Food

Help! What Do You Make for Family Dinner?

Joanna Goddard and family

Over the past eight years, since Toby blew into the scene, we have gone through fits and starts of family dinner. (The boys would usually eat at 5:30 p.m, and Alex and I would eat at 8:30 p.m., after they were in bed.) But now that both boys are in elementary school, we figured we’d give family dinners a real shot! We’re still learning, but here are the meals we made for the last three weeks…

Since we’re not great cooks, and are usually racing home from work, we’ve tried to make a few things easier: We’re focusing on Monday to Thursday for now. Then on Friday, we order delivery and watch a movie! Also, I’m totally into eggs for dinner.

Our kids have gone through picky phases (like when Toby suddenly refused all pasta and cheese, and Anton insisted he was allergic to tomatoes), but generally are open to different foods. I’m sure dinners would be MUCH harder if they had food allergies or sensitivities, and just getting them to eat anything would be a major score. If your little ones struggle in this way, I’d be thrilled to hear your approaches.

Week #1:
Butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and parmesan; broccoli on the side (we got pre-made ravioli at the grocery store)
Scrambled eggs with tomatoes and halloumi
Chicken parm meatballs with with rice and broccoli
Jacket potatoes with tuna, mayo and corn (my English aunts do this combo, and it’s so good)
Order sushi.

Week #2:
Pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella (we got pre-made pesto at the grocery store)
Salmon burgers with lettuce and tomato (we got salmon patties from the grocery seafood counter)
Chicken curry with rice
Kitchen sink burrito bowls
Order pizza.

Week #3:
Scrambled eggs with zucchini and halloumi (Toby and Anton forgot to eat the zucchini)
Avgolemeno soup (we used half of a rotisserie chicken)
Chicken and spinach quesadillas (we used the other half of the rotisserie chicken)
Pasta with butter, parmesan, sausage and broccoli
Order Indian food.

It’s so cozy to sit and eat together, at the same table, most evenings. The other day, Toby started to tell Alex a story about school, only to stop and say: “Oh wait, I’ll save it for family dinner.” (My heart!)

What about you? What recipes do you love? Do you read cookbooks or find ideas online? I’d love to hear…. And as a side note: If you don’t do family dinner, that’s fine, too, of course! We didn’t do it for seven years, and who knows if we’ll keep this up now? Before, we did family bike rides instead, and read books at night, and I felt so close to my children and family, even though we ate together only once or maybe twice a week. All good, either way! xoxo

P.S. Trader Joe’s meal hacks, and how to get your kids to talk at dinner. Plus, two-ingredient pancakes.

(Curry by John Kernick for Real Simple. Meatballs, burrito bowls and avgolemono by Jenny Rosenstrach. Quesadilla by Alex Farnum for Real Simple. Pasta by Three Olives Branch. Jacket potatoes by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo. Salmon burgers by Alex Lau for Bon Appetit. Eggs by Todd Wagner for The New York Times.)

  1. Claire says...

    One of our staple side dishes is roasted “eye potatoes”, nick-named for their round shape, as opposed to traditional French fry spear shaped potatoes. This is not a revolutionary recipe, but I will share it here in case anybody is interested, and because it is easy, delicious, and kids love ’em: Slice potatoes into rounds about 1/2 inch thick, give them a quick rinse in hot water to wash the starch off of them, pat dry. Toss liberally w/ Olive oil (don’t skimp), s&p and roast at 400 for about 20-25 minutes. Turn them over, roast for an additional 10 minutes. You can also do the same technique with sweet potatoes.

  2. Claire says...

    On most nights I will try to arrange things so we sit down to some version of dinner together, if we are all home at that time. These days that is less frequent, since my son is 17 and has a part time job, and my husband is chef at a retirement community and works through the dinner hour. When my son was little and I was working full time I learned quickly to downgrade the fuss factor, and keep the menu very simple. These days I only really cook a traditional dinner once or twice a week. From our regular rotation: roasted salmon, black bean tacos, roasted chicken, some kind of pasta, burgers, occasionally breakfast food for dinner. If I am home by myself often just a baked potato or baked sweet potato and a salad.
    I like the suggestions and recipes shared here, and will probably give some of them a try.

  3. Heidi says...

    I like this note because there are others who worry or feel bad that my family doesn’t always do family dinner. We ALWAYS have family time, but dinner isn’t always it.

    “If you don’t do family dinner, that’s fine, too, of course! We didn’t do it for seven years, and who knows if we’ll keep this up now? Before, we did family bike rides instead, and read books at night, and I felt so close to my children and family, even though we ate together only once or maybe twice a week. All good, either way! xoxo”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! “We ALWAYS have family time, but dinner isn’t always it.” there are so many ways to have a happy family. thank you, heidi.

  4. Mac says...

    I love family dinners, but they definitely require planning! Some weeks are better than others for sure, but we plan around categories of food: breakfast, pasta, tacos (Tuesdays!), meat, and Fridays are family date night—we eat out or have pizza. I also have my recipes organized by category, so I just look at each section when meal planning.
    I always have turkey meatballs (which can be a meal on their own) and a few batches of my mom’s spaghetti sauce in the freezer. It’s an easy meal for us or ready if a friend needs a meal, I just add a salad mix and some good pasta.

  5. Mary says...

    I grew up with family dinners, every night, 7 children. I do not know how my mom did that. I carried the tradition on with my two sons and husband. Around the age of 13, my oldest son said “why do we have to have dinner together?”. My reply was that it was normal, healthy and where all members of the family talk about their day.
    Several years later, the same son said how nice it is that we do that. Now, I am on my own – and I still cook dinner for myself. It is like a period at the end of a long sentence.

  6. Anni says...

    This might sound really wrong… but I’m from Europe and have never heard of NOT having dinner at a table with the entire family (mum, dad, children) every day. It’s one of the main things in a family home here, I cannot imagine missing out on that. Is it common in the IS to not have dinner together at a table?

    • Lauren says...

      That doesn’t sound at all wrong– as an American, I second your sentiment. My family in Chicago ate dinner together every single night. My parents both worked full time, and dinner was frequently later than my mom hoped, but she was an excellent cook and took a lot of care making something wholesome and special every night. One cultural shift in the US is that parents now seem to fear hunger– my mom had no issue giving us some carrots or a few crackers and sending us to another room for 30 minutes while she finished cooking– or, when we were older, she would ask us to help her with prep work. I feel like this post has opened my eyes to a US subculture that I didn’t even know existed (and I’m in my 30s!).

    • dagbo says...

      Hi, I’m from Europe too and we ate dinners separately: parents versus kids or depending when person got home. So it really depends from the family I guess. Not that I continue this tradition of eating separetly;)

    • Colleen says...

      Some of the reasons for not having dinner include working late nights or children’s extracurricular activities. Many people in the US work over the dinner hour, or break for dinner but keep working when their kids are in bed. We have to pay for health care and college on our own.

    • Rose says...

      People like to watch TV so some families grab their own plates and gather around the living rooms. Also when kids get older, they tend to have different schedule.

    • Kiana says...

      Hey Anni,
      American kids go to bed really early. School aged kids go to bed at 8 or 9 and toddlers and babies go to bed at seven, usually. It’s not unusual for kids to eat dinner at 5:30 and the parents to eat at 7:30-8 after the kids are in bed.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, we did that for years. partly kids go to bed early because of their overall schedule — our kids wake up around 6, eat breakfast at 6:30, start school at 8:20, eat lunch at 11am, get out of school at 3pm, are ravenous for dinner at 5:30pm, and are exhausted in bed by 7:30pm. so, for years, when alex was getting home at 7pm, it was way too late for them to eat dinner with us. so, we would eat after the boys were in bed.

      i realize other people’s schedules often sound so strange:) visiting my grandmother in england this summer, the boys were staying up til 9:30/10pm because the sky stayed light so late at night. they’d wake up around 7:30, and they’d usually nap in the afternoon. it was a great rhythm. but at home, the schedule ends up being so different.

      xoxo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      PS and lots of american families have family dinner too! it’s a big mix :)

    • L says...

      I think it just depends on so many factors. We have family dinner every night but I’m a stay at home mom and my husband works from home. Family dinners are a lot harder for parents with long commutes or older kids with after school activities. Also, my husband is British and had to really be convinced of the merits of family dinner. He was brought up thinking kids should eat a very early meal as soon as they returned from school (as early as 4 pm or so) and parents should eat separately after the children were in bed.

    • Michaela Horn Simonsen says...

      I’m from Europe as well (Denmark to be more specific) and have never heard of family dinners as well, it’s just something we do. Our kids go to bed early as well (our son who is 6 is in bed by 7.30 pm), but then the entire family just eat at 6 pm – and then mum and dad sometimes also work after that. Of course I can see that if you first get home at 7 pm that doesn’t really fit.
      Regarding to food we have just started buying a ‘food box’ – we get it delivered Monday monrning and in it are ingredients including recipes for 3 dinners during the week. There are a ton of options of ‘food boxes’, vegetarian, child friendly, the curious box etc. It certainly makes the planning more easy when you don’t have to think about what you are going to make but someone else has figured this out for you!

  7. Gillian says...

    We have 4 kids aged 11-2 1/2 and we try to have family dinner pretty much every night. We eat around 6:30-7 which is when my husband cane make it home from dinner. Many of my favorite recipes are from DALS (I found CofJ through Jenny’s blog). Tonight we are having Mustardy Pork Chops with Apples and Onions and next week Chicken Soup with Orzo is definitely on the menu. I also love Melissa Clark’s sheetpan recipes–Coriander Seed Chicken is a favorite. We have Pasta with meat sauce from Citarella almost weekly. We also order about once per week. Family dinners are the best–I love coming home and knowing we will have that time together.

    • Amy says...

      I made the chicken soup with orzo this week! So happy to see Jenny popping up on CoJ lately!

  8. Irina says...

    Growing up in Russia, my family ate dinner together most nights as soon as my dad got back from work (he had the longest commute and was the last to come home). My mom cooked, and generally made quick, simple, and fairly light meals for us to share in the evening, like “lenivye vareniki” (Russian/Ukrainian style dumplings that are a lot like ricotta gnocchi, served with butter and sour cream), pan-fried fish and mashed potatoes, or “vinegret” (a diced salad made with a bunch of cooked vegetables and pickles and dressed with sunflower oil, often eaten with smoked or salted fish on the side).

    We also generally ate a late breakfast as a family on weekends, which was often cooked by my dad. His two signature dishes were a frittata with whatever leftover vegetables, sausage, cheese etc. were in the fridge, and open-faced “grilled” cheese sandwiches that were baked in the oven and featured a liberal amount of butter underneath each slice of bread. Those breakfasts were my favorite!

  9. Denise says...

    Your confidence will grow as you get more into the habit of making weeknight dinners. I have a 2 and 4 year old. Most weekday dinners are simple grains, meat, and vegetable and whoever can combine as they want.

    In the usual weekday rotation: DALS chicken cutlets, spaghetti with sausage and red sauce, any roasted vegetables (veg, olive oil, salt/pepper, 400F forget for 30 minutes), Amanda Hesser’s oven fried chicken thighs (and a recent discovery of making chicken wings the same way, less bake time!), all usually over rice from the rice cooker. Leftover rice also makes great fried rice with the addition of scrambled eggs, frozen vegetables, and rotisserie chicken. Instant Pot is also a game changer and lets me make a weekend mushroom risotto on a weekday.

  10. Chantelle says...

    We eat dinner together pretty much every night. Fridays are frequently deliver in nights too! Here’s a few favorited:

    1-Spaghetti (our kids absolute favourite!)
    2-Kielbasa with perogies
    3-Chicken and veggie stir fry with noodles
    4-Haystacks (rice with guac, tomato, green pepper, cheese, pickled eggplant, boiled egg, sour cream and salsa. Yum!
    5-Grilled cheese with fruit (done in a pinch!)
    And yes to eggs for dinner! And pancakes!! Breakfast for dinner is amazing :D

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haystacks sound delicious :)

  11. Sierra says...

    I can’t help but read/hear all these comments in the Target lady’s voice from SNL.

    • Krisanne says...

      That’s so funny. I was JUST thinking about that skit today. 😂

  12. Aria says...

    Shout out for NO MOMMY GUILT for lack of family dinners (says the breadwinner mommy of two, with a 2.5 hr commute, and a husband who cooks just fine).

    • Leanne says...

      Long distance hi five, mama. Solidarity sister.

    • Tamara says...

      Yes! My husband and I both work, and I get home two hours later than my husband and daughter. By the time I’m home, dinner, bath and homework is done, so I usually eat ‘alone’ chatting with my daughter and husband about our days. We all eat together on weekends.

    • Absolutely! I’m a SAHM with a husband who travels internationally, and family dinners are hard.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      all of you are amazing!!!!!! keep doing what you’re doing! just spending time together is the goal, and that happens in so many different ways. i’ve felt deeply connected to my children their whole lives, and we’ve only been doing family dinner for the past couple weeks. i’ve felt JUST as close to them while reading to them, riding bikes, taking walks, making jokes, running baths, playing games, etc. for the past eight years. xoxo

  13. Beth says...

    This post seems odd to me as I’ve never done much of anything but ‘family dinners’? Also I’ve always just thought of it as ‘dinner’ not ‘family dinner’. As a child/teen I always ate dinner at the table with my parents. Currently as a young adult my partner and I eat dinner together at the table. Even when I had roommates we frequently had dinner together.
    Maybe due to force of habit I haven’t given it much thought! I like the idea of considering dinner as special family time 😊.

    • Bridget says...

      Yes! I only cook what I want to eat- and until my kids got to be 12 or so was the only cook. And for the most part it has worked for my me and family as I birthed and cooked for my 4 kids. I refused to give in to “picky eaters” and we always ate as a family. My kids all can make a great soups and stews and maybe because I enjoy cooking, when they were little they always wanted to help and then eat what we made together.

    • Sasha L says...

      I felt similarly and I’m so glad for this post because I’m realizing that my first comment probably is judgy (“what is this??”). It’s hard not to consider what we do as *normal*, but it’s not, it’s just what we do. I’m realizing there are a lot of reasons why families don’t all eat at once every night: work schedules, food and sensory issues in children, other priorities (family bike ride and story time!). I think it’s just a cultural thing and families do what works best for them, and it’s all good. I’m grateful for all those shared dinner times in my family of origin and in my created family, but I’m also glad other folks find solutions that work for them.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, sasha. what a lovely comment.

    • I think the distinction in this case is “family dinners” being when young(er) kids and parents eat TOGETHER — as opposed to the parents feeding the kids at, say, 5:30 or 6 PM, and then doing bedtime, only for the parents to finally eat for themselves at 8 PM! This is very common in the US, where little kids (like, ages 1 – 5) have a harder time waiting until 7 PM to eat *and* their twenty- or thirty-something parents aren’t used to eating/prepping a full meal by 5:30! I think it’s about how some parents try and find that balance so everyone can finally enjoy a *full* meal as together as a family.

      With a 2-year-old, my husband and I have dinner with her at the table every night around 6 or 6:30 but it can be HARD for us to decompress from work and try and get a meal on the table. Butter pasta or take out are sadly frequent around our house. We’re getting better though!

    • alison norris says...

      I think that when kids are really little, a lot of parents feed their kids early and then eat after the babies go to bed. For me, it wasn’t until my kids were the ages of Joanna’s kids that we started to put the kids to bed a little later in order to make time for family dinner.

  14. Malina says...

    Fish tacos = corn tortillas blistered on the stove, store bought beer battered fish baked in the oven, a bag of slaw mixed with mayo, lime, and chili powder

    “Keepers” Cookbook Japanese Meat & Potatoes

    Pick a flank steak marinade recipe you like and tape it to the inside of a cupboard. Have those shelf stable ingredients on hand and buy a flank steak anytime you’re at the store buying tonight’s *last minute* meal. Then, throw the flank steak in the marinade and you’re ahead of the game for tomorrow night. Plus, by using the same recipe over and over, you’ll develop a flavor memory for your fam. Ours has lime, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and spices. Use the marinated steak for steak tacos with preshredded lettuce, rice bowls, etc.

