kids cooking, families in the kitchen

Making Weeknight Meals Easier

kids cooking, families in the kitchen

Our kitchen is the center of our home. Most of this has to do with the fact that I am a food writer and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, testing recipes and taking photos. I also love to encourage the kids to be in there with me. They are my best little helpers and do their homework while I prepare dinner.

For some reason, when I had kids I knew that I really wanted family dinners to be a tradition for us. Getting together at the end of the day is such a special time and something I really strive to do most days of the week. Don’t get me wrong–our schedule is insane. Both Sawyer and Nova have their time intensive activities on top of school (gymnastics, piano, and theater), Aaron and I run two businesses, I work full time and try to stay in shape.

Still we manage to have dinner together at least five nights a week and more if schedule allows.

I put together a few simple steps on what makes our weeknight practice run smoothly. (Most of the time).

Make a Plan for the Week

There is nothing worse than going into the week with no idea of what to feed the family. I used to get a feeling of dread around 3 pm, when I realized that my family would be wanting to eat dinner in a few hours and I didn’t have any idea of what to make. It would usually end with a trip to the grocery store or restaurant for something quick and easy. I wasn’t completely happy with this option—feeling like I was feeding too much processed foods and spending too much money. Since, I am a planner–pre-planning our meals was such a natural step. I like to take the time on Sundays to go over the plan with the kids, to get their input and buy-in. It makes everything run smoothly.


It Doesn’t Have to be a Martha Stewart Dinner

In fact, during the week, I tend to prepare my old stand-bys week after week. These meals are simple, wholesome, and quick. Some of my favorite meals for weeknights include basic bean and cheese burritos, beans and rice, turkey chili, lasagna, grilled chicken and salads. Because I am a food blogger, I might test a recipe or two during the week but I usually save those for weekend cooking extravaganzas.

Get Kids Involved

Depending on the ages of your children, you can have them help out with setting the table, getting water for everyone, or actually serving the meal. Our two are responsible for emptying the dishwasher and clearing the table.

Sawyer Helping

NO TV? What do we do?

We usually avoid TV during our family dinner unless it is Wednesday and we are watching Survivor. Inevitably, Aaron and I will start into business talk and we really have to try hard to not guide the conversation to the businesses. We have picked up a couple of “games” during dinner to get the conversation going.

Roses, Buds and Thorns

One of my favorites is called, “Roses, Buds and Thorns”. Basically, each person goes around the table and states their Rose, Buds and Thorns from that day. The rose represents the highlight of their day, the thorn the negative point of their day and the bud represents something that they look forward to. With younger children, it is a great way to get them to really think about their day and possibly share something that they might not normally think to share.

Celebrating Failures

Awhile ago, we decided to use some of our dinner time to talk about failures we experienced throughout our day. This idea came from a business leader talking about her childhood and her father would celebrate her failures. The idea is that if you don’t have failures, you didn’t challenge yourself enough. We like to go around and talk about our failures for the day, however big or small, and give each other advice on how to go about things differently. I think it is important for the kids to see that we have failures too and sometimes they come up with very creative ideas on how to make things better.

Weeknight dinners should be quick and easy for any busy family.  GE Appliances can help streamline the kitchen process with their hands-free auto-fill refrigerator, their double oven range, to their 102 jet wash system dishwasher.  To see these appliances in action check out GE: Kitchen Reimagined.  For more tips on weeknight dinners head over to FoodNetwork Weeknight Kitchen page for recipes, tips, and much more!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of GE Appliances. The opinions and text are all mine.