This post was contributed by Brittany Hopkins.

Growing up with three siblings, family time was almost all the time. But my most memorable childhood moments center around the kitchen table. While we’ve all gone our separate ways, we regularly reconvene at the same kitchen table to catch up on each other’s lives and re-hash the same old childhood stories. I love to wow them with the cooking skills I’ve picked up over the years - but they’re definitely hard to impress. Here’s what I do to make sure the dinners we meet up for are time well spent for everyone.

Tip #1: Order-in

Not take-out; grocery delivery! When I first learned about this phenomenon, my anti-“money-wasting-laziness alarm” sounded. But after trying it once, I realized that having groceries delivered to my door means I can spend more time cooking fresh meals for the family, and less time driving to and from the grocery store - because let’s face it, I almost always forget to grab a key ingredient the first time. I love Planet Organics, but one of these 50+ grocery delivery services should be available to you, as well.

Tip #2: Keep it simple

Whether I’m cooking for my siblings or their kids, I keep it realistic by asking a few key questions as I plan the menu. Have I attempted this recipe before? Do I have the time, space and energy - not to mention ingredients -  to make this dish? You’ll find that putting the right care into the simplest of recipes can make a meal extra-special.

ChickenSoup

Foster Farms Chicken Soup

Tip #3: Get everyone involved, even the lil ones

My siblings, and their kids, are ridiculously picky eaters - and I’ll never change that. Rather than letting them sit around and wonder what strange creation I’ll force them to try this time, I get them busy in the kitchen, especially the kids! Pizza night is a perfect example. I’ll make this quick and easy pizza dough the morning or night before, and they’ll help chop the toppings and decorate their pizzas. If they have a hand in creating the meal, there will be no complaints later, right? Right!

Tip #4: No tech. No excuses

In 2011, Columbia University found that 32% of families spend 20 minutes or less eating dinner. Fast forward to 2013 and Americans spent an average of nearly 6 hours per day on computers and mobile devices. I’d estimate that we each spend about 8-10 hours online per day during the week - and I for one rarely log off at lunch. But if my siblings want to sit at my dinner table, their technology best be going to sleep. Well, unless they’re using it to capture how delicious our meal looks or share a viral video that I somehow missed the previous week...

Tip #5: Ensure Leftovers

I love leftovers for two reasons: One, packing tomorrow’s lunch couldn’t be easier. And two, I like to believe that once we go our separate ways, they’ll each reheat their leftovers and reminisce on the great meal we shared the night before. I know I do!

This post is sponsored by Foster Farms.

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