Family mealtimes are an opportunity to come together and share a healthy dinner while hearing about each other’s days. With our busy lives, this is especially important – but it can be hard to get everyone together and avoid rushing. It’s also often tricky to find meals that both kids and parents enjoy, particularly if a little one is going through a fussy eating phase. Catering for different tastes and appetites, especially on tight family budgets, can also be a challenge. Our tips aim to bring a little calm and order to family meals, and give you some ideas for new family favourite meals for those hectic weeknights.


Try our family recipe collections, from best family batch-cooking recipes to our speedy family budget meal plan.

A family enjoying a meal together around the dining table

Tips for family mealtimes

1. Make a healthy family meal plan

Drawing up a weekly meal plan and writing a shopping list brings calm to busy weeknights, saving you both time and money while cutting food waste. Plan meals according to ingredients you already have in the fridge, freezer and kitchen cupboards, prioritising those that need using up first. Stick the meal plan on the fridge so that everyone in the family knows what’s for dinner tonight. Take into account everyone’s schedule for the week when planning so that you know who’s eating what and when. Batch cook when you have the time so that you can be one step ahead on nights when you don’t. Plan dinners that can be turned into lunches for some of you, too, the next day.

2. Choose food your fussy child will eat with you

Although fussy eating is common in kids, it can put a huge amount of strain on family mealtimes. Making food for you all to share can take the pressure off, giving kids the autonomy to choose those ingredients they fancy from a selection, while also leaving the option to have a small taste on the side of something new. Food to share needn’t be complicated: think one-pan nachos, traybakes or crudités and dips.

3. Look for family budget recipes

Read our priceless tips for reducing cooking costs. Create a list of budget options you can cook using staples from the back of your kitchen cupboards such as tinned tomatoes or pulses, pasta and grains. Get two family members to input the same food shop into different online supermarkets at the same time so you can compare which is cheapest on like-for-like before hitting purchase. Check out our helpful family recipe collections.

More like this
Three mini pizzas, homemade by kids

4. Get the kids cooking

Designate different members of the family to cook on certain nights, be that older children or parents. Younger kids can help set the table, clear away and get involved in meal prep. Don’t forget the importance of old fashioned table manners. Give everyone the chance to have input on what and how the family eats in exchange for pulling their weight with the tasks involved in getting a home-cooked meal on the table. Try monthly themed nights, like Mexican or meat-free night, where you try new cuisines or ingredients to make a special occasion of dinner together.

To help you get started, we have healthy kids' recipes, kids' cooking recipes and family-friendly meal ideas.

5. Know what equipment you need for cooking on a budget

Gadgets including slow cookers and air fryers can be more energy efficient, while chopping veg with a box grater or food processor will save you valuable time. Invest in reusable freezer boxes, or pyrex dishes that can go straight from the freezer to the oven.

To make the most of your slow cooker, check out our 10 budget slow cooker recipes and the best slow cookers for faff-free meals.

6. Make full use of your freezer

From freezable pesto to cottage pie and pasta bakes, meals from your freezer stash can be a life-saver for time-poor families. A top tip when batch cooking is to freeze dishes or sauces in different portion sizes – that way you can defrost only what you need on any given day, perhaps just for two of you or for a whole family.

Dish of creamy tomato courgetti

7. Find speedy family recipes

For days when you know you’re going to be especially short on time or energy to cook, have a few made-in-minutes meals you can rely on. For breakfast this could be a two-minute smoothie, for lunch a 10-minute couscous salad and, for dinner, minestrone in minutes.

Check out our recipe collections of five-minute meals and 15-minute meals.

8. Meal prep in advance

Get into the habit of meal prepping at the weekend when you have a moment and weeknights will become that little bit easier – and healthier – for you all. You can meal prep pasta or rice salads, traybakes and soups, protein pots and Buddha bowls – find out how in our healthy meal prepping guide.

9. Switch off screens at mealtimes

In a world of screens it’s easy to let tech use creep in at the table but evidence shows that we pay more attention to appetite and feelings of fullness when we focus on our food without scrolling or watching TV. It’s not just about portion control – we also tend to make more healthy food choices when we’re less distracted. Plus, shovelling down food while focused on a screen doesn’t aid digestion or family conversation!

10. Have a back-up plan

The best laid meal plans don’t always work out, especially during hectic family lives where children get unexpectedly sick, commuter trains get cancelled or work meetings run over. Have a few wholesome meals stockpiled for times you need to pull a rabbit out of a hat and feed you all when something unexpected happens.

Bookmark these healthy storecupboard recipes or check out our 10 best freezable vegetarian meals to have to hand when you're short of time.

Liked this? Discover more family eating tips…

Why mindful eating is important for families

Sugar addiction and children

30 easy ways to give kids five-a-day

The best cookbooks for kids

Top 15 after-school snacks for kids


All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post