Kate Williams, RD
Sitting down for a meal with my family is one of the best parts of my day. I love listening to my 5-year old twins discuss upgrades to their fort (made out of a washing machine box of course) or my son reliving the best wave he caught on a recent trip to the beach. With school starting up again, this nightly ritual tends to be rushed. We have to try harder to make it happen and we are not alone. The way families eat together and live together has changed over time, presenting new challenges to sitting at the table together. This month, we celebrate National Family Meals Month with tips on how families can sit down for one more meal together each week.
I reached out to our internal family meal experts, the Consumer Test Kitchens, for insights on how family meals changed and what we can do to make them happen more often. Whether you are personally trying to eat more meals with your family, or you are trying to encourage others, these insights and solutions help everyone eat more meals at home.
Families Shop Differently Than Before
The days of stocking up once per week at the local grocery store are over for many families. Now, families shop in a variety of places. They buy in bulk at club stores, shop online, browse dollar stores, and more. The traditional supermarket is still a mainstay, but consumers today diversify where they stock up.
- Keep your meal plans and weekly recipes organized with digital tools like Pinterest, save preferences and recipe favorites on Campbell’s Kitchen, and other online recipe databases. This way you know what you need no matter where and when you shop.
- Stay Organized—nothing is worse than finishing up your shopping and realizing you forgot several items. Whether you use old fashioned pen and paper or an app, make a list to keep you organized.
Tight on Time
We all seek shortcuts when juggling our schedules and meals are no exception. 63% of Americans decide what to eat less than an hour before eating.1 When talking to the Campbell Test Kitchen team, I learned most families with kids spend less than 45 minutes preparing and eating their meals.
- A stocked pantry, fridge and freezer set you up for success. Keeping key ingredients like whole grains, cooking sauces, marinara, beans, and more help you make meals happen without hitting the drive through.
- Take advantage of grocery delivery and shopping services. These save time and can help you stay organized with historical shopping lists and orders.
- Use your weekends to plan and prepare meals ahead of time. Check out our tips on how to plan like a pro.
Addicted to Tech
Technology can be addicting and distracting. In a Food Marketing Institute survey, 21% of families with kids reported too many distractions as an obstacle to eating family dinners together.2 However, the biggest offenders are not who you might expect. According to a Nielsen Survey, Generation X (born 1965-1980) and Baby Boomers (born 1950-1965) are most likely to be on technology during meal times.3
- Silence all electronics and leave them in a hallway or a basket by the front door before gathering at the table. Even the television in the next room can be a distraction, so turn that off too.
- Make conversation a priority. Feeling stuck? Purchase a Table Topics conversation card kit or look at the prompts provided by The Family Dinner Project.
The best tip of all?
Start small, try to eat ONE more meal together each week—whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, take the time to eat together. The meal may only be 15 minutes but the memories last forever.
Make Dinner, Make Memories!
Kate's BioKate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.
- Manufacturers Toolkit: Trends in Family Meals, Food Marketing Institute, Accessed July 2017.
- U.S. Grocery Shopper TRENDS 2017, Food Marketing Institute & Hartman Group, Accessed July 2017.
- DISTRACTED BY TECHNOLOGY AT MEALTIMES—IT'S NOT WHO YOU MAY THINK, The Nielsen Group, Accessed July 2017.