  15. Jeannie Rodriguez says...

    When we were dating, my husband said he’d like us to try to eat together at home every night… I told him I could do *one* night a week. Seven years later, we eat at home with our 2.5 year old daughter every night. Here are some of our favorites:

    https://www.skinnytaste.com/one-pot-cheesy-turkey-taco-chili-mac/

    https://www.wellplated.com/sweet-potato-black-bean-quesadillas/ (vegetarian)

    http://www.athoughtfulplaceblog.com/veggie-quinoa-chili/ (vegetarian)

    https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/2-ingredient-slow-cooker-salsa-chicken-recipe/ (so easy!)

    https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/13333/jamies-minestrone/ (vegetarian)

    http://www.andeelayne.com/2014/06/honeybee-health-random-shots_25.html (pasta with chicken sausage and spinach)

    https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/quinoa-and-turkey-taco-stew-446154

    When I find a recipe I want to try, I print it out and put it in my stack “to try”… I reference this stack when I have the time and energy to try something new. If we all love it, it goes on “the list” – which has grown to almost 100 recipes! A typical week is 3-4 “list” recipes, 1 new recipe and 3-4 easy dinners (pizza, turkey burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches).

    A few recipes from A Cup of Jo have made “the list”! I made Alex’s salmon sandwiches and the spinach quesadillas… as well as the very popular egg sandwiches from Smitten Kitchen (featured on here).

  16. jennifer says...

    I have food allergies and my husband and 11 year old daughter are both picky eaters. But we have done family dinners from the get-go (my husband and I both grew up with them) even through two years of full-blown, 30 minute power struggle tantrums night-after-night. It was worth it, and it is our time together. I dread (and stress) on the meal planning part, but in the end it is worth it in the bond it builds among our little 3 member family. Some easy, low stress, fast go-to’s that please my family are:
    – frozen pork or chicken potstickers from trader joes & roasted or steamed broccoli
    – Sun Brand frozen ramen http://sunnoodle.com/find-us/
    I read about them in bon appetit – I think David Chang mentioned them. They come with a soup base packet, all of which are incredible. Add carrots or bok choy or green onion and a hard-boiled egg, hot spice or sauce to taste and it’s like your favorite ramen shop at home.
    -Savory french toast “sticks”. Whip eggs, generously sprinkled with parmesan and then dunk a hearty seedy-bread and pan fry in butter. Slice into sticks for your kids (and you) to eat as finger food. Breakfast for dinner without the shame.
    -Martha Stewart’s Oven Risotto
    https://www.marthastewart.com/971786/baked-risotto-fines-herbes-and-lemon (I add chopped, cooked bacon before serving)
    – Cheese, cracker, meat platter (usually on fridays) with wine for us and rare soda in fancy glass for our daughter.
    No one every looks back and says, I really regret taking time for family dinners. :-) I’m not sure I would have the same relationship with my parents and siblings if it were not part of our routine.

  17. Viet says...

    I just joined the sprouted kitchen cooking club (https://www.sproutedkitchen.com/cookingclub/) which is THE BEST! It’s so good and adaptable for a variety of contexts. Highly recommended- as it keeps me from eating the same thing every week!

    • MJ says...

      I have too!! just made the carrot muffins today…so good!

  18. Margaux says...

    i love these ideas. unfortunately, my husband doesn’t get home until 9:30/10pm so weeknight family dinners don’t work for us, but we *do* eat breakfast together every weekday morning. my husband and i both work full time, so it’s nothing special – oatmeal, cereal, fruit, english muffins, smoked salmon, sausage, hard-boiled eggs – but it’s the one time of day we are all together. we save our big traditional family dinner for sundays.

  19. My current fave weeknight din is to pretend I’m camping (not that I ever am to begin with lol) and heat up a can of baked beans with some sliced hot dogs, fry up an egg and eat it all together ravenously, as one does when camping. There are no veggies involved in this dinner, but there isn’t really anyway when you’re cooking by campfire!! I feel like T & A might be into this concept. Xo

    • Julie says...

      We do a similar thing when we are really tired but don’t want to spend money on takeaways. Camping nachos = some corn chips, a can of “chilli beans” heated up (like kidney beans with a vaguely spicy vaguely mexican sauce) and cheese on the top. Plus sour cream if we have it, and I usually add a handful of spinach or a chopped tomato to pretend like its maybe slightly got veggies in!

  20. Mullica says...

    I realized that growing up we primarily ate family style, which is pretty common in most Asian households. I remember there was always something we kids liked and then there would be the “adult dishes” and for awhile you take what you like, and slowly you start taking a little of the adult stuff because you (as a kid) wanted to be an adult. There was never the shame or pressure to finish what was on your plate or to eat what you were served because you picked what you wanted but thankfully my mom always served a wide variety of meats and veggies. And if all else failed my mom made kai jiew (thai omelette) and I was always happy.

  21. Lisa says...

    I’m currently trying to figure out quick, healthy meals as I’m going back to work soon. Our kids are small (10 months and 2.5) but I try to make meals that everyone eats because I can’t be bothered to cook multiple meals. One thing I’m trying out is making curry paste and freezing it, which I can then add vegetables to for a quick meal.

    Generally we don’t eat together during the week, but have Shabbat together (Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch), and Sunday mornings we have a cooked breakfast, like pancakes, porridge or French toast. The breakfast has to always be prepared super fast (2 hungry babies!) and the eating part is madness, but I love it.

  22. Sasha L says...

    I notice a lot of homemade pizza on people’s menus, with purchased dough. You’d be amazed how easy homemade dough is.

    1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
    1 tsp salt
    Mix.

    3/4 cup lukewarm tap water
    2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    Mix

    Mix wet into dry. Either put into a zip lock and put in fridge or freezer, or leave on counter to get puffy, or use immediately. It all works!
    Roll into 2 pizzas, use a slip and stone, or just place on a cookie sheet. It all works! 450 or 500 degrees. It doesn’t take more than five minutes tops to make dough and it’s awesome. If you have a food processor, like a Cuisinart, use that to mix dry and then wet. It’ll turn into a perfect ball. But works by hand too.

  23. Ashley says...

    We have always done family dinner, which means waiting on my husband to get home from work, and just accepting that snacking has to happen for 2,4,6 year olds to make it to 7pm.

    That being said, I LOVE the website/App Plan to Eat. It is $40/year. You upload your recipes either directly with links or by typing them in. (This takes some time.) Then! There is a calendar and you drag and drop recipes into it which also populates a shopping list. It’s so easy to just add recipes from blogs I read (Hello Deb! Hello Jenny!) and then rediscover them on Sundays while I meal plan for the week.
    Game.Changer. I end up trying loads new recipes and now very seldom find myself in a rut.

    • Kat says...

      Cozi has this too and it shows up on a shared calendar (and it’s free and amazing!)

  24. Sara says...

    I feel like I have some food issues because every night was family dinner at my house growing up… Family dinners are great, but it’s also important for kids to not grow up associated familial love/time with just food.

    • Becky says...

      I agree! I don’t make my kids eat supper if they aren’t hungry and never make them clean their plate. I keep lots of healthy options available but we don’t focus our family time on eating. We do sit down as a family for game nights and homework time. We also read together as a family which we all enjoy.

  25. SN says...

    It’s just me and my husband for now, but we cook and eat together every night. Our meal plan? Having a daily meal plan theme; that leaves ZERO question about what we’re making. Each of these comes with a side of an in-season veggie or our haul from the CSA.

    Monday – fish
    Tuesday – tacos
    Wednesday – roast chicken
    Thursday – pasta
    Friday – order out
    Saturday – try a new, fun or complicated recipe that will take a few hours or give us a chance to shake it up, cook together and have a night in, friends over or whatever
    Sunday – steak or soup

    Sure we can go off course if we’re feeling a craving for something else, but these are the foods we like, and we have a strong bench of recipes for each theme night, so it actually has a ton of variety. Simple, mindless meal planning.

    • Sarah says...

      This is GENIUS! Thanks for this tip!!

    • Brooke says...

      Omg I love this idea

  26. Erin B Reidy says...

    My daughter is 15 months and we try to make a point to have a family meal, but we’re flexible as to whether it’s dinner or breakfast! Ina Garten’s zucchini pancakes are always a hit. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/never-fail-ina-gartens-zucchini-pancakes-recipe

    Great way to get veggies in and so, so easy to make. I usually combine it with some salmon for protein.

  27. Sasha says...

    Hi there! I think you might like these recipe blogs: “Salt and Lavender” and “Recipe Tin Eats”.

    The big secret to easy recipes: One Pot. We have been cooking our meals for almost a decade now, and it gets easier every year. But the secret, truly, is the ONE POT. And to read through the recipe before you even go to the grocery store. I think you’ll get a feel for: “Is this actually easy, or are they lying?” Also, look at the number of ingredients. Also, be open to substitutions. And finally, “fresh herbs” are silly if it calls for less than a tablespoon – just use dried.

  28. Laura says...

    Our girls are 9 and 12 now. Weekday meals for us go something like this;
    – chicken (thigh, drumsticks) in the oven with potatoes (sweet or normal), olives, tomatoes and peppers. Literally throw everything in an oven dish, season, drizzle with olive oil and some rosemary and throw it in the oven for 30 mins. serve either alone with good bread for dunking or with rice
    – homemade Pad Thai. So easy with chicken and prawns and sugar snaps takes 10 mins to make and the sauce is store brought
    – steak and homemade oven chips with salad on the side
    – tuna pasta (onions, tuna, tomato sauce), lots of cheese and salt and pepper
    – minestrone
    Saturday morning breakfasts are a thing – egg and bacon butties with salsa and guacamole, and Sunday roasts – either chicken or beef (we live in the UK). So there is plenty of opportunity for family eating if it doesnt get to happen (especially with daddy) during the week.

  29. Kelly L says...

    My easiest meal is the one company and family ooh and ahh over the most: roasted salmon, potatoes, and asparagus with salad and a nice loaf of store bought bread. I make a sauce of Dijon + maple syrup and pour over a large piece of salmon (food drama + leftovers ftw). I get the baby round potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put these both in 450 degree oven. After about 20 minutes, add asparagus to the potatoes. While these cook, the easiest salad is prewashed mesculan, dried cherries, and pistachios. Drizzle with a good balsamic and olive oil. If I have time I will make a very quick aioli with mayo + Chipotle (from a can). Good with both potatoes and salmon. Not much effort as you usually need to do nothing but wash the potatoes as well as asparagus. Salmon is ready to go on a baking tray. Truly easy peasy.

    • Amanda says...

      Yum! How much Dijon and maple syrup do you use?

  30. Jess. says...

    This is my kids’ favorite meal. We make it for company. We love, love, love it and it’s so healthy! To make it a little less healthy, I cook 1/2 slice (turkey) or 1/3 slice (regular) bacon on one side, then add the “batter” to the top of it and cook as written.
    For sauce, we just use some combo of mayo, BBQ sauce, hot sauce.
    https://smittenkitchen.com/2013/05/japanese-cabbage-and-vegetable-pancakes/
    So good! xox

  31. Roxana says...

    You eat well! Looks very yummy!

    Can’t wait to read the other comments, too.

    We eat dinner together every night. I did not grow-up doing this, but my husband did. I love that we do it. Our kids are little (7, 5 and 1 1/2), so it’s not difficult right now.

    I LOVE cooking (it’s usually a stress reliever for me), but I have not been cooking as much in the last 2 years. Our youngest has special needs, which has changed our family’s schedule a bit. That said, I feel like I’m on the cusp of returning to regularly cooking. In the meantime, we eat anything from TJ’s spinach and cheese tortellini with butter pan fried chicken thighs (salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning) to hot dogs and broccoli and potato chips (I get the best quality of all these; i.e. grass fed dogs, chips fried in avocado oil), to pork tenderloin (Epicurious has an awesome, super-simple recipe) with a side of pan fried Japanese yams, diced onion and frozen chopped kale. I also do an imitation Chipotle Burrito Bowl (ground beef, diced onion and bell peppers, garlic, diced jarred tomatoes, frozen corn and Mexican seasonings; mixed with rice and topped with cheese or avocado). I’m all over the map. Last night I made a beef stew using the Instant Pot. Some nights are scrambled eggs with melted cheese on top and a side of broccoli, or left overs for the kids and “scrounging” for me and the hubs. Or Jimmy Johns. And then we recently instituted Friday pizza and movie nights. The kids think this is the best. I get two frozen pizzas from TJs, a side of broccoli and we’re good to go. We also do homemade popcorn.

    Either way, I would really like to be more organized with meal planning. I like the idea of cooking a few big meals on the weekend like others have commented, but I’m a “moody eater.” What if I’m in a completely different mood by Wednesday!??

    I love Damn Delicious.net (she knows how to season food really well). I love Smitten Kitchen and I love Pinterest for ideas. In the beginning I would follow a recipe to a “t,” but now I know how to read a recipe and tweak it to my taste.

    I love cooking. I love food. I kind of don’t trust people who are not “eaters.” ;)

    • Daniela says...

      I generally make a big batch of breakfast + lunch (hard boiled eggs, salads, sandwiches – nothing complicated here!) so I don’t have to think about those meals during the work week, then for dinner I’ll make whatever I desire since like you, I’m a “moody” either as well and I love to cook!

    • Teresa says...

      Since you love TJ’s, they have frozen Mexican street corn that will make your burrito bowls even more delicious!!

  32. Em says...

    I am admittedly not great about dinner. I have a 5 month old and a 2.5 year old, and my husband works at night 4 nights a week. Right now, my current goal is to cook a dinner one night a week. The other nights we do little plates, rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, etc. I am trying to remember this is a phase and when the boys are older I will have more mental energy yo devote to family dinners (I hope!!). But! Tonight happens to be my cooking night (because the ground turkey expires tmrw…), so I am making angel hair with ground turkey, zucchini, pesto, and parm. We’ll see how it turns out #wingingit

  33. Willow says...

    Super easy pasta sauce recipe… mushrooms, celery, carrots, sweet potatoes, courgette (or zucchini), tinned tomatoes cook in slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low then blend. Make a big batch and freeze. Great with pasta or used on a pizza base with grated cheese on top. My kids have no idea how many vegetables they’re eating!!

  34. Loi says...

    We always had family diner – but simple ones! I was so envious of my schoolmates with stay-at-home moms who made lasagne and always a dessert.. and my mom veggies (steamed, soup, in the oven or a salad) + rice/grains/pasta + cheese/lentils/eggs (meat/fish only on the weekends) But now thar I cook for myself everyday I totally get it – cooking elaborate meals everyday must be a passion, and her style is fast, good, healthy and cheap.
    And there is so much you can do – take e.g. broccoli – green monster soup (mixed thorougly), while cooking rice, put broccoli rosetts on the top (they get steamed that way) and serve with shredded almonds, another nice one is boil spicy pasta (that needs around 10 minutes) and small broccoli in the same pot, drain, add cream and parmesan. And nearly all leftovers are good when fried with eggs. Involve your kids in cooking – they‘re more likely to eat the vegetables they had washed/chopped/„selected“

  35. Lindsey says...

    I don’t have kids yet, but meal planning is one of my very favorite things to do. Some easy peasy things we love: 1) bowl night! Just roast a bunch of veggies on a sheet pan, serve with rice, different kinds of crunchies, etc. (To be fair, we have a lot of grains and seeds and dressing things on hand, so this is easy to put together.) 2) Pulled pork! Just pop it in the slow cooker before you leave for work with a bunch of bbq sauce and it’s done when you get home. Just add buns and guacamole. :) 3) Nobody is mad with breakfast for dinner- scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon… 4)Homemade pizzas with pre-made dough from TJs. SO fast, and the kids can customize their own! 5) Veggie, chicken noodle, or potato soup are all really fast and feed a crowd. 6) Polenta with some kind of veggie on top- roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and make sure you add burrata or mozz!

