Families today do not sit down for dinner together each night for many reasons, and this trend needs to change. Studies have shown that teenagers who eat dinner with their families stay out of trouble.

I do not enjoy cooking dinner. While baking is a love of mine, the job of placing a healthy meal that everyone will enjoy is not a task that I look forward to every night. With two children who have food issues, another who is a very picky eater, and a budget that does not permit me to shop at Whole Foods for ready made meals,  I have no choice but to cook.Saving Dinner helps make family dinners simpleCredit: www.amazon.com

Because of this, I have developed strategies to make our family dinners simple. These ideas for today’s modern family can help you get everyone around the family table again.

Weekly Meal Planning Make Family Dinners Simple

Family Meals are made simple when you have a weekly meal planCredit: www.amazon.comIn the past, when women did not have the kitchen conveniences that we do today, they made their meal planning simpler by assigning each day of the week for a particular meal. Knowing that each Monday was chicken and each Tuesday was ground beef took a lot of the guesswork out of dinner prep, and everyone knew what to expect. I suspect there was significantly less complaining about what was served.

If you are trying to figure out what to make for dinner every night, or are too busy that it is a stressful thing you have to each day, this method may make dinner simpler to plan.

Another idea for families to make dinner simple is to plan ahead. Look at your calendar and see what your week looks like. If there is softball practice at five o’clock on Tuesday, this would not be the night to plan a roast chicken dinner. Instead, tacos, pasta or a crock pot meal make more sense. Simply planning what you are serving and writing it on a slip of paper takes the stress out of dinner time.

This Is Not The Food Network-Try One New Recipe

The FOod Network has some amazing cookbooks to help make family dinner simpleCredit: www.amazon.comDinner should be a time for the family to reconnect with one another. The last thing you need to do is stress over the evening meal. If your family and you are tired of eating the same rotation of meals and side dishes, liven them up with a new ONE.

Yes, ONE new dish, not one entirely new meal!

My twins and I love watching programs on The Food Network. We have found new dinners and desserts to try out, and some have become new family favorites. However, within the half hour program, the chefs create three or four dishes-a complete meal.

While this may be fun to try on a snowed in Saturday, this is not something I would attempt during the week with homework and activities running everyone in different directions.

Instead of an entirely new meal, find a new way to make chicken or cook the potatoes differently. Buy a vegetable that the family has not tried before. Supermarkets sell plenty of Artisan breads that will liven up one of your regular dishes.

If you make one new thing, it makes the meal look better overall. And if the one new dish isn't a hit with your crew, you still have other things on the table that your family will enjoy.

The Family Dinner Table is Not a Restaurant-Make One Meal Only

Busy Moms Cookbook makes family dinners simpleCredit: www.amazon.comWhen I was growing up, my mother would oftentimes make my brother, my father and me different dinners. From a child's point of view that may be fine, but as the mom doing the cooking, no way!

As a rule, I made my children eat what I prepared starting at age three. If they did not like it, they learned how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich by themselves.

I believe that everyone is entitled to their own foods likes and dislikes. It makes no sense to force feed, clean the plate, or have a child sit and sit until the unwanted food is eaten. This can lead to serious food issues later in life.

That being said, my children do not dictate what I prepare for our evening meal. I make one meal, and one meal only. I have bowls of fresh fruit and platters of fresh cut up vegetables to go along with dinner. There is also bread if they want. No one goes hungry, and there is always something on the table that someone likes.

My youngest daughter is quite the picky eater. I make sure that she tries something new, and has to eat as many bites as her age, with lots of ketchup or Franks Hot Sauce for dipping.

Cook Once, Eat Twice Meals

Cook once and eat twice to save time and moneyCredit: www.amazon.comAnother idea for making family dinner simple is easy with meals that can be used more than once. For example, you can make a roast chicken for dinner one night. Leftover chicken can be made into a stir fry the next night and the chicken carcass can be made into a soup (chicken vegetable for example, since you are already cutting vegetables for the stir fry).

Spaghetti and meatballs are an easy meal, and the leftover meatballs can be a meatball sub on another night.

Make a London Broil and cut the leftover pieces into bite sized chunks. The leftovers can be put in a crock pot with beef broth, tomato sauce, and some cut of vegetables to make a tasty beef stew.

Freezer Cooking

Family dinne is made simple with freezer cooking.Credit: www.amazon.com

By cooking mass quantities of foodall at one time, you can fill your freezer with many delicious meals that you just have to defrost. It is a time investment, but very well worth it if you find yourself calling out for dinner two or three nights a week.

Family dinner is an important way to connect with each other.  Using these ideas to keep family dinners simple will help to make meal time more enjoyable for all.