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5 ways to get dinner on the table quicker

Make family dinners fast!

Family Dinners

Sitting down to family dinners on a regular basis is a struggle for many families. Parents may work late, children may have after-school activities, and overall, people are busy. It can be difficult to carve out an hour or two each night to sit around the dinner table and spend quality family time together – but this family time is crucial.

Not only for family bonding time but for so many other positive reasons.

According to a study published in 2010 by researchers from Harvard Medical School’s Obesity Prevention Program, pre-teen and teenage girls who often ate dinner with their family were much less likely to develop eating disorders such as bulimia or dieting on a regular basis. The same trends were observed for pre-teen and teenage boys.

If finding the time to sit down to family dinners seems tough, here are a few suggestions for getting dinner on the table quicker and making sure that quality meal time happens:

1. Prepare in advance

Try to prepare your meals as much in advance as possible. If you don’t already, consider giving menu planning and/or freezer cooking a try. Both make mealtimes easy because most of the work is done ahead of time.

If you don’t want to try your hand at menu planning or freezer cooking, at least try to prepare as much of your dinner in advance as you can. In the morning, cook some chicken to shred come dinnertime and make a pot of rice so you don’t have to worry about it when you get home.

2. Invest in a quality slow cooker

Slow cookers are amazing kitchen tools – especially for those with busy lives. All you have to do is throw a bunch of ingredients in your slow cooker in the morning and when it’s time for dinner, your meal will already be cooked – with minimal effort on your part.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for slow cooker meals, check out my slow cooker board on Pinterest. (While you’re there, make sure to follow me!)

3. Combine takeout with homemade

Don’t assume that all of your meals have to be 100% homemade. If time is an issue for you, it may be worth it to splurge on convenience items such as bagged salads, cooked rotisserie chickens, and pre-cut fruit and veggies.

This will cost you more than buying those items and preparing them yourself, but the cost of these items just may be money well spent if it means you get to spend dinner time with your family.

4. Ask for help

If your kids or spouse are home when you start cooking dinner, don’t do all of the work yourself. Ask everyone to help pitch in with the family meal. Even little kids can help with things like mixing ingredients and setting the table.

Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to. It’s not your job to cook a meal for your family – everyone needs to work together to make it happen.

5. Try a picnic for dinner

Some nights when I simply have zero energy to cook anything at all, we will have a picnic for dinner. This means going into the fridge and pantry and pulling out random odds and ends to create a meal.

For our family, this usually includes crackers, cheese, yogurt, fruit, toast or a sandwich, rice cakes, granola bars, fresh vegetables with dip, and/or a salad.

Family dinners are such an important part of raising healthy children. Don’t let lack of time get in the way of enjoying these special moments with your family. Nothing is more important than quality family time.

Do you have any tips for getting dinner on the table quicker?


  1. Christa

    my sister has a rice cooker that keeps the rice warm for 24 hours after cooking. So she makes the rice whenever she has time during the day and then it’s still hot at dinner time

    My dad has a certain progam he likes to watch from 4:30-5:30 so around 3:30-4:00 he starts all the prep work, then after the program he can just throw things together. Or depending on what it is and needs extra cooking time he’ll have it all ready and then just turn oven on so things will be ready for 5:30-6:00

    Timing- If you know some members of the family only have a certain time frame time things to be ready in that time period

  2. Christa

    keep it simple. It doesn’t need to be a gourmet meal

  3. tia lauren

    wear rollerblades

  4. Cheryla

    A slow cooker is a must and there’s really no end what you can prepare ahead of time and through into one.

  5. Susan

    I have done this for years, it may work for you also, if you are a morning person. I have always been a working Mom (from home as a project manager), up until a short time ago, so always challenging having something good and nutritous on the table for dinner. I get up early and do all the prep I can for dinner, ie peeling vegetables, measureing out the water for rice, right down to having the proper pans on top of the stove to do the cooking, setting the table, as we use the counter for our breakfast. That way, no matter how busy I am during the day, I do not have the stress of having to think about what to make for dinner. When the kids get home from school, I can focus on them and really hear what has gone on during their day.

    • Cassie Howard

      That’s what I do, too. Saves so much stress come dinnertime!

  6. Kelly

    Trying some slow cooker recipes this week, prep the night before, pop in cooker in the morning before I go to work. So nice to come home and dinner is done. Just sit down and eat.

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