    I will say that Gwyneth Paltrow’s most recent cookbook “It’s All Easy” is *actually, truly* easy. Everything is meant to be made in the time it would take for delivery to arrive, and it’s all super tasty. She makes salmon skewers, homemade taquitos, my new favorite enchiladas, and an incredibly easy black bean soup.

  36. Allison says...

    i love routines and family dinner is a big part of that. i get very stressed if i don’t have a few night’s worth of meals in the fridge at any given time! some staples of ours include ..

    stir fry – chicken/shrimp/beef take less than 10 minutes on the stove, you can often find a frozen veggie medley + quick rice.
    pasta primavera – any pasta, tomato sauce + any chopped veggies + sprinkling of cheese
    homemade pizza – fresh dough is very cheap (i think $1.99 at trader joes!) and can usually be stretched to make 2 large pizzas. can also be a fun activity for the kids to make their own mini versions!
    pumpkin chili – good to make on a sunday and last through the week. pumpkin, chick peas, carrots/onions/celery, etc.

  37. Sarah Beth says...

    I have an almost-3yo daughter, and we’ve eaten family dinner every night since she was born. Not that I’m evangelical about it (though I do love it, and family dinner was a big part of my childhood), but just bc I can’t fathom doing her dinner, then bedtime, THEN going back and doing another round of dinner for us. She has eaten what we’ve eaten since we started feeding her, whether she likes that dinner or not. I work, so the time between getting home and eating is tight, and I have it down to a fine rotation: chicken sausage/veggie/pasta skillet, egg dish (scrambled, sandwich, or fritatta), slow cooker burrito bowls or sushi bowls, fish and sweet potato and salad, and one night of roasted chicken or flank steak, and soups on Sunday. Of course, i’m not always organized to do that every night every week, and esp since I’ve been pregnant with #2 we’ve done a lot of takeout, but when I get in a good rhythm it’s really easy. And our philosophy is the kid eats what we eat, plus a veg if I think she won’t eat enough to get the nutrients that we would get. But even if she eats NOTHING, she still gets what we get (plus some cucumbers, ha!). She is a great eater, and turning into a great conversationalist! If you can make family dinner work for your family, I think it’s worth the effort.

  38. Maya says...

    I come home at 6 pm (early for NYC), my husband at 8 pm. I have a barely 1 yr old and 4 yr old. This means for me that I have about an hr to have “quality” time, cook/feed children and bathe children, followed by bedtime for baby. It’s a struggle e v e r y s i n g l e night.

    All this is to say that I am thrilled about all the family dinner crowdsourcing on this site, and while I am OK with the fact that my children won’t eat like French kids anytime soon I so very much appreciate the attempt to reach beyond pasta dishes! Working parents – please share your recipes/routines!!!!

    • Lauren says...

      i couldn’t agree more!

    • My trick is to meal plan for the week and go shopping for all ingredients on one specific day (Sunday). I am loathe to go to the grocery store more than once a week! And I definitely don’t have time as a full-time employee and mom to go any more frequently than that.
      Also, I try to have juuust enough leftovers from each night so that at least one dinner can be dedicated to cleaning out the fridge! :)

  39. Seraphim says...

    One of my favorite family meals on a busy weeknight is what my kids call ‘salami plate’ – it’s basically a big, shared nosh platter with kid and adult friendly cheeses, charcuterie, crudites, bread, olives, nuts… it’s fun for my kids (7 & 4) because it’s different and allows them to choose and try different things… my 4-year old is now a huge fan of ‘stinky cheese’. I like it because I don’t need to use the stove (a bonus in summer) and can throw it together in 10-min. Add a side salad (or depending on the season a cup of soup), and a glass of wine for the grow-ups – it works for us as dinner on nights when I don’t feel like cooking dinner.

    • Crystal H says...

      Oh yes we love doing this too!!!! So good!

  40. Lindsay says...

    I cook quite a bit. The Buvette cookbook is my favorite, everything I’ve made has been perfect. Forest floor Risotto, shepherds pie, pistou soup, sausage filled roasted apple. my often picky kids and husband have loved them all.
    I get easy meals at Costco. frozen sausage lasagna with the almond cherry blue salad bag and garlic bread made from thier ciabata rolls which I keep in freezer too.
    I’ll make sandwiches with the rotisserie chicken.
    Other fave meals
    bratwurst with potatoes and sauerkraut and mustard sauce or just hot dogs
    Special recipe Chili with toppings (cheese, chips, onions, etc) and corn bread
    Pasta with fresh marinara and sausages and reggiano / basil
    my other favorite recipes are from food52.
    Floured Sole or halibut with Cajun/ butter with rice and peas/carrots
    Grilled cilantro Sriracha shrimp with rice and asparagus/corn
    Sesame coconut Salmon with coconut rice and roasted squash and kale
    Kimchi fried rice with fried eggs on top
    “English breakfast ”
    But I take off 2 nights a week / also don’t work outside of the home

  41. Karen says...

    I make big batch tomato sauce and freeze some. Then it forms the base for two meals a week such as pizza with store bought crust on a Friday and a pasta bake. Ravioli as a pasta bake with smoked mozzarella and a salad is a huge hit. Left over rice makes amazing and filling zucchini fritters and I highly reccommend buying oven bake crusted fish and do diy fish tacos. But can I ask what did you do before family dinners? I have never done anything else although one adult may be late because of work and miss it?

  42. Bernadette says...

    I should say our kids are 1 yr, 3 and 5 yrs old. They adore Carla Hall’s chicken pot pie.. I cheat and use frozen mixed veggies and will additionally cheat and use costco/ red lobster cheddar bay biscuit mix topper. Hopefully it lasts 2 meals.. I dont make a new dish each night and rely on leftovers.. or I’d go bonkers. So usually 2- meals per week. For a treat we will get sushi for dinner on Friday night once a month or every 2 months. Pasta makes everyone happy. Taco night with all the fixings is a crowd pleaser and great for leftovers(pico de gallo and guac). Hope this helps!

  43. Cynthia says...

    Family dinners are important. Our daughters are in their 30’s, and we always had family meals together. A crockpot is a big help for working moms and couples with no children. Put the crockpot dinner together the night before in the crock, refrigerate, and pop it in the cooker in the morning and dinner is ready when you get home. You can just cook the meat in it, and then make the sides when you get home, since meat is the part of a meal that takes the longest to cook. It’s also great for making soups. Plan your meals around the weekly sales to get maximum value for your money. Keep a well-stocked pantry. Be creative with leftovers. Have an open mind about food, and your children will have one too. The only thing our daughters didn’t like as children were beans. They used to dread any kind of bean soup, but now they like them. Cook on the weekends so you have food prepared for the week. Planning takes time, but in the end you avoid having to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Let your children help. They can tear lettuce for a salad, set the table, and as they get older, help with more of the meal prep. If they help make it, they will want to eat it.

    • betsy says...

      all great advice! As a working mom with a 6 and 4 YO, I totally relate. The other thing I would add is that I prep as MUCH as possible the night before and even morning of. This includes filling pots with water (learned from Jenny at DALS) so you can turn them on to boil as you get home, setting the oven to turn on at 530pm and even roasting veg in the oven the night before and just warming them in the cast iron when I get home. Soup is huge in our house and provides my daughter’s favorite lunch leftovers, too!

  44. cgw says...

    This comment has less to do with what I make for dinner, but I feel I need to chime in about the” importance of eating at the table as a family”. Personally, I think there’s too much pressure about eating around the table as a family and having that as your discussion time. It works for a lot of families but isn’t by all means the only way to have meaningful conversations. As one commenter mentioned, some kids actually can’t concentrate in an environment like that, having the radio or TV on helps them to focus. More importantly, I think that a family has to find what works for them. For instance, we have a young teen who is in full teen mode, she prefers to talk side to side, rather than face to face. Now that she’s older we know she can eat at the table properly, we ensured that as a baby, training her how to wait and be patient at the table. Instead, we eat with the TV on, and when it something interesting happens on TV use that as a way to talk about it. But for the most part, the deeper conversations happen in the car on the way to an after school activity or on the way home from it. Or it will happen in the kitchen while I’m cooking and she’s helping out, or even when I’m strumming my instrument (poorly, I might add), and she pops down to listen, and as I mindlessly strum chords, I casually ask how things are going. On the topic of what to make, well, I never know what to make for dinner!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh i TOTALLY don’t think you need to. for the past seven years, we’ve done family bike rides instead, and read in bed at night, etc. i felt so close to my children and family, even though we ate together only once or maybe twice a week. all good, either way! totally agree with you. thank you so much for making this point. xoxo

    • Roxana says...

      CGW, we eat family dinners almost every single night. I love that we do it. It works for us mostly because my husband is home earlier than most (5-5:30) and our kids are little.

      However, I completely agree with you! I did not grow-up eating a family dinner. We were all over the place especially when my siblings and I were teenagers (so many after school activities) and both my parents worked (both self-employed, too, so they had unconventional schedules). We definitely had a lot of quality time, though, and most of the deeper conversations were exactly what you describe (in the car or while the TV was on). You are right that each family has to find what works for them.

  45. Is it ok to plug yourself (and your sister) if this DIRECTLY relates? If not, please feel free to pull this down…
    My sister and I have a podcast, The Dinner Sisters, where we talk each week about this very dilemma. We have a great time and review recipes we find all over the internet. Some are great, some are for folks with other tastes, and some are just okay. You can find our podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts (iTunes, Spotify, etc.)
    The biggest hits so far for us have been Smitten Kitchen’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos https://smittenkitchen.com/2018/03/sweet-potato-tacos/ and Pasta a Limone from Serious Eats https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2018/01/pasta-al-limone.html
    Both are one-pan weeknight meals that have proven to be at least a little kid friendly!

    • Kat says...

      This is right up my alley! Thanks for commenting. I’m following along now with PocketCast app and signed up for emails. Thanks for the plug :) Love it.

  46. Bernadette says...

    My kids are a fairly good.. a few things they go bananas for.. pioneer woman’s meatloaf, sausage broccoli and orchiette (bon appetit), beef broccoli & snow peas (pioneer woman I add broccoli), tacos/enchiladas, taco soup, home made hamburger helper (beef and mushroom stroganof and Tex mex), home made ravioli (home made pasta in general pre made and frozen), ham and swiss sliders – optional egg (bonus leftovers for the next day!), roast Peruvian chicken (marinated overnight) with roast potatoes, pulled pork with vinegar coleslaw and baked beans (usually best when made on the weekend so you can enjoy leftovers), chili, tomato soup and grilled cheese “dippers”,
    These are not the simplest recipes but our kids go bananas for them so we make the effort ;)

  47. Shari says...

    Thanks jo, I’ll try the baked potato combo. I agree, we’ve eased into nightly family dinner. It took a while. I have three boys 10,8,5. We eat meat, no allergies. I’m not the best chef but I try to be thrifty . This week was
    -pan fried fish
    -leftovers from freezer=pasta bake
    – beef and Guinness stew (Mary Berry)
    -left over stew + pastry = pie
    -at friends for pizza
    -chicken satay on barbie+ rice
    -leftover rice= fried rice
    All with veges, cooked or chopped up.

  48. Heather says...

    We just made a vegeterian minestrone soup that my four year old said was the best dinner ever. I think the secret was that I served it with banana bread ;)

  49. Cailin says...

    My mom was the best at making family dinners happen! I remember one night we had breakfast for dinner. We put on our pajamas as if we had just woken up and when my dad came home we “tricked him” into thinking it was actually morning and he’d been at work all night.

    Now I’m in the sometimes awkward in-between phase of being a grown up but not yet having a family of my own. I would give anything to leave my office today and have my mom in my apartment making pancakes for dinner.

    • AJ says...

      I’m stealing that! I’m wishing my kids were a little older so that I could do it tomorrow!

  50. Kat says...

    I do the same thing, I plan 4 nights a week, we go out once and then do one short trip for the weekend for 2 meals of whatever we’re craving. On less innovative weeks I do one taco/quesadilla night and one breakfast for dinner night, and on more aspirational weeks I find four new recipes. I love thedefineddish.com for quick, healthy and flavorful weeknight meals (literally every meal has been a hit! It’s a miracle!). Also, I plan all my meals in Cozi so they’re stored in one place (click and drag baby!) and once they’re on the calendar, my husband can take over and see the recipe so it eliminates the communication barrier and recipe searching on his part when he offers to cook, which makes me less frazzled.

    • Katie says...

      YES to The Defined Dish!! Every single one of her recipes has been a home run. We love her steak + poblano fajitas, jalapeño chicken burgers, kielbasa bites, pecan crusted turkey meatballs…. basically everything.

  51. Lauren E. says...

    Am I the only one whose spouse eats like he’s about to run a marathon every single night? Eggs with tomatoes wouldn’t be half an appetizer for him. Sometimes when he’s out of town, he’ll joke, “Did you eat your single girl meal tonight?” i.e. crackers and cheese OR a bowl of cereal OR fried clam strips from the freezer section (don’t judge me)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha you guys sound like a fun couple. :) and fried clam strips sound amazing fwiw.

    • Sarah says...

      Definitely not, Lauren! Both me and my partner would still be hungry after a few of these meals, haha. Yesterday I ate a whole frozen pizza (12″), half a box of salad greens, half an apple with peanut butter, and half a mango for dinner. ;) I keep wondering if I’m pregnant but I’m not, I’m just a hungry gal!

    • Madeleine says...

      Lauren, are we the same person? My fiance works night shift and he jokes about my single girl meals when he’s at work. I am always astounded by how much he eats when I cook!

    • Hannah G says...

      oh my gosh, ME!! I swear I double every recipe and we still have no leftovers.

  52. Kathleen says...

    In the fall and winter time our family makes a big brisket which will then be three dinners ! First brisket with mashed potatoes , second brisket over pasta , third brisket sloppy Joe’s …. easy to make a brisket – meat – seasonings – cook for hours …. potatoes boil and mash with butter – cook the pasta – buns for sloppy Joe’s … three nights in a row – done !

    • SallyK says...

      You make me wish I’d bought a brisket when they were on sale recently. I would also add Lisa Fain’s (The Homesick Texan) brisket tacos and brisket enchiladas to how leftover brisket can be used. Also, the beef and barley soup from Katie Workman’s The Mom 100 cookbook. That recipe can only be found in the cookbook and it’s delicious!

  53. J says...

    My kids are 7 and 11 and we have family dinner almost every night except Thu and Fri, which we either pick up pre-made food from our local market or do delivery. We do something super easy like Tacos, Chili, Pasta, stir fry. Weekends can get a little bit more elaborate and multi course since we have more time. One thing I’m trying to incorporate is having our kids help cook, even if it’s just stirring the pot.

  54. I can’t wait to read all the comments for ideas, but for now here’s one from me: Soft Taco Night (or burrito night, nachos night, etc) – I set up rice in the rice cooker and then simmer black beans with garlic, cilantro, and lime. Chop some spinach or lettuce, cut up tons of avocado, open a jar of tomatillo salsa, boil some frozen corn and shred some cheese and the kids and I make-our-own with whatever we want. I’d add any leftover roasted vegetables or shredded chicken to the help-yourself plates if I have it, too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YUM!!!!

  55. jill says...

    i love to cook and try creative recipes, but with kids…well it definitely makes it challenging. brinner is ALWAYS a hit – breakfast for dinner…usually pancakes or french toast. also, i encourage my kids to try everything i make, but if they are resisting, i let them make a pb&j!

  56. Neda says...

    Here in the UK, they say not to reheat a rotisserie chicken. Is that really a thing? I often reheated when I lived in the States. Has anyone heard this before? Thank you for sharing your meals – it’s so easy to fall into a dinner rut, so hearing what other families eat is always inspiring!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i just read this online (and i’m curious to read other people’s thoughts here!):

      “It doesn’t matter how chicken meat is cooked the first time, it is only safe to reheat it once. Similarly, the chicken can be reheated in a microwave, a frying pan, in the oven, on the barbecue, or even in a slow cooker.”

    • Lindsey says...

