New research reveals family dinnertime is on the decline with only 28% of households sharing the same meal

  1. Sainsbury’s found that only 28% of UK families are sharing the same meal each evening
  2. Busy schedules, fussy eaters and contrasting diets found to be the top reasons households are eating solo meals, costing up to £450 extra a year
  3. Award-winning author Emily Leary shares advice on how to make the most of family mealtimes and how to save money doing so

12 January 2021: Despite people spending more time at home than ever before, new research from Sainsbury’s reveals that just 28% of households are sharing the same meal in the evening, with an even lower 12% sharing breakfast.


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The poll of 2,000 UK respondents found that a busy schedule is the most common reason families don’t dine together, with 55% of the population admitting to struggling to find the time. Nearly one in five (19%) Brits aged 25-34 said they often eat a totally different meal to the rest of the family due to working late. Almost a quarter (23%) of parents in this age group even admitted that their children eat meals in front of the TV or games console.

Nearly a third of families cited fussy eating as a top reason they don’t eat the same meal, with 31% of parents aged 25-34 claiming mealtimes are made tricky by picky children who simply refuse to eat certain foods. A further one in five (20%) say they regularly cook their kids something entirely different in order to avoid frowning faces.  However, it’s not just children who are the fussy eaters, with a third of Brits having to serve up multiple dishes for picky parents or friends in their household.

In fact, the results showed that almost one in four (24%) households are cooking around four extra meals every week in order to please picky eaters, with one in ten 35-44 year olds having to cook up multiple dishes almost every evening – equating to an extra £37 per month.

Differing diets were found to be another big barrier for families at meal times. When it comes to pleasing both meat-eaters and vegetarians in the family, 36% of people say they regularly buy both meat and their plant-based equivalents, considerably increasing the overall food shop spend. In fact, households are spending an extra £9 every week buying foods that suit both diets.

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Rather than cooking different dishes and spending more in the process, Sainsbury’s has teamed up with award-winning family recipe author Emily Leary to help families look after the pennies. By finding creative ways to cook the same meal for all the family to enjoy, Sainsbury’s predicts that families can save over £450 every year.

Rhian Bartlett, Food Commercial Director for Sainsbury’s said, “We want to make mealtimes an occasion again, shrinking the gap between adult and children’s tastes by widening the palate of Britain’s picky eaters. Eating together not only encourages quality time with family, but it can also save customers a significant amount of money too! We hope that offering fun and simple solutions to the most common barriers to families not tucking into the same meal together will drive even better value for our customers across our range, helping them to live well for less”.

Award-winning author and food and family writer, Emily Leary offers up her top tips and solutions for how busy families can make the most of eating together:

Make dinner at the dinner table

Avoid making four different meals by having everyone make their own…at the table! Fajitas are a great option here all you need to do is fry up some chicken or a meat-free alternative with paprika and serve it to the table with plenty of sliced salad, tortillas and your favourite sauces. Not only is this a great tactic to satisfy fussy eaters, it can also encourage trying new flavours.

“Peoples’ personal diets these days are more varied than ever, with more and more choosing to eat the foods that suit their own individuality, whether that be flexitarian, vegan, gluten-free, and so on. Finding meals that work for everyone in the family needn’t be a hassle, though – you just need to get creative!”

No-cook “picky tea”

Lay out cheese, crackers, cooked meats, a few salad bits like tomatoes and cucumber, and any yummy leftovers you have in the fridge. Grab plates and everyone can dig in before racing off again.

Choose meals with easily adjustable fillings and toppings

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Meals like homemade pizzas or jacket potatoes can work really well when each family member has different food loves and hates. Mini quiches made with ready-rolled pastry in muffin tins are super each to prep too – each family member can sprinkle in their own choice of fillings before they go into the oven. This also gives the kids a chance to be involved in the prep, which can make them more likely to eat the results!

One meal, three ways

There are usually elements of a dish that everyone can eat. For example, if your family consists of one veggie, two meat-eaters and one low-carb, you can still serve everyone a pasta meal. Make a lovely veggie filled pasta sauce, serve onto pasta for the veggie, then stir in leftover cooked meat (eg chicken breast or tuna) before serving on pasta for the meat eater, and serving without pasta for the low-carb family member.

Find common ground

Meat eaters don’t have to eat meat every night, just like a large portion of carbohydrate isn’t essential at every meal! Even if your family is following different diets, you should still be able to find at least one or two meals a week you can all enjoy together. Sainsbury’s research found that 17% of Brits are even disguising meat alternatives in their cooking and serving it to their meat-eating family members – this is probably because there are so many convincing options out there. Try subbing out ingredients for some similar options that suit everyone, whether that be gluten-free or meat-free alternatives. What’s more, meal planning for the week ahead is definitely your friend here, as it allows you to think this through in advance instead of launching into a family debate at 6pm when everyone’s desperate for dinner!

Have some grab and go freezer meals

Prep up some meals in advance like curry and rice, spaghetti Bolognese or a vegetable pie and have it made and in the freezer. That way, whenever a window to eat together crops up, you can seize the opportunity and have something defrosted and on the table in a flash. And if schedules still don’t allow for everyone to come together on some occasions, the frozen meal will keep for later on that evening or another time.

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