Getting Family Dinner Done

Home is the wallpaper above the bed, the family dinner table, the church bells in the morning, the bruised shins of the playground, the small fears that come with dusk, the streets and squares and monuments and shops that constitute one's first universe."  Henry Anatole Grunwald

With our lives running at such a hectic pace, family dinners frequently fall by the wayside.  We drive through, eat on the run, or eat separately to accommodate the cavalcade of kids' activities that fill our evenings.  I speak from experience – my son's football coach appears to have no regard for whether or not he gets to join his family at the dinner table to rehash his day!  So don't let me fool you into thinking that dinner at the Hendey household is always a Norman Rockwell affair.  Most nights, it's not pretty.  But I do make my best attempt to cook (or acquire) a healthy meal for my family every night.  We do our best to sit together, as a family at the table any time all four of us are in the house at the same time for the evening meal.

Like some of you, I have struggled to maintain a healthy weight since the birth of my children.  In going through Weight Watchers and losing my weight, I came to the discovery that there we a few major things that contributed to my weight issues: I hate grocery shopping, and I was too frequently eating on the fly after having served my children in "short order cook" fashion whatever their hearts desired.  I usually never had healthy ingredients in the house, so I was stumped about what to prepare – "driving through" on the way home from practice or ordering pizza became the easy, but not very healthy, solution.

I'm still far from perfect on this score, but the following techniques have helped me vastly improve the task of getting family dinner on the table:

  • I use Dine Without Whine  my favorite menu planning service several times a week.  The inexpensive fee (less than $5 per month) includes a full shopping list and recipes emailed to me each week.
  • I keep the basics in stock, purchasing in bulk the items that I know my family always needs
  • I shop each week for fresh produce at either a local farmers market or my favorite neighborhood grocery store
  • As my children grow older, they are learning to cook and loving it!  I take them on "field trips" to a local store that features wide selections of sauces and spices – they love experimenting and watching the rest of the family taste their dishes
  • We reserve eating out for special occasions.  We rarely eat fast food unless traveling.
  • If sports or music practice falls during the dinner hour, I prepare our dinner in the early afternoon and either put it in the crock pot or rewarm it when we arrive home from practice.  This way, no one has to wait around for dinner – it's ready almost as soon as we walk in the door.

It does require some planning and organization to eat healthfully as a family, but this is one of the most important things I, as a mother, do in service of my favorite people in the world.  That's worth a little effort!

Today's Home-work:

  • Decide, right now, what's for dinner this week (or at least tonight!)
  • Make a plan for prioritizing family dinner in your home

The Bookshelf:
The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers:  Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time!
Saving Dinner: The Menus, Recipes, and Shopping Lists to Bring Your Family Back to the Table

Reading Room Resources:
Dine Without Whine

10 Ways to Speed Up Dinner Prep
6 Menu Planning Websites


Lisa Hendey, Catholic wife and mom, is the founder and webmaster of and the author of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul and The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and hosts the Catholic Moments Podcast. Visit her at

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