      I’ve never heard this before! I’m fairly sure I’ve heated up chicken more than once multiple times. For what it’s worth, in Kenji Lopez-Alt’s book “Food Lab”, he goes into great depth dispelling a lot of myths around cooking chicken, backed by many, many science experiments. I personally think the odds of already cooked chicken making you sick, especially if it didn’t the first time (and it’s not days and days later), is pretty low. But just my two cents. :)

    • Margaux says...

      i don’t think this is true. if it were, i’d probably be dead by now. ( :

    • Neda says...

      Thank you! I’m guessing it’s probably just fine and I shall be reheating our next rotisserie chicken ;)! Although to be fair, the ones here are usually quite small and easily finished in one sitting by our family of four. X

  57. Another vegetarian family here, and I actually eat vegan about 80% of the time, so I try to start with the framework for a meal that can be tweaked to everyone’s tastes, so I’m not stuck always making completely separate ones. I talk to my kids often about building balanced meals, so they understand why all the things on their plate are there, even if they don’t like them.

    I grew up eating Indian food with my family almost daily, and it’s the easiest way for us to check all our nutritional boxes and enjoy comfort food, but I just couldn’t find the time to keep up with it the way my mom did once we had our own kids. My Instant Pot makes things like dal/lentils and biryani SO much easier & faster – I don’t have to start soaking stuff the night before. The IP also lets me make base ingredients (black beans, quinoa, brown rice) in a larger batch, pack them into individual servings, and then throw them in the freezer. This helps on, say, taco night, where one kid only wants beans and the other only wants tofu (that freezes well in individual portions, too!). In short, my freezer and my Instant Pot take the bulk of the credit for us being able to eat together.

    Evenings can be so tough for families with 2 working parents and kids who do a bunch of activities. During busier weeks, I make a point to at least have breakfast with my boys; talking about the day ahead can be just as special & meaningful as sharing what happened at the end.

  58. Annie says...

    My four-year-old has some sensory issues, so he always gets a plate of little things for lunch and dinner: cashews, a cup of soy milk, strawberries, raw carrots. Spaghetti is the only dinner food he’ll eat. Dairy gives him insomnia and he won’t eat any kind of meat, so he’s had some sleep issues related to protein and iron deficiencies.
    I make a separate dinner for my husband, my 1.5-year-old, and myself. And I ignore other parents and their idiotic “my kid eats what I give him whether he likes it or not” arguments. I once promised my son a Lego set in exchange for eating a teaspoon of mashed potatoes, and he cried and screamed and gagged on potatoes for two hours, and he just couldn’t do it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      annie, you sound like a wonderful parent, and your four-year-old sounds like a wonderful little guy. good for you doing what is best for him. xoxo

    • Karen says...

      That sounds great. And if your kid eats that plate of bites he is getting more nutritional balance than my kids! Good luck

    • Francesca says...

      We have had exactly the same experience with one of our 3 sons. Vomiting, gagging and crying when he was trying to win $2 for trying something. He was so determined and wouldn’t give up but made himself sick. It was devestating to watch and I vowed then to completely change our approach to eating. Google ‘division of responsibility’ an approach to eating by Ellyn Satter. Saved our family.

  59. Martha says...

    TACOS. So easy, all you need to do is heat up the meat and you can make a toppings bar.

  60. Jess says...

    Family dinners are the best! Makin memories.
    Our rotation includes fish or veggie tacos and an easy plate of tofu/veg/noodles (Lotus Foods organic millet & brown rice ramen could not be quicker to make when trying to throw down dinner for two young boys ;)

  61. Amanda says...

    It’s just my husband and me, but we try to sit down to dinner most of the time. One day a week I get home late, and he is taking classes on top of work, so it doesn’t always work out. But we try to make it work!

    My strategy has been to make a few things toward the beginning of the week when I have more energy, then do a lot of reheating/reworking leftovers later in the week when I’m tired. If all else fails, there’s always pasta and eggs with lots of pepper.

    This week has been:
    Sunday: Grilled pork chops and brussels sprouts
    Monday: Mustard panko chicken thighs with roasted carrots and arugula salad
    Tuesday: Three-bean vegetarian chili, cornbread, and roasted broccoli
    Wednesday (*work late): Leftover chicken and broccoli reheated in the toaster oven
    Thursday: Leftover chili and arugula salad
    Friday: Normally we’d do pasta or pizza on Fridays, but we’re going out of town so we’ll eat out :)

  62. Susan says...

    Help! I’m so confused! How do families – where both parents work full time office jobs – manage to eat each night with their young kids? Is it just because we’re in NYC and work hours are longer? I honestly work from home a bit and can whip something up some afternoons while on calls – but the resentment levels of taking time away from my ‘real’ job was starting to grow! Also – my kids in elementary school eat lunch at 11 am! No way then can wait past 6 pm to eat. What am I missing??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! this was our challenge until now. alex wouldn’t get home from work until 7pm, and there’s no WAY the kids could have waited that long. (they eat breakfast at 6:30am, they eat school lunch 11, and, even with an after-school snack at 3pm, they are ravenous for dinner at 5pm.)

      recently, alex got a new editor, and his hours have become more flexible. he is now able to come home by 6pm and finish up work later in the evening. i am able to do the same thing.

      but, logistically, eating together every evening wasn’t possible for us before — and isn’t always possible for many families. some families i know eat breakfast together instead; and others eat together on the weekends; and others just have different rituals outside meals. (we used to take evening bike rides.) all these things are valid options for sure!

    • Maya says...

      Yes, totally. I can’t make sense of it either (see my comment further below).
      My youngest is 1 so I am hoping things get a little easier in the future and one “glorious” day I will have enough sleep to be able to pre-cook dinner late at night for the next evening :)

    • Sam says...

      NYC work hours sound like they’d make family dinner tough! My husband and I both work full-time office jobs in St. Paul, MN and we are generally home by 5 PM. It is still a challenge to get a balanced meal on the table every night but we don’t have the same time crunch.

    • Sarah B says...

      I can’t respond from the parenting side of things, but as one of three children who grew up with two parents working full-time, I can respond from the child perspective.

      I am the youngest, so I must say, I don’t have first hand experience of what it was like in the “early years”, but as a child of the 90s I was raised on casseroles and crockpot meals! My mother and father both worked full-time – mom got home around 5PM and dad around 5:30/6 . He would have a beer and watch the news and then it was dinner time.

      Often my mother would make things like casseroles and lasagnas in huge batches and freeze them ahead of time. She would tape notes on them with oven temp and how long they should cook for, so by the time we were relatively old enough (say 10ish), popping something in the oven was something we could handle. Mom and dad come home and dinner was ready! (and we felt SUPER grown up and accomplished)

      We also did a lot of “basic” fare when we were growing up. I’m from a small town in a rural area, so we didn’t have many take away options and I only learned what hummous was when I was 14 and visiting family in another state – it didn’t even make it to my town until a few years later. Meals don’t always have to be gourmet or pushing the flavour palette to be nutritious. We did baked chicken or fish with rice or potatoes and a steamed veg MANY times. All simple enough for children to help with and quick enough to prepare after work.

      I am also aware, as an adult, that my mother was somewhat of a superhero and I am consistently in awe of how much she accomplished each day. That being said, crockpots are a lifesaver, if you have space, get a chest freezer, and never under-estimate the power of breakfast for dinner. Also, when my dad was away, the mice would play, so to speak. My dad was a meat and potatoes kind of guy so meals had to be “complete” but when he was away for work, we’d just let it all out! Dessert before dinner, eating in front of the TV, cheese/crackers/veggies and dip, etc etc! We were in heaven! And I’m sure my mom also appreciated the relaxed approach. All that to say – it’s not necessarily about the dinner, it’s about spending time together in a memorable way :)

    • Jessica says...

      WORD. My husband owns a retail store and there’s no way he could be home consistently by the time my child is hungry for dinner.

    • Lizzie says...

      When I come home from work at about 6pm, I like to eat immediately. So, I tend to not cook until around 8 or 9 pm, to prepare the next days’ meals. I tend to use the instant pot as a pressure cooker or slow cooker, so it’s very simple cooking I’m doing.

    • Yael says...

      It’s hard. We can only do it because we have somewhat flexible jobs, one of us is usually home around 4:30 and the other by 5. The kids have to eat by 5 or 5:30 to be in bed by 7. But then we have 2-3 hours to work from home after everything is tided up. I miss my 4-6 writing hours, which every writer knows are the best hours of the day. But I figure they won’t be this young always and schedules will change. I know I will regret if I miss this time with them, although it is a bit of a career sacrifice.

  63. Andrea says...

    I’ve always assumed that we would have nightly family dinners but now that I’m back to work with a 13 month old I’m realizing that it is SO HARD. I have a hard time getting a meal together when the baby just wants to snuggle after a long day (hey, I want to snuggle too :)

    I’m trying to be forgiving with myself and being okay with three meals together a week.

    Love all of suggestions !

    • Vicki says...

      eating with toddlers is tough! they need an earlier bedtime, cut up foods, make a mess and don’t sit around and have a conversation! So I would say be forgiving, family dinner is about time together (and also healthier) so if you are spending time together it doesn’t matter that it is not dinner, you will come around to dinner when your family is ready

    • Roxana says...

      I think snuggle time is more important than a prepped meal ;).

      I think the goal of a family dinner is having everyone together. An opportunity to connect. If being together means eating a bowl of cereal and then cuddling on the floor with your little one (or husband or dog) then I say you’ve won!

      Life is all about seasons. Maybe you’ll have a season when you can regularly have family meals? Maybe you won’t? You’ll make it work, either way ;).

    • Lisa says...

      We have an almost 2 year old. We commonly do a roast or fish bake on the weekend. The leftovers become tacos, loaded salad toppings, fish cakes, or a hearty soup. We get fresh shrimp and there is nothing easier than sautéed shrimp in potato flakes and a big salad. Roasted and steamed veggies are also favorites. Our son is a huge asparagus fan.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      totally agree, roxana! just being together is the thing. andrea, you sound like you’re doing an amazing job and have a sweet, happy, loved baby :) xoxo

  64. Emily says...

    This is one of my biggest sources of mom guilt right now. I have a 17 month old toddler and he get soooo hungry by 5 o’clock that I just feed him dinner then (and it’s definitely nothing elaborate or gourmet!). My husband doesn’t get home until 7 so we eat closer to 8. I really aspire to family meals someday, and know they’re important for bonding etc., but I am trying to just go easy on myself and do what works for now!

    • Amy says...

      Maybe start with weekends? Family Happy Hour or family lunch? It will get easier as he gets older and is open to new flavors. I don’t think comparing families with babies/toddlers and families with school-aged children is an apples to apples thing.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      even jenny, of dinner a love story, didn’t start family dinner til her kids were older. i remember she wrote, “For the first 2 or 3 years, chaos reigns.” :)

  65. Megan G says...

    My son has sensory processing disorder, mental health issues, and several food intolerances (GF & low salycilates/amines). Eating is a challenge for him (nothing ever tastes right) plus he has to take nasty supplements to ensure he gets the right nutrients. That being said, mealtime is really difficult for him without a distraction (a show). To avoid mealtime meltdowns and make sure he actually eats (it is so important behavior-wise for him to get a full, balanced meal), he watches a show during mealtimes. *CRINGE* To make up for the lack of family time around meals, instead, we go swimming as a family everyday. Being in the pool is calming for him, and we actually spend a good time chatting and talking about our days. We will often hang out by the pool another hour after swimming and cuddle in our towels while I read to the boys (currently reading: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

    But back to the original question of meals…with my husband in law school plus me working, we need quick meals:
    S – assortment of veggies and roasted chicken (basically lunch prep for the week + dinner in one)
    M – Lettuce wraps (ground chicken makes it so much quicker), the boys don’t like the filling, so instead they eat rice, roasted seaweed, and lettuce with a side of GF boxed Annie’s mac n’ cheese
    T – Taco Soup or Chili (the throw cans in a pot kind) with a side of loaded NACHOS for the boys
    W – Pasta with Marinara (out of a jar) (GF noodles for the boys and regular for us)
    Th – Chicken Tacos with Tomatillo Dressing (the boys love these and they’re easy to make GF)
    F – French Toast Family Movie Friday (made with GF bread for my son & French bread for the adults)
    Sat- Trader Joes night (GF chicken nuggets & fries with carrots for the boys, potstickers or pizza for us)

    • Lauren says...

      You sound like an AMAZING mom! Keep it up! :)

    • Shauna says...

      Megan,

      I think it is amazing that you have found what works for your family and are going with it. You shouldn’t have to cringe just because you can’t have dedicated family dinner times – as far as I’m concerned, the point is to make sure that you can find time as a family and that it is with dinner is just so it can be daily. So your swimming and reading time sounds fabulous, and so supportive of your son’s challenges, as does your meal plan. Thank you for the inspiration. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound INCREDIBLE, megan. you’re doing what is right for your son and your family. he is very lucky to have you. i’m feeling so inspired right now.

  66. Becca says...

    When I was pregnant with our first child, we got a book called “Dinner Tonight: Done!” published by Real Simple. This book helped us a lot. We have since branched out to fancier cookbooks, but as our daughter is six now and fairly picky, plus with our busy work and school days, I find myself returning to this cookbook more and more. It has a lot of simple twenty minute recipes, mostly consisting of a meat, a vegetable side, and a starch. What I love about it is it gives you a recipe for a entire dinner, not just one part of a dinner.

    • Danielle says...

      I love Real Simple’s recipes for easy weeknight dinners. I still make a few of their fake- it- don’t- make- it recipes from back in the day. Every time I pick up an issue (usually in an airport) I end up dog ear-ing every recipe.

  67. Andrea says...

    I live alone but this is a good reminder to eat dinner with myself at the table, not with Michael Scott on the couch :)

    • Cailin says...

      Andrea this made me laugh out loud! Michael Scott and I spend a lot of dinners together.

  68. Jo, I’d love to know how you plan your weeknight meals and grocery shopping. Do you plan the meals ahead and shop once a week, or do you just ‘wing it’ and buy ingredients as you need them?

    I find myself at the grocery store multiple times a week (I’m definitely disorganized) and would love to hear your approach to managing this aspect of you family life!

    • Hilary says...

      I’m not Jo but a big proponent of family dinners and meal planning! On Fridays I make a meal plan for the following week and take into account any events going on (am I working late one night?) and ingredients that may need to be used up (half jar of marinara in the fridge, I’m lookin’ at you). I used to spend a long time deciding on meals (curse you Pinterest!) but I’m moving to a Sunday- crockpot meal; Monday-pasta; Tuesday-Mexican kind of plan. I even made a chart with meal ideas for each day of the week so I can just pick one. Once I map out the meals for the week I make a list of what I need to shop for, check the pantry/fridge to see what we need, and then grocery shop on Saturday morning. The list/meal plan allows me to save money by sticking to a very specific list and takes advantage of what I already have. I also try to make ingredients last for more than one meal- I might make crockpot BBQ chicken on Sunday and then use the leftovers for BBQ quesadillas or the freezer. It sounds like a lot but once you’re in a groove it gets easier! Grocery shopping is now super quick and easy too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      every week, we have been choosing 2 meals that have more specific ingredients (like chicken curry or chicken parm meatballs) and make sure to get those ingredients — and then we just grab the basics like eggs, milk, cheese, broccoli, bananas, etc.

      with all those ingredients at home, we can make the 2 more specific meals, and then cobble together the other ones more spontaneously (like, eggs with tomatoes and halloumi, or pasta with sausage and broccoli).

      hope this helps! curious how other people do it, too!

    • Thanks Hilary & Jo!

      I think my family really needs to start meal planning – even if it’s just for 2 or 3 of our weekly dinners.

      To date we’ve always been very spontaneous with cooking and dining out, but now that our daughter has started school and our family’s routine is consequently much more structured, I think meal planning makes a lot of sense. I’m sure once we get into the swing of it we’ll find it saves us a lot of time (and money)!

