Top five tips on making the most of family mealtimes

In our increasingly busy lives, finding time to get together with friends and family can seem like a huge task. However, our recent poll in conjunction with YouGov found that many people believe eating together increases their happiness and lowers their stress levels.

Scientific research also suggests finding just 20 minutes up to five times per week, to sit down at the table and share a meal with your family, leads to a whole host of health benefits, from children making better food choices to fostering better family relationships.

We know that time is something we’d all like a little more of but finding it can be difficult. With the help of our #GetTogether ambassadors and lifestyle bloggers we address the challenges facing you when getting everyone around the table and how best to overcome them.

Set a time that works for you…it doesn’t have to be every day

If your family struggles to eat together at all, doing so five days a week might seem like a tall order. #GetTogether ambassador Mirlah Richardson, who authors the blog Feel Good Motherhood, has a hectic home life with a toddler to take care of, and, for her family, making the time just one night per week suits their lifestyle for now.

Mirlah said: “I think the main struggle for us is time. We get so caught up with being ‘busy’ we forget how important it is to just sit down and be in each other’s company. After a long old day, we just shove some food on a plate and eat off our laps, but no more!

“At least once a week (because you have to take baby steps) we’re making sure we eat all together at the table. It feels strangely nostalgic and we really want this to become the norm. With my son, Ellis, now one year old, he can join in with dinner times too.”

Keep fussy eaters at bay by involving them in meal planning

One of the biggest issues facing families today is how to make eating together an enjoyable occasion when faced with fussy eaters. Author of the blog The Ordinary Lovely and mum of two Rachel Southern finds that involving her fussy eaters in meal planning can really help. She said: “I have a really fussy 8-year-old when it comes to food and it can make mealtimes fraught.

Since involving him in meal planning, it’s handed him more control over what meals we eat, and he gets much more involved at the dinner table rather than sitting there and rolling his eyes. Giving him more freedom has actually made him more open to trying new things.”

Make dessert for little ones the focal point of family mealtime

Families often have conflicting schedules, and with children arriving home from school ravenous they can hardly be asked to wait another three hours to eat. This means that children often eat alone, and parents eat later. For Rachel, staggering dinner and dessert works for her. She explains: “As in most homes, my children arrive home from school too hungry to wait for their dinner until their dad gets home from work at six pm. In order to have time around the table together from Monday to Friday, I make the boys something to eat a little earlier on and then they have their pudding when my husband and I have our evening meal.”

Make dinner time a no phone zone

With smartphones, the call of social media and on-demand entertainment it can be especially hard to get older children and teenagers to participate in family meals around the dining room table.

#GetTogether ambassador and author of award-winning lifestyle blog, Love Chic Living, Jen Stanbrook finds that setting rules and routines helps her enjoy quality time with her teenagers. She said: “As we all have different commitments from a work and social perspective, we find the week is very difficult to eat together but at the weekend we make a point of sitting together at least once, if not twice.

“We have a rule to leave phones behind and on a Sunday and we have a little routine – ‘What are we all doing next week?’ Everyone shares their plans, what’s going on in their lives and exciting things they’re up to. It gives us a focus and gets us all chatting, sharing stories and plans. It also means the children take more of an interest in what we do as adults, and for teenagers, helps them understand the responsibilities and complexities of adulthood and family life.”

Create themed nights to get extended family together

There was a time, in days past, where many of us would get together with our extended family every week. Nowadays, with hectic lifestyles, we can go for months without getting together with extended family and friends. But maintaining these connections is just as important as spending time with the people living under your roof.

To combat this, author of lifestyle and home blog, Boo & Maddie  Lins Drabwell finds that creating themed get togethers gives you a reason to come together, she explains: “I think my best tip is set aside a day/date and make a fun theme out of it – perhaps it’s Mexican night, or maybe a night where you play board games instead of just having dinner. Creating a fun reason to all come together makes it something to look forward to where everyone feels involved and can participate.”

If your planning a get together with extended family and friends, Portmeirion makes it easy with a host of serving pieces that perfectly compliment our tableware ranges. Visit the shop for inspiration! 

We’d love to hear from you, with your tips on how we can all enjoy more get togethers. Share with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and don’t forget to hashtag #GetTogether.