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Newsletter: July 2019

Family Dinner on the Road

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We usually tell families to try to keep dinner on the calendar even during the unstructured months of summer. But what happens when you’re not going to be home for dinner, or home at all? Vacations,“staycations,” day trips and unpredictable last-minute plans can all make family meals difficult to schedule. And for some families, summer sports and jobs mean that the pace of life becomes more busy from June through August, not less. What happens to family dinner when you’re living life on the road?

Fortunately, the benefits of food, fun and conversation can be a part of your family life no matter where and when they happen. Nobody said dinner is only worthwhile if it happens around a dining room table at 6 p.m.! Here are our top tips for fitting in some family dinner fun when you’re out and about this summer.

  • Bring back the car picnic. We’re not trying to be unrealistic about “the good old days,” but it does seem as though older generations have more memories of packing up picnics for long car trips than younger folks do. (Maybe the rise of the drive-thru has something to do with that!) Getting the whole family involved in choosing and packing healthy, portable foods in a cooler can give a little extra excitement to a dinner eaten during a long drive. Hand out the sandwiches, play a road trip game or two, and toss out a few conversation starters while you’re cruising. Or find a decent place to pull over and spread out a blanket, making for a memorable roadside family dinner.
  • Remember that restaurant meals count. We generally encourage families to cook at home if at all possible, because the long-term health and nutritional benefits of homemade meals (not to mention the cost savings) are worth keeping in mind. But restaurant meals, take-out, room service or whatever other option you might turn to on vacation can be just as much a “family dinner” as a roast chicken you made at home. In fact, there can be some upsides to moving your family meals to a restaurant setting. When you’re not worried about cooking and cleanup, you may find that everyone is more relaxed and ready to focus on the fun and conversation. And table games and conversation starters can be a great way to distract tired, hungry kids while they wait for the food to arrive.
  • Let a “real meal” slide every once in a while. Unless there are medical concerns at play, a few dinners that aren’t totally healthy and balanced won’t hurt anyone. That’s a good thing to keep in mind when you’re faced with the option of staying just a little longer at the park instead of heading home for a meal, or when you find yourselves losing track of time on an outing and missing the dinner hour completely. Every so often, it’s okay to make “dinner” a stop at the ice cream parlor on the way home from the beach, or to dish out something quick like cereal and fruit to your worn-out family between a day of adventure and hitting the hay. The father of one of our team members fondly recalls summertime dinners of “crackers and milk” when he’d show up at home sometime between baseball practice and the streetlights coming on. (The important part of that story? His mother always made sure to sit with him and talk about his day while he ate.)

The point is, dinner doesn’t have to be perfect — or even “dinner” — to be meaningful. Keeping family time on the calendar is important, but so is learning to go with the flow and make the most of whatever mealtime opportunities feel right to you.

Family of the Month

One way to ensure that family dinner stays on the calendar during the summer is to share it with friends! This month’s family is a group of families who are making dinner together a community event.

Real Family Dinner Projects: The “Super Tuesday” Friends


Caprese Sandwich

Caprese Sandwiches are a quick and delicious meal that’s perfect for car picnics, or for a throw-together meal whenever everyone gets home from summer fun.

Caprese Sandwiches


A classic game of “I Spy” is adaptable to any situation, from road trips to restaurants or wherever you may be.

I Spy


Imagine the places you’ll go with this fun conversation starter!