  69. Fernanda says...

    When I’m really tired, breakfast for dinner! Everyone loves it and it feels so special!
    I also do a vegetable (left overs) pie (or cake?). Here goes the recipe:
    4 eggs
    2 cups milk
    1/2 cup oil
    3 tablespoons grated cheese
    2 tablespoons baking powder
    1 1/2 cup wheat (I make with whole wheat flour and with a little white flour)
    salt (1 teaspoon + -)

    Beat everything in the blender, when the vegetables have been sautéed.
    Put it in a greased baking pan and pour the vegetables on top, spreading well.
    Bake on high heat and preheated for about 40 min.
    Oh, throw grated cheese over it, before you put it in the oven!
    Kids love it because they can cut this in shapes with our cookie cutters ;)

  70. Ellen says...

    A popular meal at our house is chickpea flour pancakes, adapted from a Heidi Swanson recipe(https://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/silverdollar-socca-recipe.html). Sometimes we serve them with mashed avocado on top or with a yogurt sauce. We often serve broccoli soup on the side.

    Here’s our version:
    1.5 cups chickpea flour
    3/4 tsp salt
    3-4 eggs (as few as 2 will work fine)
    1/2 cup water
    1 cup yogurt (buttermilk also works great)
    1 tbsp olive oil

    Combine everything, whisk, let the batter sit for ten minutes if there’s time, stir it again, heat & oil the griddle or pan, cook pancakes.

  71. love this post! we do something similar – Mon-Thurs home cooked and Friday take out ( or date night) and a movie!

  72. Sasha L says...

    I was really confused by this post, but after reading comments I now get it. I didn’t know there was another way to eat dinner than all together! Wow, mind blown. I loved dinnertime when my kids were growing up, it was one of the best parts of our day.

    When my kids were little we ate bean, cheese, rice burritos (sometimes with roasted potatoes, peppers and onions too), homemade Mac and cheese (with garlic and cream cheese!!), baked tofu sticks dipped in catsup and veggies, homemade pad Thai, homemade cheese pizza, so much soup (potato, tomato, tortellini, bean, minestrone, split pea, corn chowder, we all love soup and grilled cheese or croutons), cheesy broccoli and cauliflower, and tomato dumplings.

    Now that kids are grown, when they are home we eat Korean tofu tacos, Mex street corn tostadas, cream cheese, tomato, everything bagel topping gallettes, black bean tacos, veg enchiladas, chilaquiles with fried eggs. They are now just as adventurous everything eaters as we parents and it’s really fun. Both love everything spicy even though there was a time when they’d pick every last bit of onion out of anything. We always have dessert, chocolate cake, banana cupcakes, apple pie, when they are home too, dinner together feels like something to celebrate.

    • Amanda says...

      That’s so interesting, I actually probably knew more families growing up who DIDN’T eat dinner together than those that did.

      It may be, in part, a socioeconomic thing. It wasn’t uncommon where I grew up for parents to work two jobs (one day, one night) or night shift because that’s what they needed to do to get by. That was the case with my family, so we rarely ate dinner together.

      I definitely love having dinner together (whether with my husband or whole family) when we can though! It is a great time to connect.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so interesting, sasha! we ate together when we were very little, but after about 6th grade, it became more sporadic. my parents were divorced, my mom took evening classes, and my siblings and i did dance/sports, and that often meant we had to eat at different times.

      it also might be a cultural thing? my english family typically serves dinner to the kids at 6pm and does bedtime, and then serves dinner to the adults at 8pm. growing up, when we would stay with my grandparents for the summers, this happened every night. we got really used to eating separately — kids and adults.

      i kind of loved it for our family when toby and anton were younger because that way, they could eat the simple foods they liked best, and alex and i could have a more relaxing dinner later and catch up as adults.

      all different ways can work. i love hearing how all families do things. thank you again for your note xoxo

    • Agnes says...

      Agree with Joanna, it’s a lot to do with culture I think! Growing up in northern Canada, it could get dark by 4.30pm in winter. My mom stayed home, my dad worked 7.30am-4.30pm and (small town) was home about 20 min later. We had supper all together at 5pm, and by that time of day, it felt like there was nowhere else to be BUT at home. It would have been weird if we DIDN’T all eat together. What ‘family dinner’ looks like really depends on your family’s unique situation!

    • Sasha L says...

      I grew up in a very working class/poor town, in Montana. My mom always worked. Dad was gone at work out of town during the week most of my childhood, home Friday night, we always waited for him for dinner. Maybe it’s my age, I’m 45. Where I grew up kids were treated like little adults. Not a whole lot of snacks, if you were hungry you just had to wait, no early bedtimes, most kids could drive from a really young age and kids did adult work on farms and ranches from a young age too. I don’t really recommend it as a good way to raise children, it’s just how it was. My parents just did their best and I’m grateful for the example of family dinners- that was something that worked in our family too, even though very different parenting values. I love that there’s a lot of great ways to love up and raise up children, not one right way.

  73. Kaleena says...

    I work late a lot and hardly ever have the energy to cook anything complicated by the time I get home, but I have 3 staples that are fairly simple, relatively healthy, and absolutely delicious:

    1. Grilled cheese filled with gouda, ham or prosciutto, and chopped apples that have been sauteed in butter and brown sugar.

    2. If you’ve got the time to let dinner bake for 40 minutes, the recipe for Slow-Roasted Salmon from the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat is easy, foolproof, and amazing.

    3. Baked frittatas: Chop up whatever veggies you’ve got lying around and toss them in a greased casserole dish. You can add in bread cubes, leftover cooked meat, and fresh herbs. Then scramble up a bunch of eggs with some milk and pour it over everything. Top with cheese and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until the eggs set.

    • Seconding the recommendation of grilled cheese sandwiches! I make mine simple, with multigrain bread, and pre-shredded cheese (a mix of cheddar and mozz), but I add a little bit of dried diced garlic to my sandwich to take it up a level! Yum.

      (You can get the dried garlic granules in the spice section at the store. Be careful not to use too much, it’s strong stuff.)

      Also, Nigella Lawson has a recipe in her new book (At My Table) for a toasted sandwich that contains brie, prosciutto, and sliced figs. You can use fig jam instead. It’s delicious.

  74. My kids are teenagers and have crazy schedules, so I often make soup (or chili) for dinner. Making soup eliminates the stress of timing the meal to be ready at the right time (when everyone is FINALLY home!). I can throw together a pot of soup at some point in the late afternoon/evening and let it simmer away until we are ready to sit down to dinner. Plus is makes great leftovers for lunch. Here’s my family’s all-time favorite chili if anyone is interested: http://reallifedelicious.com/turkey-chili/ I know I am preaching to the choir here, but our mealtimes are even more precious now that the kids are older and so busy. It seems like dinner is the only time we are all together, so sometimes we eat at 9 p.m. if that’s what it takes to make it happen. I just tell my husband to have a snack and pretend we are European.

  75. Anna says...

    Something feels different at our meals when we have a side to go with whatever’s on the menu. Cut a cantaloupe, or bake some tater tots, or easiest ever: slice a tomato and fan the slices across a plate. Suddenly we’re not having sandwiches; we’re having sandwiches *and baked beans*.

    Our best meal of the summer happened when 3 friends stopped by unannounced right as a roast chicken and baked sweet potatoes were coming out of the oven. Before I knew it we’d pulled out the spring greens and buttermilk ranch to stretch the chicken into chicken-topped salads and we’d sliced the potatoes in half. We set an assortment of Zevia and beer right in the middle of the table, and after a bit passed around ice-cream sandwiches. The evening ran late – who could deserve it?

  76. Aili Medeiros says...

    I always make a point to make each dinner enough food for lunch and a bit more. That way with my one cook session, I have made not only dinner for that night, but lunch for the next day and some true leftovers for our weekly leftover night (aka mommy’s night off!).

  77. Becky says...

    I love this!!!
    We recently added some awesome meals into our dinner rotation that are used weekly:
    Zucchini noodles with shrimp garlic and fresh parmesan cheese. Sometimes we add onion and sometimes tomatoes.
    Butternut squash fries or noodles pre cut by Trader Joe’s.
    Tacos simply done with cheese salsa lettuce, we change up the shells and recently started adding avacadoes and onions.
    My husband just made an incredible pesto the other night. We used it last night on brown rice gfree pasta, amazing!!!
    We also do breakfast for dinner with turkey sausage, egg whites and whole wheat english muffins.

  78. Christine Schwalm Design says...

    My stepson is thankfully a very good eater (bless that boy’s adventurous palette. May it never change). I like things you can throw in all together and then leave. Sheet pan suppers (inspired by Deb, Smitten Kitchen) with either chicken thighs or sausage as the protein, sweet potatoes, red onion all roasted. Serve over bagged greens. I like chili, too. You can add a little Tabasco chipotle or siracha for the grown ups to spice it up more. Pinch of Yum has some great recipes.

    • Victoria Fantozzi says...

      Yes to Smitten Kitchen sheet pan! the one with sausage, shallots, potatoes, lemon, and arugula is amazing! They are also really easy to deconstruct – our kids won’t eat the arugula but its so easy to just give it to them without, or mix up ingredients.

    • Smitten Kitchen is the best! My favorite food blog. Deb is so talented, and her books are wonderful.

      Last fall, I made her Mom’s apple cake for the first time, and I’ll be making it again this year. Classic and delicious.
      https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/09/moms-apple-cake/

  79. TC says...

    We try to cook 6x a week at home, no less than 5, and every week is a struggle for me to plan because my husband hates leftovers and basically anything economical (beans, eggs, etc). But we eat together every single night we are both home and I can’t imagine it being any other way. We always eat at the dining table, even if the TV is on (which is really only during baseball season). I did not grow up this way at all and I’m so happy my husband has basically forced me to adapt to it.

    Anyway, I have made nearly every recipe out of Alison Roman’s DINING IN and there are so many great options for a weekday night. I do work from home a few days a week, which makes stews and things easier, but for days I am not at work I absolutely love my crock-pot. You can’t really mess things up in a crockpot, as long as you have one that automatically switches to warm after a certain amount of time.

  80. Ellen says...

    I love family dinner. We do it every day. It’s especially important to me because my husband and I work opposite shifts (he nights and I days), making dinner time a tag-your-it moment when we can also hopefully exchange something meaningful. That is hard with a three year old and a six month old, but we try every night! I am very fond of the sheet pan dinner ideas from thekitchn.com—protein on half, veggies in the other half, some grain on the side (baguette/pita/naan on the super quick nights, A cooked grain when we have more time) and a quick, flavorful marinade or sauce on the side. Fast and quick. Also the crock pot! The best, even in summer.

  81. Emily says...

    my family is just me and my husband, but we do make an effort to cook at eat together. we both work until about 7, so on weeknights it’s usually something fast- if i’m cooking my go-tos are pork chops or cod (both so fast in a cast iron pan) with sauteed spinach and roasted potato or cauliflower. at the end of the week i love to do a “fridge dump fritatta” (or pasta. my husband makes a loaf of sourdough on the weekends, so in a pinch, we make grilled cheese, which feels so much fancier on good bread.

    we used to make a giant pot of black beans on the weekend and eat that through the week. somehow we’ve gotten out of the habit in recent years, but we’d like to incorporate more quick weeknight vegetarian options into the mix – any suggestions?!

    • Charlotte says...

      I love making veggie tacos by sautéeing small cubed red potatoes in olive oil (with salt and pepper) for the filling instead of beef or chicken. Cook about 15 min on Medium, stirring every 5 minutes. Then place inside your fave tortillas and top with avocado, tomatoes, green onions, cheese—whatever you like best!

  82. Asia says...

    We have family dinner just about every night (unless my kids, 14 and 11, are involved in a special event). We have some tricky preferences–one daughter will eat meat but zero beans and the other will not eat meat but loves beans;) Tacos are easily adaptable and always satisfying! Another dinner we like is one we call “veggie smorgasbord,” which involves all manner of roasted, cooked, and/or raw veggies with bread, goat cheese, and hummus in the summer or some kind of cooked protein in the winter.

  83. Allison says...

    Tacos forever! You can put anything in a taco (including eggs)!

  84. I marinate shrimp in a bit of store bought champagne vinaigrette mixed with some cumin, chili powder and a squirt of honey (a dash of cayenne if you want a little kick). I skewer them and throw them on the grill but you could cook them in a pan or under the broiler for a few minutes. Serve with a little Mexican rice and a green salad with orange segments and jicama. Cilantro over all of it. Throw some avocado in somewhere if it suits you.

  85. Rebecca says...

    Family dinner has always been a huge thing for us. I know how much it means to my husband and I, but I’m realizing now just how much it means to our kids. Our daughter just started her freshmen year in college (we have a son who’s a high school sophomore also), and she’s 3 hours ahead, but she often will want to facetime us during family dinner! She misses the connection- the conversations, jokes, and general silliness that often occurs. And, we sure do miss her at the table, so we love it when it works out. I know this will probably wane a bit as she gets more settled into her college life, but I love that it’s important to her.

  86. I grew up eating dinner with my family every night, and we have the same tradition in our family. It’s a great way to connect, especially during busy weeknights. We also go around the table and share one good thing and one bad thing from our day, which our kids LOVE and it sometimes gives us a sneak peak into their lives at school. It also gives me some fun tidbits from my husbands workday that I don’t always hear otherwise!

    As for meals, I am a huge fan of all of the Cookie and Kate recipes, which use fresh and simple ingredients. Sometimes we will give our kids a decomposed version of what we are eating. So if we are eating roasted carrots over farro with a tahini sauce (Cookie and Kate cookbook…so good!), we will give our kids farro with parmesan cheese and roasted carrots on the side. My priority has definitely shifted to making sure my husband and I are eating something healthy and tasty…because kids are going to complain no matter what :)

  87. Cassie C Trueblood says...

    We are able to accomplish family dinner every night almost 100% due to Blue Apron. I love to cook but hate to come up with ideas and hate to grocery shop. We both have full time jobs (we’re both criminal defense attorneys) and busy schedules. Our daughter has swim lessons two times a week. But, we still manage to have dinner together at least four out of five week nights. The meals from Blue Apron are healthy and tasty and I can make them quickly (the longest it ever takes me is 30 or 40 minutes). No, I don’t work for Blue Apron. I just love it THAT MUCH.

  88. Bianca says...

    We sit down for family dinners every night too! We try to eat between 6:00pm – 6:30pm on most nights. Some favorites include: shepherd’s pie, spaghetti and meat sauce, butter chicken & rice (in the Instant Pot), empty the fridge quiche, stir fry, soups and a grilled cheese, Vietnamese style noodle bowls with a grilled meat, and of course taco nights. I try to cook a few meals on the weekend, or at nights (after my son is in bed) for the next day. I usually do a roast on a Sunday (chicken or pot roast) and save leftovers for lunch over the week. Fridays are for takeout or pizza!

  89. Jill says...

    I’ve been making the 5 ingredient lemon chicken that I got on Cup of Jo, every week! Even my super picky mother in law ate it (it was whole 30, paleo glueten free etc. etc.)!!!! My daughter is 13 and very picky and eats it too, but I use chicken breast instead of thighs. Any tips on picky eaters? She loves chicken and beef, but no fatty parts, dark meat or anything with a vein or a bone. So at least she will eat various recipes with chicken breast and grilled meat, if it’s not too grilled. And please help, the only veggies she likes are broccolini (regular broccoli makes her throw up, she says) with a specific thai peanut sauce or sweet potatoes. At least she loves berries, so that’s something. I was told she’s a super taster, so any tips on getting her to like more foods would be great. She will taste anything, that is our rule, but I don’t force her to eat more than a bite.

    • Mims says...

      I am a PROP/super taster, and a nutrigenomic researcher. I LOVE bitter and astrigent! grapefruit, dark chocolate, broccolli, cauliflower, garbanzos, etc: bring ’em on!. The science shows super tasters can still like and eat broccoli, kale, bitter etc. It really is more of a cultural thing. Food introduction guidelines stress having kids try foods they dont like repeatedly. Don’t let them off easy, but also don’t let it become a battlefield. Sauces like the peanut sauce, ranch dressing, cheese sauce over dark green leafies can help, plus the added fat helps them absorb fat soluble vitamins. Also pureeing the offending food and hiding it in something (spaghetti sauce, lasagna, smoothies, creamy soups) can be successful. Sometimes kids just see that broccoli tree and the lips close. If you bypass the visual association and mask it with other flavors, then she just might like it . dont tell her in advance about the offending ingredients presence.

