Eating together is one of those traditional, informal ways for families to spend time with each other. As I child, I remember meals spent round the table sharing news, observations and joking with one another.
But a new report suggests that could be coming to an end. Research by Santander has found that 15% of working adults with children only sit down for a meal together once or twice a week, while a further 8% admit they don’t even manage once a week.
Until recently, I cooked two suppers a day. My toddler would eat at 5pm and my husband and I would sit down at 7.30pm.
That changed in January, when we realised that our son can feed himself and is usually happy to eat what we do, so we decided to scrap our separate meals.
We didn’t make this decision to save money; it was about spending time as a family and encouraging our toddler to try new foods by watching us enjoy them. We also hoped it would contribute to our New Year’s resolution to waste less food.
However, it’s also brought down our weekly food bills a by fair amount.
How much have we saved?
I’ve looked over my online shopping receipts and compared them to our more recent bills to compare the costs of eating together and eating apart.
Since we started eating together, I have more time to prepare as I’m cooking just one meal. That means I’m cooking from scratch more and relying on shortcuts like ready-made jars of sauce less, which has made a difference to what we spend.
I’ve also noticed that even though I’m serving all three of us, I don’t buy many more ingredients; it’s usually just a case of chopping a few more vegetables.
Because I have more time to concentrate on cooking one meal, I’m able to make batches and freeze them, which has also saved us money by letting me buy larger portions of meat.
Overall, I we’re saving as much as £5 a week. Over a year, that’s an impressive £260.
Will we stick with it?
It’s a bit of a pain eating our main evening meal so early, which is why we slack off a bit at the weekends.
However, the benefits of a nightly family meal are considerable. My son is a more adventurous eater, he’s learning table manners by watching adults and it gives us more time to chat to him and develop his language skills.
Also, I spend less time in the kitchen overall, freeing up more time to play with him in the evenings. Add to that an annual saving of £260 and I can’t see why we’d ever go back to our separate evening meals.
What do you think? How often do you eat a meal as a family? Does it save you money? Have your say in the comments below.