I Ate Dinner With My Family Every Night for a Week & Here's What Happened

Coming home from school is such a blessing — especially when it’s for the holidays. At our house around this time of year, the radio is always playing a cheesy Christmas tune in the background of my family’s conversations and laughter, and of course, there’s usually some sort of wonderful smell in the air that’s coming from the kitchen.

Some may say that sleeping in their own beds is their favorite reason to come home, but mine is having a stocked fridge and homecooked meals served hot and with love. Seriously, nothing beats my mom’s chili on a cold winter day.

However, as I’ve gotten older, it seems that dining out has turned into more of a social event than anything. My friends and I tend to hang out less at each other’s homes and more time at our favorite tables in our favorite restaurants, which means that if I want to get all dressed up and go out with my friends, I have to trade in my mom’s awesome home cooked meals for a meal on a menu.

It's certainly not just me feeling this way. “When I do go out to eat, it's of course to indulge in some amazing food I can’t get from my own cabinets at home or at school,” Caroline McCormack, a junior at Keene State College, told me. “But it’s mainly to socialize and catch up with friends.”

I, along with most of the people I know in college, are going home broke...I mean, if you aren’t broke, are you really even a college student?

But in between the Christmas gifts for my friends and my family and the plane trip home, I decided that I was going to put my foot down (and pick my fork up!) and just have to see my friends in a different setting that wasn’t a trendy restaurant.

That being said, this holiday break I’ve been trying my hardest to resist the temptation to socialize while swiping my credit card, and instead have been eating at home. For the first time probably since before I could drive, I ate at home for dinner every single night for a week...and it was awesome.

Of course, I’m not going to bore you with my details of what we ate every single night, but, what I am going to explain is this:

I asked my BFFs from home to give me some quotes about their eating-out habits, and what they answered me with was almost surprising.

My friend Emily Seraphin, a junior at University of Delaware, said that she “eats at home very often” because she loves her mom's home cooking and her mom loves to cook for her family. My other friend, Maggie Featherston, a junior at James Madison University, said that she loves to eat at home with her family because of the “banter and jokes” that get passed around the table.

Keep in mind, these are the friends I love to go out to eat with at least a few times a week when we’re home, but we all feel the same exact way about eating at home...I mean, it’s so great and comforting to chow down with your fam. The question I'm asking is why we choose to socialize by dining out so often if we all prefer to eat at home?

After interviewing my friends, I was curious to see other college students’ habits as well. So, I took to a Twitter poll and found out that 39% ate meals at home every single day when they returned from school for breaks. 

What was I missing here?! I thought everybody ate out just as much as I normally do with my friends! But, what I really discovered about this whole purposeful eating-with-my-family-every-night ‘experiment’ (if that’s what you want to call it) was something that I couldn’t find out from a poll or from quickly interviewing my friends.

I learned that eating at home with your family does way more than just save money — it saves your family dynamic.

I know that sounds super cheesy but it’s true.

Now that we’re in college, out of the entire year, we’re home only for *maybe* four to five months total, depending on your situation. And out of those five months for me, I spend the majority of the time either in my room watching Netflix or out with my friends. I don’t spend nearly as much time with my family as I should be. Sure, you can argue that we’re young and that’s how it’s supposed to be, but if I have any say, I don’t want it to be like that. My family and I aren’t the closest family you’ll ever meet. We definitely share laughs and have such great and fun memories together, and as I’ve gotten more mature, we’ve gotten even closer. Yet, there’s always been some kind of barrier between us, something I’m sure a lot of families can relate to.

But during this week, I noticed that we got even closer than before and my transition back to living with my parents was smooth. Just by spending the 40 minutes or so together at dinner, talking about our days and chatting about current events and catching my parents up in my life, was a really big deal. Every night, we had less and less to catch up on, and more and more to talk about. There weren’t as many awkward silences as there sometimes tend to be at our family dinners; we easily moved from conversation to conversation.

Now, I’m not saying that this is the be-all-end-all and that this is going to solve every single problem you may have with your family, but it’s definitely a good start.

I used to eat dinner with my family every single night as a child and so eating with them again every night kind of reminded me of a beautiful and simpler time...and that’s what this week was: it was beautiful and it was simple. Maybe it was the food or maybe it was the holiday magic in the air. Whatever it was, I highly suggest conducting the same “experiment”.

Why give up a perfectly delicious homemade meal for a hamburger and some French fries made with way too much salt and not enough love? Or, if you’re dying for some Chinese food or pizza or Chik-Fil-A nuggets, invite your parents and siblings to go with you. Chances are, they’re also dying for a night to splurge on a restaurant bill, some calories and some time with you.

Collegiettes, we have our whole lives to eat in restaurants and be social and go out on the town spending money on food. Take this time now to be with your family.

Sure friends are important, and food is important….okay, food is really important. But, the most important thing of all is family. Make mealtime family time again. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Happy holidays, and happy eating!