      Also try to avoid at all costs overcooking your crucifers (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli etc.) as it a rather unpleasant smell….and that can be a huge turnoff. Lightly steam or microwave, run the kitchen hood, shock the veg in ice water. A bright green, crisp broccoli tree dipped in yummy ranch or peanut sauce way more appetizing than overcooked limp smelly broccoli. Or try roasting veggies in olive oil dusted with spice flavors she likes.

      Also your daughter is at the age she may be susceptible to the beauty benefits of eating her veggies. You can try the health angle too (folates, magnesium and Vit K from leafy greens are super important) but I find tweenagers not that motivated by health. But they are interested in clear skin and shiny hair! Turn her onto blogs like Minimalist Baker and Deliciously Ella.

      Best of luck, getting your kids to like veggies will serve them their entire lives, it is worth the effort!

    • Jill says...

      MIMS thank you for all those tips. I really appreciate the feedback! She happens to love ranch dressing. I like using the beauty aspects of veggies, great idea!

  90. Robin in NoCo says...

    Growing up, my mom was obsessed with having a home cooked meal every single night, even when she was working full time. Once I became a mom I wondered how she ever managed it so I asked. She told me as soon as she got home from the grocery store she would wash and chop all of the vegetables, grate all of these cheese, and prepare any protein — and store everything in old margarine, yogurt, and cottage cheese tubs in the refrigerator. Boom! Instant baked potato/taco/pasta bar! I’m not as organized as she was (and I bought myself some ziploc screw-top containers to avoid the game of hide and seek with yogurt tubs) but we manage home cooked meals 5 nights a week.

  91. Maryann says...

    We do family dinner too, and our go-to meals are vehicles for leftover veggies and protein: fritatta, tacos, and fried rice. “Giant salad” is another big favorite: make a leafy salad and add leftover roasted veggies, some crumbly cheese, a little protein (beans, leftover meat, eggs!), and olives & pepperoncinis (ALWAYS). Serve with crusty bread and good vinaigrette. xo

  92. Both of our boys are very picky, so I keep an assortment of apples, carrots, and celery cut up in the fridge all the time. They eat those for snack after school, and often, dinner is the same, with some form of protein (cheese, ham, peanut butter) added. We call it a “snack plate.” My 9-year-old is becoming more interested in trying new foods, and he likes spicy things, which is fun.

    My problem is that I have never enjoyed cooking, and I seem to get some weird sort of sensory overload if I spend hours cooking a meal. Especially if I use a crock pot, it’s like the smell becomes overwhelming to me and I lose my appetite completely. But if someone else cooks a meal, I feel totally fine. I remember my mom cooking complicated meals for us, and then she didn’t feel like eating it herself, either. Does anyone else experience this?

    • Anna says...

      YES!! My mom and I are the same way. Any special occasion meals (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) where you’re cooking all day- forget it!

  93. Carrie says...

    Most nights feel like an episode of Chopped in our house. Inside your fridge, you have leftover chicken, summer squash, cheese, and anchovy paste… Because we rarely take the time to come up with a plan, I am a big believer in prepping all my vegetables for the week when I come home from the grocery store. I wash and tear lettuce, I trim green beans, cut up winter squash, etc. It takes some effort, but really saves time and effort when I come home and have “thirty minutes on the clock.”

  94. Katie says...

    We make soup quite often. I find soup to be one of the easiest ways to get my kids to eat veggies. Their absolute favourite is chicken pot pie but kind of time consuming to make. Other easy dinners for us include quesadillas or tacos, chicken thighs and veggies roasted together, lentil soup, shrimp pesto pasta.

  95. Hilary says...

    I’m so glad you posted about this! I have a newborn but before she arrived my husband and I always prioritized family dinner as a time to come together every night. Studies even show that kids who have this tradition are less likely to engage in risky behavior! I’m a big believer in meal prep and a well-stocked freezer. I try to make extra of dinners that freeze well (soups, pasta sauce, pesto, taquitos, shredded chicken, taco meat, etc.) and then we can pull out a home cooked meal on busy nights!

    A few favorite quick meals:
    -Veggie quesadillas (in my freezer you can always find refried beans, Trader Joes frozen roasted peppers and onions, TJ’s roasted corn, tortillas, and cheese)
    – Trader Joes ravioli with marinara or pesto
    – naan pizzas (everything from BBQ chicken, Mediterranean veggies, etc.), – Sandwiches (Two Peas and Their Pod’s hummus, avocado, and roasted red pepper sandwich is on the menu this week)

  96. erin says...

    The new NYT newsletter, weekday meals, is fantastic for family meal ideas. I made 3 recipes from it the first week. Highly recommend. Also, we’ve started a dinner co-op with two neighboring families, and it’s a lifesaver–each family makes 3 family-size servings of one dish that’s easily re-heatable. We deliver the meals to the other families on Sunday night, and you have meals for the week. My daughter loves to eat what Kieran and Ravi’s mom and dad made…she will often try new things this way that she wouldn’t had I made it. She also loves to plan the meals we make for co-op and loves to do delivery!

    • Becky says...

      Oh, wow! I LOVE the co-op dinner idea. I’ll have to ask our neighbors if they’d be into it.

      I grew up with family dinners (and breakfasts) every day and it’s always something I’ve wanted to recreate with my own child(ren) and partner. So far we’ve been successful, 18 months in with our first child. Occasionally our son will have to start eating before us but he will usually continue to sit at the table with us after he’s done.

      I currently stay at home so making family dinners is slightly easier than if I were still working. I do a lot of freezer leftovers, soups, casseroles, pasta, rotisserie chickens and meat and potatoes or beans and rice. Oh and pizza. We also do takeout or frozen convenience foods as needed.

      Love Weelicious (book and website) and the Baby and Toddler cookbook. Both provide good ideas for the whole family especially if you like simple foods.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow!!! this is such a cool idea. really love it, erin.

    • Anna says...

      This is the most amazing idea! Thank you for sharing!

  97. Amy says...

    We eat dinner as a family almost every night (my daughter is 9), and I love to cook! However I still aim for only 2-3 “cooking nights” a week and eat leftovers the other nights! Your meals sound great, but even with your shortcuts (store bought sauces, rotesseri chicken) that is alot of kitchen time! My advice is cook more food and less often! :)

  98. I am a *big* fan of one pot or one pan dinners. Protein, veggies and less cleanup. My husband is a vegetarian and me and the LO survive off of protein. Luckily for all of us, he will eat food made near protein. One pot of chicken, rice, lentils and veggies is a common meal. Perfect for a fresh dinner and leftovers for lunch. Sometimes all you need to do to jazz it up is switch up the spices. Try sazon for Central American flavors or baharat for a more Middle Eastern flavor. And let’s not forget, curry spices.

  99. Denise says...

    The tortilla soup from the Dinner A Love Story site is super fast (especially if using a rotisserie chicken & tortilla chips) & super delicious. Highly recommend.

  100. Rebecca Silber says...

    We’ve always done family dinners, starting when my kids were babies. But, we’ve also gone through fits and starts as far as whether or not we were eating a homecooked meal. I feel like the food doesn’t necessarily matter as long as we are eating together. My kids love pesto pasta as well, making pesto really isn’t hard with a food processor, I recommend giving it a whirl! We throw in chicken too–you can even buy frozen grilled chicken strips. The other night I made chicken tortilla soup and it was SO GOOD. My kids also enjoy potato leek soup. There are definitely nights when someone is picky, but I try to serve a veggie/side so that at least something is getting eaten. I don’t make separate meals for picky people, but I do often offer a dessert and have been known to offer it as a bribe ;-)

  101. Diana says...

    3 very important questions:
    1. when you make scrambled eggs for dinner, how many eggs are you exactly using for 4 people so that it’s filling enough?
    2. what have you been eating for breakfast?
    3. what have you been eating for lunch?

    thank so you much joanna! xo

  102. Carolyn says...

    We have a 3 year old and another on the way next month (eek!) and we do dinner together every night at 6 PM, and I love it. The dinners are never gourmet because it is a rush to end work at 5, pick her up from preschool, come home and whip up dinner, but the effort is worth it. She tells us sweet little gems from her day at school and then spends the last 15 mins begging for a popsicle :)

    Currently in the dinner rotation (we’re vegan):
    -pesto pasta with veg
    -quesadillas
    -make your own pizza. just discovered a new frozen crust at TJs that is amazing
    -Mediterranean platters: hummus, pita, veg, falafel
    -grill night: veg burgers, corn, grilled veggies, pickle spears
    -baked potatoes with all the fixings and a side of baked beans
    -asian rice bowls with tofu and veg

    Weekends we do take out, go out to eat, or just play it loose and let her have cereal for dinner (her favorite!) and then my husband and I do take out after she goes to bed :)

  103. We cook almost every night for the two of us. Hoping once the baby joins us for dinner we can still keep it up. (He’s almost 4 months old. Not quite ready yet!)

    After I got married, the cookbook “Keepers” was a lifesaver. The authors compiled recipes that their families ask them to make over and over again. In order to be included in the book, it also has to be able to be made relatively quickly (usually no more than 45 minutes) and call for no specialty or hard to find ingredients. Everything I’ve cooked from his book lives up to the name. (Pan braised pork chops are my husband’s favorite.) I highly recommend it. (I see they also have written two more books since Keepers. All are weeknight dinner cookbooks.)

    https://www.amazon.com/Keepers-Tried-True-Weeknight-Happiness/dp/1609613546

  104. Hannah says...

    I’ve been cooking my way through Sarah Waldman’s “Feeding A Family” since last winter, and I love it! It has given me so much confidence in the way I’ve chosen to feed our almost 2 yr old, and family dinners are that much better for it 😊

  105. Stephanie says...

    For people who haven’t cooked regularly, your meals look wonderful!

  106. Emily says...

    If you have the Earth Fare supermarket chain in your area, their take and bake pizzas are THE BEST, and we’ve tried all the on-the-go ones (kids aged 5 & 7). They’re huge thin crust and not super doughy and crisp up nicely on a pizza stone. And, they’re on sale for $6.99 (or three dollars off) on Fridays. Add a butter lettuce salad for some veggies! My kids eat the lettuce with ranch dressing and that’s it!

  107. Fabi says...

    Brilliant post as I have been in desperate need of some family dinner inspiration. We have a toddler and family dinners usually involve a lot of cleaning up, not much eating & very hungry parents at the end :) But rituals become rituals through repetition and the ones that revolve around food are my personal favorites.

  108. Steph says...

    I love the fact that my family had a sit-down family dinner every night where we all ate the same thing. At the time I couldn’t understand why we had to eat together when I could be playing with friends or in my room on the phone, but now I appreciate it more than anything. It’s something I look forward to now whenever we get together! Now I love having sit-down dinner with my husband, and since we’re pregnant with our first I’m excited to continue the tradition!

  109. Amy says...

    When my oldest son was two, I got tired of cooking his dinner, then making a second meal for my husband and me later in the evening. I made a New Year’s resolution – the only one I’ve ever kept – to eat dinner together every night and it changed my life, the trajectory of our family, and my relationship with my husband for the better. The first night, I started easy with boxed mac and cheese and hot dogs. Now, over ten years later, we still keep it simple, like last night with broccoli and sausages. Burritos, tacos, and pasta are weeknight saviors. Leftovers are great, too. But the real magic is in the nightly connection, the fascinating stories and observations our two boys share, and their improved manners. Our kids are great at conversing with adults and I think family dinner is a big part of it. Whenever I feel down that we’re not doing enough of this, or should work harder on that, I remember that we have dinner together as a family all the time – without screens – and I know we’re all going to be OK.

    • Ellen says...

      I feel the same! My three year old is such a chatterbox and he really eats almost everything. I think family dinner is a big part of that.

    • Amy says...

      I agree with Joanna’s comment above – regular family dinner together isn’t feasible for all. There are lots of other ways to connect as a family. We’re lucky that both my husband and I are home by 6 most evenings. I put a lot of effort into the planning and preparation to make it easier, but it can still be a stressor. That’s why putting less pressure on the meal can make starting the habit more manageable.

  110. Jessica says...

    Good job Joanna! I love family dinners! We have 2 boys: ages 3 and 8. Frittatas and tacos are on the menu every week at our house. I try for easy to clean up dinners and always look forward to the funny stories from the kids.

  111. Marcella says...

    We always ate dinner growing up (my mom is also VERY thrifty and we never went out to eat, just the occasional pizza or fish sandwiches on Fridays during Lent). Sometimes my friends would come over and be like you eat dinner together every night?? At the table?? AND say prayers before you go to bed?? We would all congregate in my parents room and say prayers then chat with my parents sometimes. My mom also started a tradition when we would pick a movie from Netflix (when it still came in the sleeve in the mail!) or we would pick a movie at Blockbuster or the library and it was called “Friday Night Movie Night.” I kind of grew out of it once I was in high school but it’s something we always did as a family, even though my dad would be snoring halfway through, haha.

  112. Nancy says...

    Pizza is a staple in our house. We buy fresh dough at the grocery store (Fairway, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods all sell it and at Caputo’s on Court it’s only $.99/pound! also it’s been my experience that a pizzeria will sell you a ball of their pizza dough). I roll out the dough with the kids; the 4 year old gets a golf ball size ball to play with and the 7 year old actually rolls out the dough. I find the kids need to cook with me because they want my attention after we’ve been apart all day. And then everyone can put what they want on part of it. It’s the ultimate for picky eaters. In my house one wants cheese no sauce, another wants sauce no cheese, a certain grown up can’t stand any vegetable topping, and I basically put a salad on top of mine. It’s done after 12 minutes in the oven.

    • Meredith Jones says...

      Sheer brilliance. I’m filing this one away for future reference. Could also be a fun thing to do hosting a small group!

    • Tori says...

      Any special tips? Do you use a pizza stone or anything special? My homemade pizzas always turn out soggy in the middle. Such a bummer.

    • Christine says...

      Nancy, I love this idea! My 2-year-old wants to help cook every night. I set her on a step stool with a colander, turn on the water, and let her rinse beans, peas, corn, whatever. I can get a good 20 minutes of meal prep in, and she munches on healthy things before dinner is ready!

    • Anna says...

      Tori, try this for your pizza: Get a pizza stone and put it in your oven while you’re pre-heating it (usually to 450 degrees or so for pizza). Keep it in there for at least 30 minutes so it’s really hot. Make your pizza and use a wooden peel (you can get one at Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond) to slide your pizza into the stone to bake and then to remove it when it’s done. This should keep your crust nice and crisp. Good luck!

    • Nancy says...

      We do use a pizza stone and I think it makes a huge difference. As soon as I come home from work I turn on the oven as high as it will go with the stone in it to preheat; you want the stone as hot as possible when you put the dough on it (we keep the stone in the oven at all times since I don’t have storage space for it elsewhere). While the oven is preheating I get out of my work clothes and then start the prep work. By the time the prep work is done the oven is hot and then while the pizza is baking I can clean up.

    • Caroline says...

      If you have extra dough, you can also partake just the crust for 3-4 minutes, then either freeze it like that, or top it and freeze it. Then you have homemade frozen pizza ready to pop in the oven. My kids refuse to eat any commercial frozen pizza, but are happy to eat the homemade kind.

    • Allegra says...

      @Tori – we use a pizza stone, and my husband figured out that if you cook the dough by itself for a couple of minutes before adding sauce / cheese / toppings, you avoid the sogginess and get a much better crust!

  113. Jill says...

    Instead of scrambled eggs, do frittata or quiche with a storebought crust, then add a salad and voila. DINNER.

    Also, google a recipe for honey mustard chicken thighs….super easy (like mix honey, mustard and oil) and super delicious.

