6 Things to Consider When Preparing Family Meals at Home

There’s something about gathering around the dinner table with a family that just can’t be beaten. Whether it’s a holiday feast or a regular old weeknight meal, shared meals are a time-honored way to connect with loved ones and create memories.

But cooking for a crowd can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen. Before you start preparing your next big family meal, take heed of these six tips, as they’ll make things go much more smoothly for everyone involved.

Make a Plan

The first step to any successful family meal is to make a plan. You’ll need to decide what you’re going to make, how much of it you need, and what ingredients you’ll need to buy. It may help to sit down with everyone who’s going to be eating and get their input on what they’d like to see on the menu.

Once you have a plan, make a shopping list of all the ingredients you’ll need to execute it, as well as other things. These include decorations, Point-of-use (POU) water filters, serving ware, and anything else you might need. Getting everything organized ahead of time will make the actual cooking process much less stressful.

Get Organized

Once you have your game plan, it’s time to get organized. This step is key to making sure the meal comes together without any stressful hiccups. First, take inventory of all the cookware and serving dishes you’ll need and make sure they’re clean and ready to go. Then, prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. This means chopping vegetables, measuring out spices, and anything else you can do ahead of time.

Doing as much as you can in advance will make the cooking process much smoother and less chaotic. It’s also a good idea to set the table ahead of time so that everything is ready to go when the food is done.

Create a Relaxed Atmosphere

One of the best things about family meals is they offer a chance to relax and catch up with loved ones, so you can make the atmosphere even more relaxed by creating a comfortable seating area and setting the mood with some soft lighting and music.

You may also want to put away any electronics so that everyone can focus on each other and the meal, which is especially important if you have young children who might be tempted to stare at screens the whole time.

Be Flexible

Even with the best-laid plans, things can sometimes go awry in the kitchen - maybe you overcooked the roast or forgot an ingredient for the pie. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to be flexible and go with the flow. After all, the most important thing is that everyone is enjoying themselves and the company.

If you do make a mistake, there’s no need to stress out or apologize profusely. Just laugh it off and move on. Nobody is perfect, and your family will understand.

On the other hand, you can outsource some of the tasks if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ordering pizza for delivery or having someone else bring over a dish or two can take some of the pressure off and allow you to enjoy the meal as well.

Consider the seating

One thing you might not think about when preparing a family meal is the seating, however where everyone sits can have a big impact on how the meal goes. If you have young children, they might do better sitting near someone they’re comfortable with, like a grandparent or aunt.

Or, if there are any tensions within the family, it might be best to seat people who get along well next to each other so that they can help set the tone for the meal.

Additionally, if there are older people or ones who need assistance, it’s a good idea to seat them closer to the table, so they don’t have to walk as far.

Think about distractions and group activities

While it’s nice to catch up with family during meals, sometimes the conversation can lull, or things can get a little too quiet. To avoid this, you can plan by coming up with some topics of conversation or fun group activities.

For instance, you could go around the table and have everyone share one good thing that happened to them that week or come up with a funny story from childhood.

You could also have a trivia night or play a game like charades after the meal. Planning for these kinds of things will help ensure that everyone is engaged and enjoying themselves.

Family meals are a great way to come together and catch up on each other's lives. By getting organized ahead of time, creating a relaxed atmosphere, being flexible, considering the seating, thinking about distractions and group activities, and taking into account who will be attending the meal, your family dinner can be enjoyable for everyone.

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