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Newsletter: January 2023

52 Weeks of Family Dinner

A few weeks ago, my family’s dinner routine crashed and burned. My husband got sick and was on the couch for a week. My older son had so many commitments that the only time we really saw each other was in the car, driving to the next thing. And my younger son was fitted with a mouthful of orthodontic appliances that kept him off all solid foods for almost 10 days.

All of that was stressful enough, but what surprised me was how much I missed dinner. Sure, we were all eating – or timidly sipping smoothies, or trying to keep down a handful of Saltines and ginger ale – but we weren’t having dinner. Each evening, I felt restless, unsure of what to do without our usual routine. And then came the magical Sunday when my husband felt better, my kid could chew again, and we were all home.

While I put the finishing touches on our meal, the 13-year-old cheerfully lit candles and set out plates. The 16-year-old helped with small kitchen tasks. My husband pulled up a special festive playlist he’d been curating. And when all four of us sat down at the table, there was almost a collective sigh of relaxation and relief. My older son piled food on his plate, looked around, and said, “I’ve been needing this.”

What happened next was a totally ordinary meal. But I noticed that everyone seemed happier than they had in quite a long time – and the mood lasted all night, even through a backed-up kitchen drain and some brotherly squabbling about who was taking out the garbage. The kids even hung around with us for an evening of alternating between the football game and The Sound of Music. And all of it started at the table.

I’m not suggesting that every family dinner in our house turns out this way. We’re real people, not a Normal Rockwell painting. But the experience was a great reminder of the actual impact family dinner – or the lack of it – can have on us. After just a week and a half of missing mealtimes, the chance to sit down together, eat, and connect again was completely transformative. So as we begin this New Year, I think it’s a good time to remember that every week in 2023 is an opportunity to recommit to family dinners. Even if it’s just once a week, that’s 52 chances to make a connection. I can’t think of a better goal for the year ahead.

Need some help to get started? Try these tips:

  • Schedule dinner. In this busy world, what’s not on the calendar often falls off the to-do list. Look ahead, find a time (or two, or more!) each week that looks promising, and put a family meal on the schedule. Remember, it doesn’t have to be dinner, either. Book a quick family breakfast, a Saturday lunch, or a late-evening snack break if that works better for your family.
  • Pick some favorites and stick with them. There’s a reason so many older people can remember their childhood meal rotation: It was less work for their parents to plan, shop, and cook dinners if those dinners were the same each week. You may not want to bring back Meatloaf Mondays and Tuna Casserole on Fridays, but there’s nothing wrong with choosing 10 or 12 family favorites and making them on repeat.
  • Resolve to get more help this year. Nothing causes family dinner burnout more than one person feeling like they’re responsible for all the work. The New Year is a great opportunity to make a resolution that your family is going to share the load. Maybe getting that help will be as simple as requesting that your spouse or partner is going to order and pick up a take-out meal every Friday night, or deciding that you’ll use disposable table goods twice a week so your young kids can be in charge of cleaning up the kitchen without having to master washing dishes just yet. Or maybe it’s time to teach the tweens and teens to make some basic meals, even if you start with grilled cheese sandwiches and heating up pre-made soup. Whatever level your family members are at, finding a way to share the workload will make mealtimes more doable – and less stressful.
  • Make one small change. If you’re already eating together routinely, that’s great. This might be the year to add one small change that makes mealtimes more special or meaningful to you. Maybe you’ll start one meal a week with a gratitude game, a deep breathing exercise, or a family game night while you eat. You could ask each family member to suggest songs for a dinnertime playlist and add to it throughout the year. If conversation has felt strained, it might be time to introduce (or re-introduce) a jar of good conversation starters you can use to take the pressure off. Choose something that will make you look forward to eating together and help create a positive atmosphere.

For even more inspiration, you can check out our ultimate playbook of weekly dinner ideas – Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook. Our friends at Familius have extended their special offer on the book through January, so you can bring home 52 weeks of food, fun, and conversation for 2023! Enter the code FamilyDinner at checkout to get 30% off your copy. Enjoy!


Put this easy meal in the rotation this year (and maybe teach someone else to cook it, too)! You can also use chicken, tofu, or salmon if you prefer.

10-Minute Beef and Broccolini Bowls


Start a new weekly dinner tradition for 2023 with the Jar of Good Things!

The Jar of Good Things


The New Year is a good time to talk about goals. Try these collections of conversation starters to kick things off!

Talking About: Goals for the Future