot pole!

  38. We ate as a family, at the table, for all of my childhood. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I think it’s so important for the whole family to sit around the table together each day.

  39. Family dinners are so important when the kids are growing up. I remember having them with my family, it was a time to bond. That salmon looks absolutely delicious by the way!

    http://www.mintnotion.com

  40. We had been doing the late dinners after Luna’s bedtime too, and we recently started having dinner as a family too. And I really do think she notices! Plus she ends up trying more variety of food because she usually likes to try ours which is normally a little spicy! Another thing we switched up was no TV Monday-Thursday (not even in the evenings) so it gives my husband and I more time to actually catch up, read & prep for the next day or get in bed early! I’m loving the no TV…it’s fun deciding what to watch (these days we are hooked on Celebrity Apprentice).

  41. This looks fantastic and I tried to do the 2 free dinners, but I realized there wasn’t enough room for customization for our family. I don’t eat meat or fish, but when I unchecked all of the meat boxes it said they would send poultry (which I don’t eat) or vegetarian meals. But I realize you can’t cater to everyone with a service like this. (Plus my husband has a long list of things he won’t eat.)

    My son is the same age as Toby and we do family dinners. I do like it, although it seems like there is a huge rush to get dinner on the table for all of us before my son’s bedtime. The good news is that once he’s in bed one of us cleans the kitchen and we have the rest of the night free to relax. :-)

  42. Dang!! I wish we would have done what you’ve been doing. Dinner early for the kids and a later dinner for the adults. My kids are 17 & 19 now, but that would have just been wonderful in our early years <3

  43. oooh this looks great– and would cut down on all of the food I seem to waste during grocery shopping… GAH!

  44. When my son was younger and I was single, we ate separately. He was very picky, I had to cook really fast after getting home from work, and I didn’t always feel like eating like a picky preschooler.

    Now that he’s ten (not to mention that I’m not single anymore and I get to design from home), we always eat together. It’s helped him bud into a real foodie, and we get to chat about our days, adult style.

  45. I have three kids, a full time job, and a deployed husband. Blue Apron’s family plan is saving my life, and saving dinner. I love the food, and I love that I usually have yummy leftovers to eat at lunch. I highly, highly recommend.

  46. We have never been organized enough to cook dinner twice, so it’s been family style from the get-go. I try to make sure there’s at least one component of the meal (even if it’s just rice) that the kids like, it doesn’t matter if they fill up on that once in a while. And they’re encouraged to try everything on the table!

  47. In Spain where we live, kids eat late and go to bed late (in comparison with American kids I mean). Our son has an afterschool snack at five thirty and then has dinner with us at 8:30 or so. He normally goes to bed around ten. He’s only 2.5 but I think he enjoys having dinner with us and hearing about our days. The only thing is that it’s hard for him to stay still in his chair and wait for everyone to finish their meals, so we allow him to bring a toy with him to mealtimes. I see that you too are not opposed to dinosaurs on the dinner table :)

  48. You read my mind! I literally went to there website (finally) after seeing a commercial Saturday night. I remembered you had recommended it. I thought the family meals looked more enticing than the two person meals, but we are a house hold of two!

  49. They don’t deliver to Canada! Dang!

  50. Mm the food really looks delicious, I love salmon!
    Yes, I love lunches and dinners with my husband and we are trying to dine together everyday. He’s a great cook, so like you, I’m pouring the vine and enjoy his nice meals :)

  51. What an interesting meal, I never would have thought to cook salmon with blood oranges. It looks delicious! We typically have family dinners but lately it’s just making everyone more rushed. We typically finish cooking by 6:30 but my daughter goes to bed around 7 so either she’s super cranky during the meal or one of us is leaving the table to put her to bed. It doesn’t make for much bonding time!

  52. We eat family meals all the time – we are a family of 3 (soon to be 4!) and our little guy is 19 months. He sits at the table with us and eats whatever we do (he loves spicy Mexican)! I do the cooking and would love to try it out, but it wouldn’t fit into our budget…and I’m in Canada, not sure it ships there!

    Tonight – it is just Nate and I though – so we are hitting up a favorite restaurant :)

  53. I am always so tempted to try these. I don’t really love to cook but these meals look so easy that even I could do it. Perhaps I will try it out for my husband and I. May keep us from eating out so much.

  54. It seems like there is a study coming out every few months about how important family dinners are. We have always enjoyed it, and I really think it’s helpful in raising non-picky healthy-eating kids. I stay at home, and my husband used to get home pretty early, so we started eating dinner with our first child from the beginning (that was when he was nursing all evening long, and I had no choice). My husband recently got a new job and gets home a bit later than is ideal for the kids to eat. I am starving myself, and I hate to snack all evening and then eat dinner later. We are usually in the middle of dinner when my husband gets home, and he joins us. The boys finish up and then play nearby while I stay at the table. Then we have a bit of playtime, bedtime, and my husband and I get the rest of the night to hang out.

  55. AHH family dinners. I grew up with this and had every intention of doing it with my kids. But, my daughter is 18 months and so hangry by 6pm. But we are just getting in the door from work/daycare pick up and my husband is not home yet. We usually feed and sit with her then, and then cook and eat together later. This is such a struggle, because I know how important it is. We do try and make one weekend family dinners. Its something at least.

  56. I never thought of feeding my children earlier unless we were going out for dinner. We always sat around the table together for dinner, even when they were small.

  57. I semi-obsessively meal plan, so these box services never seem quite worth it compared to my system (food nerd), but these meals look really good! That salmon dish looks crazy delicious.
    Eating as a family is so important!

  58. We do dinner in two shifts as well. Our 1.5-year-old son’s natural rhythm is to sleep from about 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., which is actually pretty awesome. When we get home from work, one of us usually gives him his dinner while the other prepares our meal. Then it’s bad and bed for the babe, and we can sit and relax (or, let’s be honest, bingewatch Friends on Netflix…)

  59. We love our family dinners! Our daughter is just 3 1/2 but shes been sitting at the table with us since she was able. We tend to eat between 7-7.30 during the week and a little bit later on the weekends with date night exceptions. While in general I like the idea of the family plan (we love blue apron already), I definitely don’t agree with the idea of cooking down for the kids, ie kid friendly meals. I just think kids should be able to eat from the same menu as adults with maybe a few exceptions. We never order off the kids menu for my daughter and I think her palette is broader because of it. She eats what we eat and it makes dinner planning/cooking easier.

  60. We always ate dinners as a family. I would’ve felt so left out if I knew my parents were hanging out and eating good food while I was in bed!

  61. Haha- love the pic of you pouring the wine!

  62. You’re previous method is so very European!