During the weekday crazies, getting dinner cooked and onto the table can feel chaotic and chore-like. But it's actually pretty special when you think about it, and there are plenty of things you can do to make it so much more enjoyable.
Here are some ideas.
1. Turn your kitchen into a room you actually want to be in.
You can't always have your dream kitchen, but there's still plenty you can do to make sure you enjoy spending time in the kitchen you do have. Let's say there's a drawer that's always difficult to open — try greasing it up or filling it with stuff you don't use that often, so you don't have to deal with it too much. In terms of aesthetics, you can always paint your cabinets, add a pretty backsplash, or swap out your hardware. Also, never underestimate the power of a nice-smelling candle or pretty dishtowels.
2. Make it a family affair.
If the whole family is going to sit down to eat dinner together (something we encourage!), then the whole family may as well work together to prepare it. The littlest ones can help carry napkins and condiments to the table, while slightly older kids can help you mix stuff, and even older kids can chop or handle bigger tasks. There's no reason you need to be in the kitchen by yourself cooking when everyone can have a job. The more the merrier, right?
3. Have the kids help with the planning. too.
Five-year-olds are old enough to help plan the menu for the week. Trust us — we've tried it (see the story linked below)! Not only is it more fun to meal plan with someone, but it's also a surefire way to make sure the little mouths eat the food you've made, which then makes the entire process more enjoyable.
4. Cook up a family favorite.
If you know taco night always goes over well, give the people what they want and plan a taco night. You'll love making it, as long as you know they'll love eating it.
5. Or try something new.
Maybe you're tired of making (and eating!) the same thing all the time. Maybe there's nothing fun in opening yet another package of chicken breasts? Throw your usual go-tos out the window (we're speaking figuratively here) and try something totally new that you're excited to make.
Luckily, we have some ideas: Dinner Recipes
6. Forget about perfection.
Whether you're trying out a new recipe or making something you've made a million times before, don't worry about everything being perfect. Sometimes pasta boils over, potatoes burn, and the roast takes too long to cook through. It happens, and everything will be fine — after all, you're cooking for your family, not the judges of Top Chef.
7. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan.
Many of you will agree that the worst part of cooking dinner is the part where you have to decide what it is you're going to cook in the first place. If you meal plan ahead of time, the hardest step is out of the way by the time you get home from work. We've got tons of tips and recipes about meal planning, plus ways to make sure it's a blast.
Read more: 5 Ways to Make Meal Planning More Fun
8. Make it entertaining.
There are probably a ton of recipes you can make on autopilot, right? That frees you up to listen to a podcast, chat on the phone, or sing along to your favorite Pandora station.
9. Get yourself a cocktail.
It might not be happy hour, but you can have a happier hour (or half-hour) while you're cooking. Mix up a cocktail, pour a glass of wine, or pop open a beer to enjoy while you're standing at the stove.
10. Think about all the things you want to talk about at the table.
You're cooking dinner for your family! The people in this world who you love the most. And you're all going to sit down together to eat it. How cool is that? Think about all the things that happened during the day that you want to tell them about. And the things you want to ask them about. Life is busy — this is your time to connect, which makes it pretty darn special.