Avoid The Dinnertime Dilemma

by Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Last Updated: January 18, 2021

To answer the proverbial question “What’s for Dinner?” grocery stores and dietitians are working hard to find easy, tasty, affordable, and wholesome solutions to America’s favorite meal. Dinnertime might be the best opportunity we have all day to unwind and be more intentional with our food choices.

Sitting down to a family (or group) meal might make a greater impact than we realize. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation campaigns each September for “National Family Meals Month” to get families gathered around the table. The Hartman Group reports that 68% of consumers say dinner is the mealtime most households eat together. Frequent family meals, defined by the Journal of Pediatrics & Child Health as at least three meals a week, can significantly improve: family connection, self-esteem, wellbeing, positive social behaviors, and stronger family relationships while decreasing the chance of “risky” behaviors. Up the ante by inviting the whole family to get involved in cooking and adapt their plate to their own liking, such as more or fewer grains in their rice bowl, extra or no salsa in their tacos, or double or nothing mushrooms on their pizza.

To generate ideas for dinnertime, start from the ground up by beginning with easy staples. It can be simple to start with steamed quinoa, frozen vegetables, canned beans, refrigerated greens, or dry pasta to commence crafting a meal. Add favorite lean proteins from tofu to turkey, top with seasonings from sage to smoke, and finish with fruit from bananas to blackberries. Constructing a meal can also be a creative outlet: browse family cookbooks, eBook recipes, Pinterest posts, grocery store recipe cards, or borrow a cookbook with curbside pickup at your local library for food inspiration. Also, consider assigning different nights of the week with ethnic dinner “themes” such as Italian, Greek, Indian, Lebanese, and Mexican cuisines on corresponding days of the week, Monday through Friday. This way, your home can have more freedom to determine specific dishes but more guidance for types of foods served that evening.

Believe in the power of leftovers. Planning for mealtime by making a batch that will last your household 2-3 days (often dubbed “planned overs”) will save on time and alleviate the need to make additional food decisions. Most core ingredients for favorite meals can be stored safely below 40 degrees F for up to four days. Consider pre-washing, cutting, measuring, and storing ingredients as soon as returning home from the grocery store. Many of our customers have also found success in mapping out a menu for the week in calendars or agendas or posting on a visible whiteboard in the kitchen, reducing potential stress at mealtime.

Grocery stores have launched many dinner solutions for the busiest of customers, which take the guesswork out of mealtime. Options such as click-and-collect, online grocery delivery, meal kits, ready-to-eat fare, parbaked and parboiled goods, and an expanding selection of frozen meal ideas can be foolproof ways to get a meal on the table in minutes, if not seconds. Look no further than Kroger’s Pickup, Delivery, and Ship options for a way to take out one or more steps to gathering groceries that may be hindering your motivation to make dinner. Check out our Kroger Home Chef meal kits, oven kits, heat and eat meals, and ready to cook ideas for putting a dinner or two on the table each week in a flash.

For many of us, dinner is probably the largest and most social meal of the day. Make your main meal matter by starting with the staples, embracing leftovers, and taking advantage of services that make eating healthy, great-tasting food more convenient.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly can help you simplify eating, all while building excitement around good food and freeing up time for all the things that really matter in your life. With a knack for food labeling and regulations, weight management, food intolerances, and plant-based eating, Molly is ready to help you make sense of food again. When not on the clock, Molly can be found hip-hop dancing, cuddling up with her two mischievous cats, playing trombone, or honing in on her food photography skills.