  114. Sarah says...

    I recently went through a dinner overhaul: an earnest effort to make four square meals a week: a hearty salad, a pasta, a protein-and-side, and an “other” (like soup or more pasta). We have an assortment of sandwiches or leftovers during the week, and eat randomly on the weekends. This week:
    – Smitten Kitchen kale and pecorino salad with walnuts (subbed almonds and added diced apple), plus crusty bread
    – pasta with turkey bolognese
    – salmon with brown rice and sautéed mushrooms and bok choy
    – roasted chicken with roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts

  115. Ro says...

    After reading through these comments, I’m going to be radical and start making my tacos on Wednesdays.

    • Kat says...

      Haha Ro, I do the same thing. I have my stepkids on Wednesdays and taco/quesadillas are always a hit for them so I make sure they get in on the Taco Wednesday action! :)

  116. Ashley Vujasin says...

    I was just asking a friend what she makes for dinner these days because I’m in a cooking rut! I have 4 kids (7, 5, 2.5, and 3 months) so trying to find something that everyone likes is stressful! My go to meal is roasted chicken with potatoes, carrots, and leeks. Season everything with oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried and fresh herbs, and some white wine. So simple, but pleases even the pickiest of eaters! Love hearing what others are cooking!

    • Dana Cunningham says...

      oh wow! that site looks amazing! i just subscribed – thanks for the tip :)

    • amy says...

      yes! I went to high school with toby :) Been loving all her recipes and that they really can be done in less than 20 min. i don’t do all of them every week but love the variety..

      was just going to suggest this chicken bake my kids love where I just throw some chicken tenders in a baking dish with some pesto and mozz cheese then cook for 40 minutes and toss with pasta. My girls are 3 and 7 and both of them ask for this at least once a week :)

  117. E says...

    I’m totally into eggs for dinner too! I currently live alone and on nights I’m not eating with my boyfriend or friends, eggs & toast are always my go to! They’re the perfect meal if you ask me :) Especially scrambled with spinach and feta, enjoyed while watching an episode of Poldark or Call the Midwife.

    • Sasha L says...

      Eggs and toast are just the best. Especially pan fried toast in butter. Yum.

  118. Ana says...

    I´m 30 and live abroad and the thing I miss the most about home is family dinners. It was the time of the day were everyone is together and we just start the banter.

    Everytime I go home, I stay at my parents and it´s like travelling back in time to my childhood.

  119. Jill says...

    That Greek chicken soup!! It. Is. Awesome.
    I serve it with crusty bread and a salad (Greek of course – cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, olives, red bell pepper, feta, and a small amt of romaine, topped with oil and vinegar and oregano dressing).
    What a meal. I’ll have to do it tonite.
    Food-gasm. ;))

    • Sarah says...

      Your comment just made me so hungry! Going to copy you! :)

  120. Yael says...

    We both work so family dinner is an effort, but we’ve always done it . . . I guess it just feels like home. Both of us are from cultures where the idea of a kids menu doesn’t exist — our kids are 1 & 5, and they eat pretty much everything. A typical week would be 1) steamed fish with chard (the fish is super easy — just dump in a bowl with whatever seasoning you like, & steam; chard is sauteed with garlic); 2) liver, side of stir fried peppers or green beans; 3) Instapot soup (very simple — meat with bone in, potatoes, carrots, etc.), & baby spinach stirred in or another sauteed green; 4) steamed chicken (marinate with honey mustard or miso), broccoli or shredded cabbage stir fry; 5) shrimp stir fry and salad, or baked tofu and mushroom stir fry. We make big pots of different grains to go with, and try to make enough to pack lunches.

  121. Mags says...

    We pretty much always eat dinner as a family at 6:30 (kids are 2 and 5). Since we started before they were born, the kids most often approach it as something to suffer through. (Really, my kids love when my husband is traveling because then I let them eat the same food but standing in the kitchen). So Toby’s comment made me go “awwww” because I wished my kids saw dinner as something special and not something to suffer through.

    • Anna says...

      It will get easier. They may not appreciate it now but one day they’ll be grateful for the time and ritual you established with them. I’m forever thankful for the mundane, simple moments my parents created for my siblings and me, even though I’m sure we didn’t act so grateful in the moment. Keep up the good work!

  122. We are still getting the hang of this, as well! With a 2.5-year-old, I must admit I often want to save dinner time for after she’s in bed at 7pm and I can have a relaxing meal with my husband or a show on Netflix. :)

    We just started doing Sprouted Kitchen’s cooking club and I really like it! We can’t use all the recipes because my husband is allergic to dairy, but it’s really helped me get inspired for meal planning and fill in the gaps between our go-to meals (burrito bowls, stir fry, chili dogs w/ Trader Joe’s veggie chili). And Sara makes things so much better with little tweaks, like roasting the tomatoes for a pasta or making your own dressing for a salad.

  123. Black beans, tortillas, salsa, cheese etc is a family favorite. My kids think eggs are a dinner food not a breakfast food. Our rule is that you have try a bite of everything but other than that I try not to spend too much time coaxing my kids to eat. My kids are still pretty young (5 and 2) but we eat dinner together every night and we try to ask each person: what was your best and worst today, what are thankful for today, and what did you do to help today. I am looking forward to dinners going more smoothly and being more enjoyable as they get older.

  124. Nina says...

    My boy is super picky and I just don’t have the energy to argue about it. So often he’ll eat something (like mac n cheese or ramen) and I’ll eat something else. Pretty much we’ll both eat steak. Meatballs. Chicken I saute with some spices in olive oil and butter. Sauteed broccoli and spinach. Crockpot roast. I’ll also make eggs or pancakes for dinner. He likes little caesar’s pizza which isn’t my favorite so he gets it for a few meals. He also likes sesame chicken from takeout. And a rotisserie chicken is always nice for a few meals.

  125. Lea says...

    I was in search for some recipe inspiration, thank you!

    Just out of curiosity – how did you dinners look like before? I grew up in Turkey and family dinners was a must. Always curious how families in other countries do it differently.

    • E. says...

      I’m from Europe as well and it is completely unfathomable for me how someone could NOT have family dinners every day. Equally unfathomable: to cook and serve kids different food than the adults, to eat anywhere else but at the table, and to have any electronic devices nearby. Of course I’m trying to serve meals that our whole family will like and that are not super fancy to make, and we’ll have the occasional night (less than once per month) that we don’t all sit down together.

  126. Rachel says...

    We always share the grain – pasta, rice, couscous etc – and then I’ll make a main to go with it. One kid will eat it, the other has more preferences. So she’ll do her protein as nuts, milk, cheese stick and then easy crudités like carrots with hummus, peppers etc. One night a week I make something that I want and the kids get Mac and cheese. Sometimes husband will eat it or will stop for pizza before coming home and sitting with us

  127. Trish O says...

    My boys are teens, and I would say we eased into the family dinner when they were in early elementary school (like you are). For us, this time is golden now that everyone is busy and going in different directions. All four of us come together most nights. Sometimes meals are fancy ( I am looking at you, Sunday) and sometimes they are sandwiches. We had gotten into a bad take-out habit, so we are working to break that with a little more meal planning. I have one kid that at 16 is still a picky eater (will not eat anything white…don’t ask). But we make it work. Everyone will eat eggs, so we do some kind of put an egg on it dish each week. Anyway, I think this time together as a family, phones away is the rule, is so important for us and staying connected with our sons.

  128. Jill says...

    Favorite ‘semi’ homemade meal.

    Naan
    Spread w Trader Joe’s pesto (from their pantry not fridge section—the jars are tiny so they don’t go bad once you open them)
    blanched asparagus
    thinly sliced ripe tomatoes
    fresh mozzarella
    shredded rotisserie chicken
    Serve with arugula, pine nuts and a vinaigrette on the side.

    Bake until golden brown. So good and dinner is on the table in 15 minutes!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this sounds SO delicious. thank you, jill!

    • Hilary says...

      FYI pesto freezes really well! I portion it out into ziplocs and then I can pull one out when we want pesto. We make our own and it’s a great way to have fresh pesto all winter but it works with store bought too!

  129. Sophia F. says...

    Honestly, I can’t imagine our family without nightly dinners. We have two daughters, almost 5 and almost 3, and have had family dinner almost every single night since the oldest was eating solids. And no, I don’t have some blissfully peaceful dinner prep with my children helping in matching aprons – family dinner is WORK, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! It can be stressful, and irritating (taking longer to make the dinner than it takes your kids to eat it, anyone?), and sometimes I want to throw in the (dish) towel. However, we have benefited from it in many ways – we have kids who will eat nearly any adult food, who are learning conversational skills, and who can tell a great joke. We hear the bits and pieces of their days that have been held in since school ended, and can answer the questions that have been simmering since they heard that NPR story in the morning. And it’s the first step of a consistent nighttime routine that helps our two wildlings settle down for sleep by 7:30, which itself was a labor of love. My best tips: minimize meals with stovetop stirring or you’ll burn the stir-fry while helping your toddler wipe. Never shy away from a runny egg on anything. Roast vegetables can be the basis of anything, as can a can of beans or the boxes precooked lentils from Trader Joe’s (lifesaver!). Meal plan, always! And sometimes, freezer waffles and fruit is totally ok ;)

    • Dee says...

      This was true for me growing up. But now with a (young) family of my own I am struggling to make it work. My daughter (nearly 2) goes to bed at 7. My husband gets in from work at 7. Basically neither of those things are movable. So really meal planning, prepping, etc I can do. (And we do eat scratch cooked meals EVERY night). But we can’t eat all together. It makes me quite sad.

    • Nancy says...

      Dee,
      When my youngest was little he went to bed at 6 (!). My husband came home at 6. So we started having family breakfast together before work. It wasn’t anything more than a bowl of cereal but we ate together. Then my children went to bed later and it was something fast for the kids (I’m looking at you mac ‘n cheese) and my husband and I would sit at the table with them while they ate to be together and eat on our own after they were in bed. And then it was everyone home from work and day care at 6 and one parent bathing the kids while the other cooked dinner and we ate a real meal together with kids in pjs or half naked since they would get food all over their clothes. And now we still come home at 6 but the kids help us cook and set the table, we eat together and then 7 year old showers himself and his little brother or we skip bathing. My kids go to bed at 8:45 which is later than I would like but I’ve accepted that as the trade off for family dinners.
      My point nothing with kids is permanent and your routine will change. Just because you don’t eat dinner together now doesn’t mean you won’t eat dinner together in a year or even 6 months from now.

    • Tori says...

      Dee-I’m in the same boat. But as my kids get older maybe we will be able to eat later? For now we do what we can. I eat with the kids during the week, we eat as a family on my husband’s days off. And we try to make breakfasts work together but my husband doesn’t eat breakfast (just coffee, usually) so…I think meals as a family are beautiful and would love to have them but just because they don’t happen every night, I don’t think we’re worse off.

      I really like hearing all the go-to meals. Ours lately have been tacos or burritos (meat browned with onions and taco seasoning, then everyone can choose their toppings), rotisserie chicken that we make into salads, quesadillas or have with broccoli and potatoes, oven baked salmon with couscous and veggies and any kind of pasta but usually just with marinara and veggies mixed in or on the side.

  130. Jill says...

    I needed some new ideas, so thank you for this! During the school year, we have a meal theme for each day. For me, it takes the stress out of meal planning while still allowing for creativity and flexibility each night. For our two boys (7 and 5), it gives them predictability and structure at a time of day they’re usually melting down or near melt down. Here is our current schedule:
    -Crockpot Mondays – anything that’s made in the crockpot. This could be chicken chili or bean soup or beef stew.
    -Taco Tuesdays – never gets old!
    -Breakfast for Dinner Wednesdays – Eggs or pancakes or breakfast burritos or even just cereal!
    -Pasta Thursday – usually with store-bought sauce or just butter
    -Stir-Frydays – stir fry – usually from a kit.

    • Jill says...

      Love the naming idea!

    • Lily says...

      Oh my god–we have Breakfast for Dinner on Wednesdays too! My fav night of the week because I can just go on autopilot, and everyone loves breakfast foods in my family. Win win for all!

    • Annie says...

      I’ve started a similar formula, for the very reasons you described! Here’s ours:
      – Mostaccioli Monday: spaghetti & meatballs, ravioli & sauce, etc.
      – Taco Tuesday
      – “Wellness” or “Wildcard” Wednesday: buddha bowls if “wellness”, leftovers if “wildcard” :)
      – Thai Thursdays: curry, stir-fry, lo mein, etc.
      – Freaky Friday: order pizza or get takeout!

    • Jill says...

      Yes, Lily! When I lived alone, I would probably have breakfast for dinner 3 times a week and be totally happy!
      I love the Freaky Friday, Annie! We’re running out of Stirfry kits and I may have to switch it to take out!

  131. teegan says...

    Vegetarians here. I’ve been home during the week with the kids until this year, so now I’m having to tweak my planning with less prep time the three days a week that I’m at work!
    At least once a week we do:
    -frittata with bread or (sweet/white) potatoes on the side
    -taco Tuesday (nearly every week since my now-six-year-old asked for it two years ago. I cook the beans in the crockpot during the day, and my husband makes a big batch of tortillas once or twice a month that we freeze and take out as we need)
    -pasta fagiole (again, beans in the crockpot during the day so that I can throw the soup together in the evening)
    -fridge cleanout, which either means veggie burgers or fried rice with a lot of the veg/miscellany from the week.
    -If there’s not a lot of leftovers, some simple combo of beans and veg: roasted sweet potatoes with black beans and caramelized onions, white bean stew with roasted broccoli and greens, etc.
    -Fridays have been takeout in the past, but we just moved to rural Vermont, so lately I’ve been making pasta and homemade sauce. We get a nice bottle of wine and some good cheese and try to spoil ourselves.

    We’ve always eaten as a family and tried to get the kids to eat what we eat, and it helps letting them choose specific veg or which pasta shape they want. They help roll tortillas, help chop mushrooms, grate their own cheese, etc.

    • Carrie says...

      I’m a vegetarian also, no kids yet. How did you decide how to feed your kids? Do you let them eat meat now and see if they decide to go vegetarian on their own? I think that is what I might do some day. I’m 32 now and have already been a vegetarian for 20 years. I feel like it’s just how I was made. Hoping my future children come to a decision they feel this certain about one day

    • GJ says...

      Fellow vegetarian here. Really appreciate hearing your ideas and LOVE the fridge cleanout night (something I’m actively trying to get better about :).

    • Marnie says...

      Great ideas here! Carrie, I feel your struggle. We eat veg at home but let our kids choose whether to eat meat when offered. My oldest (7) has refused meat since she figured out it came from animals. My four year old LOVES meat – she used to have it for lunch at her daycare, but now that she is in school, she really misses it! I’m leaning toward cooking up a piece of chicken each week and doling it out in her lunches throughout the week. It is tricky though!
      Also: we rely on soups and curries that I batch on weekends to freeze for mid-week meals – just add toast/rice/quinoa!

    • Sasha L says...

      Veggie here too! Carrie, I’d been vegetarian for awhile when we had our first baby, my husband had been vegetarian but wasn’t any longer. He came up with the idea of raising them veg, letting them change at any point if they wanted to. They never have, 20 & 21 now. His reasoning was it’s really more of a choice to choose meat when you’ve never had it, than eat it your whole life and then choose not to. Also, little kids don’t know what they are eating…. They don’t understand hamburger is an animal. He wanted them to know the animal, and then choose to eat it if that’s the case. Also, no real negatives to being raised veg, and it cut out a lot of crap food. This is just what worked for us, hope it helps.

    • Eva says...

      Fellow vegetarian here! I don’t mind if my kids or my husband eat meat, but I won’t cook meat other than sausages. Since I am the main cook at our house, nobody eats meat very often, other than the occasional rotisserie chicken or takeout. So far, one of my kids loves meat and will eat it at every opportunity, the other prefers vegetarian fare.

    • sarah says...

      I have the same question as Carrie. I’ve been a pescatarian for 10 years, and my husband eats meat (though he cooks it less often since we started dating, and now mainly makes it for his lunches). I’m unsure of how we’ll handle it when we have kids, though!

    • teegan says...

