With the dropping of the famed ball in Times Square at midnight on January 1, many of us vow to do things differently in the next 12 months. We all tend to look at the New Year as a time of fresh opportunity, when we set goals for self-improvement or resolve to change our ways for the better.
Your determination to start the New Year off on the right foot may not have anything to do with family dinners, but it’s the perfect time to take a quick look at your routine and see if there’s any way to make the comfortable old family dinner new and fresh. Try these tips to reinvent your family dinners in 2017:
Change your menus
Make a commitment to try one new food each week as a family. You might decide that you’ll cook a whole new recipe every week, or just start with finding one new item — such as an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable — to work into your familiar menus. Make it extra fun and engaging for everyone by passing around “rating cards” and letting everyone at the table fill in their reactions to the new flavors!
Nothing puts you in a family dinner rut faster than being the sole person in charge of planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up. Get everyone involved in the process by having family members submit menu ideas in a Suggestion Box or on a message board; sending older kids and teens on a grocery Scavenger Hunt to streamline shopping; and creating a rotation to help govern who’s on cooking and clean-up duties. You can even have the kids make dinner one night a week — even young ones can handle simple recipes like Baked Veggie Quesadillas or Homemade Pizza with adult supervision.
Make sure there’s a place at the table for fun! Playing a quick and easy game at the table whenever you sit down to dinner together is a great habit, but some families find that they get into a rut playing the same table games over and over again. Why not shake things up in the New Year with one day each week or month devoted to a family fun challenge? Try ideas like Family Iron Chef or Restaurant to put some excitement into dinnertime.
Our friend, author Sarah Smiley, famously invited different guests for dinner every week while her military husband was deployed. As the Smileys learned, having guests at the table can breathe new life into dinnertime and bring a new perspective to the meal! Try choosing one day each month when a different family member can invite a special guest to share your dinner, and try out activities like Interview and The Hat Game to get to know one another better in a fun and interesting way.