family dinnerOne final simple family resolution. Would it surprise you that secular universities, news agencies, and pastors are all in agreement that there is one thing that you can resolve to do this year that will benefit your family spiritually, mentally, physically, socially and emotionally? I’m not lying. One thing. It’s even something that you already do. You’re not going to be surprised when I tell you what it is, only that so many people have studied it and come to the same conclusion. Resolve in 2015 to

4) Become a Family who Eats Meals Together at Home.

Every bit of what I said in the intro is true. From Cornell to Purdue, Universities are lining up to share their findings about families who eat dinner together and the results are shocking. Decreased depression, substance abuse and pregnancy. Not to mention eating disorders and obesity. Plus, increased grade point averages and self confidence. That doesn’t even count what you can accomplish spiritually in your conversations and emotionally in how children feel about their relationship with parents. Oh, and you end up saving some serious coin. Do I really need to go on?

Trust me, I know it’s tough. My family usually makes it around the dinner table three nights during the week and one during the weekend. It takes some planning, preparing and commitment to make it happen, but I know it’s something that makes a significant difference in our family. We are far from perfect at this, in fact, as I write this my wife and I are trying to figure out what we’ll be doing for dinner tonight based on an unusually busy schedule, but by and large we’ve seen it work and are committed to it.

1) Decide how many days is realistic for your family to shoot for sitting down together for a meal. Our goal is three weekdays, because we know Wednesdays we are going to be grabbing something before church and most Fridays we treat ourselves to a meal out somewhere. We’re not legalistic about it, some weeks it’s two and others it’s four, but if you don’t decide on a goal, something will always come up that leaves you scrambling to just see your teens’ faces during the week. Make it as important as practice, private lessons or your gym workout- because it is. If you only have one night right now- go for it, this is one case where some is infinitely better than none.

2) Strategize your meals. Whether you choose to go the consistent route- “tonight is taco Tuesday!”- the fast prep route- “I think we wore out another crock pot”- or even the take out route- “hey, it’s still around our table!”- Come up with a strategy that works for your family. I know some families cook lots during the weekend so weekday cooking is easier. In our house the crock pot gets quite a work out along with easy to make favorites and simple to steam fresh vegetables. We usually shop in six meal increments so everything is on hand for those six meals- two-ish weeks of meals at  home.

3) Divide and conquer! Maybe the most important strategy that allows us to succeed at eating together at home is dividing the work load. Now that our kids are old enough to do dishes and clear the table this is even more important. In our house everyone has a night for dishes and I take at least one night of cooking. It definitely has to be planned around when it comes to homework and such, and there are nights when mom and dad show some grace, but by and large what makes this work is that when dinner is over the chef is not also stuck looking at a mountain of dirty dishes. Oh, and don’t tell the tree-huggers, but we have also been known to use paper plates now and then… I won’t tell if you don’t.

Listen, this might be a hard routine to establish, but it won’t be long before you’re coming up with fun ways to spice up your family meals, letting the kids cook for you, and watching them schedule their lives around your meals together. Make the effort and reap the rewards! For more ideas check out the Family Dinner Project.