      Hi Carrie! When we had kids, I had been veg for about five years and my husband for more than ten, so we figured we would simply keep eating the foods we were eating and allow them to choose once we thought they were old enough to “get it.” So when they were toddlers, we told them their grandparents’ chicken was spicy. When my oldest was about three, we explained what it really meant. Now six, he is very fierce about his vegetarian status and careful to ask when we’re eating at parties, etc, if things are vegetarian (once he asked if there was meat in a birthday cake!). The three-year-old also doesn’t have any interest in meat. If they did want to try it, we probably wouldn’t keep it in the house (my husband is more staunch about this than I am), but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Also, as Sasha said, not eating meat seems to cut out a lot of junkier options, since fast food isn’t anything we do for meals (just rare french fry fixes!) and we end up cooking things that taste a lot better than most vegetarian restaurant options. It doesn’t hurt that I work for a working dairy farm, so I bring home milk, eggs, and extra veggies as part of my pay.

  132. Carol Wayne says...

    If your kids are picky veggie eaters….mine all hated onions …a hand held mixer is your best friend. Some olive oil, onions, garlic. peppers, zuchini, and canned tomato sauce, saute the veggies till soft, add tomatoes and then blend away…serve over pasta or use in meatloaf ….

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, carol!

  133. Daniela says...

    We don’t have kids yet, but my boyfriend is dairy and gluten intolerant and I can’t have nuts, garlic, or onions. We focus on a lot of protein (shrimp, chicken, ground beef, etc) and then add veggies and a carb of some sort so we can both eat. On the menu for the week is lime shrimp with beans and rice, chicken enchiladas, turkey-mushroom burgers (GF buns), buttermilk chicken (with almond milk), and such :)

  134. Nina says...

    I have twins (5 years old yesterday!). A year ago they decided to switch personalities- the picky eater started eating everything and the other became picky. Unfortunately the currently picky one also has allergies. But she’ll eat Kale, so I’ve decided she’s an alien.

    Its not easy feeding little kids. Allergies and sensory issues make it harder. And its even harder when the adults around you get annoyed that your kids are picky. I’m just looking forward to when this phase passes.

    They hate sauces, but olive tapenade and the Trader Joe’s balsamic reduction seem to make some foods edible.

    Oh, and studies show that whats important is eating together. But you don’t all need to be sitting around the table together. I get home at dinner time and I start throwing food at my kids immediately. They sit at the island and I cook and serve, and they eat and talk. One of my girls needs to get up and dance every few bites. I know its not ‘polite’ but its what she needs.

    • Claudia says...

      This sounds like my house! a few bites, a dance from my 4 year old, I think it just makes dinner more fun.

  135. Sara says...

    That pasta with sausage and broccoli is soooo good with some lemon squeezed on top. I just made it the other day :)

  136. Lana says...

    I live easy meal ideas! I make a list each week, post it on the fridge and force myself to stick to it, even when something else catches my eye on instagram and sounds incredibly delicious. We also do pizza every single Friday and our girls (8 and 4) love it so much. It’s such an easy, delicious tradition. Here’s this week’s menu:
    Migas with sautéed peppers and onions (yay for eggs!)
    Halusky
    Ham, green beans and new potatoes in the crock pot with Jiffy cornbread
    Pork ragu (smitten kitchen recipe) from freezer served over polenta with a simple side salad
    Pizza!

    • Sara says...

      Oooh stealing the ham, green beans, and potatoes recipe! Do you add broth or anything?

    • Lana says...

      Yes! Just a good glug of chicken or veggie stock. I also put a sliced onion and minced garlic in it, but wait to season it until it’s cooked bc the ham can be salty!

  137. ERM says...

    Family dinners are huge for me. A friend of mine who I’ve known for ever refers to it as “my thing.” Even with babies, I wanted us to be all gather around the same table sharing a meal at the end of the day (when there isn’t soccer, lacrosse, back to school night, board meetings, etc.). We do it when we can!

    Favorites include 1) tacos (my son who subsists on air alone puts fruit in the corn shells. Taking a page out of Jenny’s book I still call it a win).
    2) Something I call “Choose your own adventure spagetti” where I separately saute onions, ground sausage, spinach and have grated parm – each are put in separate dishes. People can load up their spaghetti how they like to eat it. The kids love it.
    3) Become friends with your cock pot. I do pulled chicken or pork. Can be taco filling one night and thrown on top of a salad the next.
    4) Huevos Rancheros – fry a flour tortilla, heat up some refried beans, shred some colby jack. Pile it on your crispy tortilla with 1 or 2 over easy eggs. Serve with Salsa, sour cream and avocados if you have some around.
    5) At the start of the week I try to make a stash of breaded chicken cutlets. These can quickly be turned into a variety of dinner options – a buffalo chicken sandwich, chicken strips, chicken parm, etc. Having some breaded chicken cutlets made fresh in the fridge can be a game changer for weekday dinners.

  138. Sarah says...

    I’m so interested to hear how other parents do dinner! I have two kids – a 3 year old and a 14 month old. The 3 year old is pretty picky, though he eats enough different meals that I don’t end up serving him the same thing every night. I make a real effort to cook food and not pull too many items out of the freezer, but working full time and having a 14 month old that I can hardly take my eyes off of, man, its hard. I’ve gotten into the habit of food prepping on Sundays and stashing double batches for a later date whenever I can.

    This weekend I made a massive batch of Italian wedding soup – the meatballs were stuffed with sausage, spinach, grated carrots and apples, and the other usual suspects. I had to pull the meatballs out of the soup and serve them to the 3 year old covered in parmesan next to a hunk of bread and butter, but it felt like a real win. We’ve eaten it twice this week. My dad takes my family out to dinner on Wednesdays, and we also order takeout or go for pizza every Friday. Tomorrow I will serve a homemade tomato sauce (previously frozen!) with pasta, cannellini beans, and lots of cheese. Other meals on the regular rotation are simple lettuce wraps, large batches of grilled chicken alongside large batches of roasted vegetables (nuggets for 3), tacos with all the fixings (quesadillas for 3), and so many meatballs. Meatballs are a family favorite and I stuff so many vegetables into them. Before I was a parent I said I wouldn’t hide vegetables. I hide so. many. vegetables.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “Before I was a parent I said I wouldn’t hide vegetables. I hide so. many. vegetables.” = hahahaha love this :)

    • ERM says...

      Agree! Meatballs ready to go at any time is also a lifesaver.

    • Jacki R Hayes says...

      We used to do “the choose your own adventure” type meals when the kids were young. Just set out a variety of ingredients to make tacos, nachos, overloaded bake potatoes, etc. It always surprised me that when we did this, the kids actually chose to eat veggies. Not a lot, but we didn’t have to say a thing to get at least a few on their plate.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s great, jacki!

    • Sara says...

      I don’t know if you ready Dinner A Love Story, but she has a lot of good advice about making one dinner but serving different components to different kids depending on what they’ll eat. We basically make whatever we, the parents, want to eat and let the kids eat whatever part of if they want to, but we don’t make multiple dinners unless something is too spicy for them.

    • Sarah says...

      @Sara yes I’ve been reading Dinner a Love Story for years and years! I have all of her books :) I will say, even with all I’ve read, it is still so hard. My husband has type 1 diabetes and a pasta-centric dish (that would otherwise hook the 3 year old in and become a gateway food for so many other foods) is kind of out of the question. I struggle to find things that everyone can and/or will eat. Even a roast chicken breast is something my son won’t touch and I end up subbing nuggets for him (sometimes homemade!). I’ve gotten good at doing kid-friendly versions of the adult meal, like the simple quesadillas when the rest of us have tacos, but sometimes even the most kid-friendly version does not get nibbled at without a fight. What can I say? I am up against a more than worthy opponent. But like everything else I know its a phase. Reading posts like this about how others do dinner with littles is so so helpful, and I especially love hearing about the otherwise boring logistics of it all.

    • Regina says...

      Sarah – Where and how do you hide the vegetables? I have 2 and 4-year-old sons. Desperate for advice on vegetable consumption.

    • Sarah says...

      Regina – so far what I’ve learned is that orange vegetables can hide in almost anything – squash and pumpkin and sweet potato can go undetected in mac and cheese, pancakes, ground beef, you name it. I use jarred baby food to accomplish this without adding extra work for myself. My son has yet to grow suspicious of my tomato sauce, so I’ll make a spinach or broccoli pesto, store baggies of it in the freezer, and stir it into sauces. It honestly tastes great. And a meatball will honestly hide anything. My greatest achievement in parenthood and maybe life is the invention of the “green monster shake,” sold to my son as Wally the Green Monster’s (Boston Red Sox fan!) favorite beverage. It contains kale or spinach, any other shake ingredients I can scrape together, plus enough pineapple to make it all taste good. My son thinks it’s dessert and once I got him to eat broccoli in exchange for his coveted green shake, little sucker. To be clear I still put whole vegetables on his plate and encourage him to taste everything, but I sleep better knowing he got SOMETHING healthy in there whether he knows it or not. I’ve convinced myself that the constant exposure to hidden spinach will eventually develop in him a deep appreciation for it, I I don’t want to hear otherwise;)

    • Sara says...

      I read your below comment, and I’m sorry it’s such a struggle :/ Will your 3 year old eat any veggies if they’re not hidden? TOTALLY get it if not :)

  139. Diana says...

    Something I read (perhaps in an article on your site?!) is to pick a theme for each day; ie: Monday=meatless, Tuesday=italian, etc and then you can include your kids in the dishes you prepare. Also, this cookbook (https://www.amazon.com/Weelicious-Fast-Fresh-Easy-Recipes/dp/0062078445/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1537983264&sr=8-2&keywords=weelicious) has been great for the entire family, my kids love the enchiladas! And, agreed, breakfast for dinner is ALWAYS a wonderful idea. Also, I’m ALL about the crock pot on the weekends (https://www.amazon.com/Skinnytaste-One-Done-No-Fuss-Dinners/dp/1524762156/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537983342&sr=8-1&keywords=skinnytaste)

    • Mims says...

      We absolutely do this for family dinner: theme days!
      Meatless mondays: pasta or kitchen sink fried rice
      Taco Tuesdays
      Cajun Wednesday: veggie gumbo or jambalaya or red beans and rice
      Thai (or asian) Thursday: coconut curry soup or pad thai (made with green papaya noodles) or rice/ veggies/peanut sauce or bulgogi and kimchi; buckwheat soba or rice noodle ramen, etc.
      Friday: pizza!
      Soup sundays: bean and barley, butternut, tomatoe, minestrone, lentil.

      Makes my life sooo much easier! esp if I spend ten minutes in the morning soaking beans or pulling something frozen out of freezer, or generally reviewing what I had in the fridge that needed using up.
      We dont eat gluten, eggs or dairy, so we tend to eat ethnic. Always mixing it up.

  140. Do I spy meatless Mondays? That’s rad.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, haha, accidentally! but we can definitely stick to it. i love vegetarian recipes :)

  141. Amanda G says...

    A favorite easy supper my husband and I both swear by is also the simplest recipe in the world. Dump a jar of spaghetti sauce in a saute pan and heat. I’ll sometimes add vegetables I have kicking around in the fridge that need to be eaten – generally zucchini, spinach, diced onion, mushrooms, and/or bell peppers go well in this, but they usually need to be sauteed a little beforehand.

    When the pasta sauce is hot and simmering (but not boiling with big bubbles!), add eggs directly into sauce, cover the pan, and poach. Life hack: crack the eggs into a small bowl first, it makes getting them into the pan less messy and you can pick out shell if you need to!

    As the eggs poach, I’ll cut thick slices of a crusty bread and top with butter, roasted garlic powder, and a little parm if I have it. I pop the slices under the broiler until they’re perfectly brown and crispy, then top with the eggs and sauce and more parmesan. It’s the most delicious if your egg yolks are runny!

    I think I got this recipe from Smitten Kitchen way back when, and I feel like I make a new adaptation every time, but that’s the beauty of it! It also comes together in like 10 minutes flat, so it’s perfect for busy evenings.

    We also do an ‘Italian skillet’ in the same vein – saute up some onions, zucchini, mushrooms and peppers, add pre-cooked Italian sausage (we like the Brat Hans chicken Italian sausage), and then add some pasta sauce at the end and heat through. Can serve with bread, or pasta, but neither are necessary!

  142. Holly says...

    I make 4 complete weeknight meals ahead on Sunday. During the week, my husband and I take turns microwaving it. :) It’s the only way I can get healthy meals done with work plus a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old. Often it’s some sort of chicken casserole I can sneak veggies into.

  143. Anna says...

    I have a similar meal planning strategy- plan for four days and leave room for one order in/go out meal. We waste so much less food this way! On Sundays I try to make something in the crockpot or dutch oven. That way I have the rest of the day for lazing around and leftovers for Monday night (Mondays are the hardest day for me when it comes to dinner motivation).

    My toddler who used to eat EVERYTHING has decided to only eat grapes for dinner this week. I know it’s probably a phase, but GAH! It’s so frustrating. What I wouldn’t do to have someone BEG me to eat macaroni and cheese ;)

  144. Jen says...

    This is basically us, except we only have one toddler. We eat family dinner together every night around 6 pm and then she goes to bath/bed after. Sometimes one or both of us have to work at night to make up for it but it’s worth it.

    Some of our go-to dinners include: sheet pan dinner (throw a bunch of chicken thighs and vegetables on a pan, season, olive oil, bake), homemade pizza with Trader Joe’s pre-made dough, broiled salmon with couscous, rice with stir fry, roast pork loin with roast veg (easy, cheap, delicious).

  145. Abby says...

    I have a four month old baby, and making nice, daily dinners can be tough! We, too, order out on Friday evenings, but recently I have been making broccoli rabe calzones (prep the dough over the weekend, then leave in the fridge until the day of), cacio e pepe with roasted broccoli, and a crispy chickpea recipe from Bon Apetit that takes about 5 minutes of prep time.

  146. Ali says...

    No tacos? That’s a staple every week and gets my kids to eat vegetables without complaint. I just brown 3/4 of a pound of ground sirloin and add a 12 ounce jar of good quality black bean and corn salsa to the pan. It’s the easiest filling, then all you need are tortillas, and your favorite toppings. We use peppers, tomatoes, avocados, lettuce, and sour cream.

    • Abbie says...

      This ☝🏻 EVERY Tuesday in our house is taco Tuesday. I swap the kind of taco, burrito, quesadilla, to keep it interesting but it saves me having to plan. The kids love it, i love it, husband loves it.

  147. Shauna says...

    One of my favorite recent creations is known in our house either as “egg tacos” or “Mexican matzo brei”. Basically I tear up some soft tortillas (I like the corn ones from Trader Joe’s) and warm them briefly on the skillet. To the same pan, I then add 1-2 eggs per person, a generous sprinkle of pre-shredded cheese, and dollops of hatch chili salsa (again from TJs). Let the whole thing melt and meld to the desired ratio of done-ness/crispiness (sometimes I make a kind of omelet out of it, other times a scramble), and serve with salsa on the side. It is tasty, comforting, and surprisingly healthy – protein, calcium, and vitamin C from the hatch chiles!

    • Deborah says...

      Lol at “Mexican matzo brie!” You’ve invented something on your own but it’s also a real Mexican dish called “migas.” I also make matzo brie, interesting how both cultures have a similar dish. Love it, too!

  148. My parents were always committed to family dinner while we were growing up (and still are, actually, lol), and I was always a fan of it! Have you shifted their dinner later and your own earlier to compensate for the change? We would always have a snack when we got home from school and would eat dinner around 6-6:30. Dinner time at my parents’ is now between 7 and 8 now that we are all adults. :D

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! we now eat between 6 and 6:30. xoxo

    • katie says...

      Our family sat down every night for dinner together too. And we ate between 6:00 or 6:30 depending on when my dad’s last appointment was. My mom worked too, but was usually home between 4:00 and 5:00. She made a lot of casserole or crockpot dishes. I remember tacos always being a fun treat! Or ordering pizza on a Friday.

      I’m so glad for those family dinners. It’s one of my favorite things my parents did with/for us. The husband and I aren’t going to have children, but we eat together almost every night (unless I’m working extremely late or one of us has an event) and we have a phones off/away policy during dinner. It feels like a holdover from childhood.