By Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand, via Wikimedia Commons

Ding. Ding. Ding. The dinner bell rings and the family rushes to the dinner table to gather for a well-rounded meal together. This concept might seem foreign to some. There was a time when eating a family meal together was a priority and no one was excused from missing a meal together with the family, no matter what the reason. How times have changed! Today’s fast-paced lifestyle affects one of the most important family values we hold in America, and eating together as a family goes to the wayside.


Why is it so important to eat together as a family? According to The Family Dinner Project®, researchers have been looking into the benefits of eating together as a family for over 15 years and have confirmed that sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. In fact, regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and better self-esteem – not to mention lower rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.


With all the reasons why we should eat together, still many American families are challenged with meeting this goal. Time is an issue as well as budget. Keep these simple strategies in mind to help make family meals together a success.


  1. Put your family first – Look at your schedules and try to plan several meals together as a family for the week. Remember that meals don’t necessarily have to be the dinner meal. If breakfast is the best time to eat together as a family, that is perfectly fine.
  2. Make it simple – Meals do not need to be difficult to prepare. Planning ahead is key! Take inventory of your pantry and fridge and see what you already have on hand. Check your local grocery store ads to see if there are additional food items you can purchase on sale to complement the items you already have on hand to complete your family meals. This will help save you time and money. Write your meal plan in your calendar or on a chalkboard to display for the family so everyone knows what is being served throughout the week.
  3. Make it fun – Mealtime together as a family can be stressful – but if you keep in mind eating together as a family can be fun and a way for the family to reconnect, the stress will melt away and your family will learn to enjoy mealtime together. Here are a few tips for making mealtime a little more enjoyable for the entire family:
  • Get the kids involved in choosing menu options and with meal preparation. They can even get involved in the grocery shopping.
  • Come up with a menu theme for the week such as “Mexican Week” or “Grilling Week.”
  • Have a friendly cooking challenge between members of the family to see who is the better family chef.
  • Play a game or tell a story that relates to the food items you prepared for meal.
  • Explore a mystery food of the week and incorporate that food into several dinner dishes.
  • Pretend your dining room is a restaurant. You can even use special dinnerware and tablecloths to add to the ambience of the room to make it an extra-special meal. Have the kids pretend they are waiters/waitresses. They can take orders and help serve dinner.

For more fun meal ideas, conversation starters and other ideas to help make family meal planning a success, check out Check out these budget-friendly recipes that are five ingredients or less, and feed a family of four for less than $10, that could easily be incorporated into your next weekly family meal plan.


Roasted Chicken Legs with Grapes
Serves 4

By Michael J. Bennett, via Wikimedia Commons

All you need:
1 lb grapes
2 tbsp Hy-Vee canola oil
1 tbsp Hy-Vee chicken grill seasoning
2 pounds chicken legs
Fresh green beans and/or Hy-Vee frozen crinkle-cut carrots, for serving

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. On a baking sheet, toss grapes and canola oil with grill seasoning. Lay chicken legs among the grapes on baking sheet.
  3. Roast, basting the chicken legs occasionally with the pan juices, for 20 to 25 minutes. Internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken leg should register 165 degrees.
  4. Serve with fresh green beans and/or frozen Hy-Vee crinkle-cut carrots, if desired.

Nutrition facts per serving: 280 calories, 12g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 90mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 24g protein.

Source: Hy-Vee Dietitians


By Tamorlan, via Wikimedia Commons

Spinach and Egg Quiche Cups
Serves 4 (3 egg cups each).

All you need
8 eggs
1/2 cup diced Hy-Vee ham
1/2 (10 oz) pkg Hy-Vee frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup Hy-Vee shredded Colby Jack cheese, divided
Hy-Vee 100% whole wheat toast and cantaloupe, for serving

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Scramble eggs and add ham and spinach. Pour into prepared muffin tin. Top with cheese.
  3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Serve with Hy-Vee 100% whole wheat toast and cantaloupe, if desired.

Nutrition facts per serving: 310 calories, 21g fat, 9g saturated fat, 470mg cholesterol, 380mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 25g protein.

Source: Hy-Vee Dietitians


Spaghetti Pizza
Serves 4

All you need
1/2 (16 oz) pkg Hy-Vee omega-3 spaghetti
2 eggs
2 tbsp water
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 (26 oz) can Midwest Country Fare spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 cups Dole packaged and ready-to-eat broccoli
Hy-Vee bagged salad and Hy-Vee light dressing, for serving

All you do:

  1. Break spaghetti into 2-inch pieces. In large pan, cook according to package directions. Drain and cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. In large bowl, beat eggs and water together.
  4. Add 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese and cooked spaghetti; stir until thoroughly combined.
  5. Grease a 10.5-by-15.5.-by-0.5-inch pan and spread spaghetti in pan.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees.
  8. Spread spaghetti sauce on top and top with chopped broccoli. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  9. Bake 15 minutes longer. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.
  10. Serve with Hy-Vee bagged salad and Hy-Vee light dressing, if desired.

Nutrition facts per serving: 410 calories, 11g fat, 4g saturated fat, 120mg cholesterol, 990mg sodium, 59g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 20g protein.

Source: Hy-Vee Dietitians


Tasty Pork Bites
Serves 4

All you need
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup Hy-Vee salsa
1/4 cup Hy-Vee peach preserves
Hy-Vee Southern Style hash browns and/or Midwest Country Fare frozen vegetables, for serving

All you do:

  1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add pork; cook and stir to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add salsa and preserves to pan; lower heat, cook and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Serve with Hy-Vee Southern Style hash browns and/or Midwest Country Fare frozen vegetables, if desired.

Nutrition facts per serving: 310 calories, 10g fat, 3g saturated fat, 105mg cholesterol, 560mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 35g protein.

Source: adapted by the Hy-Vee dietitians from the Iowa Pork Association.

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.