7 Fun Ways Busy Families Can Connect Over Meals

By Sandi Haustein

“We should get our families together sometime!”

I’ve said it. You’ve said it. But how often do we actually follow through? Between schoolwork, soccer games, dance practice, and our jobs, it can be hard enough to find time for everyone in our own family to hang out, much less to try and get two families together.

But there’s nothing quite like connecting with friends over good food, and everyone has to eat. So why not build community by eating together? While it can be challenging to find time in your busy schedule, all it takes is a little intentional planning or outside-the-box thinking to make getting together with another family actually happen.

Here are 7 ways that busy families can connect over food:

Invite people over for dinner. I’m not talking about a fancy dinner party with beautiful dishes or a gourmet meal (although there is nothing wrong with that if you enjoy it). Just keep things low-key by inviting another family to join you for what you would regularly eat. Make an extra large batch of Sloppy Joes or grill some hamburgers and hotdogs for an easy meal. I guarantee they’ll be honored that you invited them into your home, even if it’s just for a casual meal.

Share the load. If doing all the work of hosting feels like too much, do what my friend, Lisa, did when her kids were young. She made a deal with another friend where one would clean her house and host while the other brought a meal. The next time it was the other way around. I love this brilliant idea because it takes the load off both people and makes getting together easy.

Meet up for Kids Eat Free night. If life feels a little too busy to eat at one of your homes, meet up at a restaurant where kids eat free. My family’s done this many times with other families at our favorite local pizza place. We get a break from cooking, as well as getting a break for our wallets. And the kids have a blast meeting up with their friends at a kid-friendly restaurant. (Bonus: No one has to do the dishes!)
Designate a regular park night. One summer, my friend, Karie, a mom of four, announced on Facebook that every Thursday night they were going to be at the park with a picnic dinner for their family and anyone who wanted to join could. They had a great turnout. Some friends came every week, and others just came one time, but always showing up at the same time and place helped create some community for their family over the summer.

Host an Invite Yourself Over for Dinner party. Why not let people invite themselves over to your house? Similar to the park night, you pick a night of the week that’s convenient for you to host and post it on social media for people to join you. Make sure to set a number of people that you’re able to host, and anyone whose schedule works can sign up (until all of your slots are filled). Then, all you have to do is wait and see who comes. You can make the same dish every time to keep things simple (think Spaghetti Night) or try different themes week to week.

Share a dessert together. Once, when we wanted to meet some new neighbors but didn’t have a lot of time or energy to make a huge meal, we invited them over for ice cream cones. It took hardly any work on our part, but it gave us an excuse to get together and visit. Keep things easy, like we did, or make that killer dessert recipe you’ve wanted to try. Since you’re not making a whole meal, you can just concentrate on preparing for your guests.

Throw a potluck. Everyone loves a good potluck. And what’s not to love? They’re a great way to spread out the responsibilities and to sample lots of different kinds of foods. You can designate a theme for your potluck (like International Foods or Family Favorites) and just let everyone bring whatever they want, or you can use a site like Sign Up Genius to plan out a menu and let everyone pick their dishes.
Getting together with other families can be hard when you’re busy with school, work, and extra-curricular activities. But if you make it a priority, you can make “We should get together sometime” actually happen. It takes a little planning and creativity, but I promise it will be worth it.