• Barb Mayfield

Eating Together is Easy


Who needs something else to complicate their lives? No one.

Who needs something else to enrich their lives? Everyone.

That “something” can be eating with others.

Although most people agree on the benefits of eating together, a common belief is that getting people together for a shared meal is too complicated. Not true.

September is Family Meals Month and certainly eating with your family is key to family well-being, but what if you live alone and your family lives miles away… does that mean “family meals” are not for you? No. Think “shared meals” instead of “family meals.” Eating with others benefits more than just families.

Eating with others is easier than you might think. And it is definitely worth the effort. At the most basic level, find daily opportunities to come together with others to eat:

  • If you share a residence, eat at the same time and place, whether or not you eat the same food.

  • When you take a meal break at work, invite a coworker to join you even if it means sitting together at one of your desks with your sack lunches from home.

  • When you go to a restaurant solo, pick one with a counter and sit next to someone who is willing to converse.

How hard is that? In addition to nourishing your hungry body, you have taken a break from working, or scrolling social media, or worrying – to focusing on another person, catching up, having a laugh, making plans and getting rejuvenated.

As I think about how I experience shared meals with others, I realize I make them a priority and look for opportunities to have them. In addition to sharing nightly dinners with my husband out on our deck this week, I will enjoy a variety of different shared meal experiences:

  • Dinner with extended family at the independent living residence where my mother and mother-in-law live. We do that every, single, Monday night.

  • A lunch date with a group of friends that I worked with at Purdue. We get together at least once a month.

  • A community meal hosted by a local church that occurs about once a quarter.

  • And, on the last Saturday of September we are hosting our second neighborhood block party. A potluck. Super easy. We hope to make it an annual event.

Each experience is a shared meal… daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.

How can you accomplish shared meals without stress? I suggest four simple steps that answer who, when, where, and what:

  1. Who? Determine who to gather around the table. Shared meals are for more than just families. Gather your friends, gather your coworkers, gather your neighbors, gather the members of your study group. Who could benefit from sharing a meal together? Everyone!

  2. When? Determine a date and time. What gets scheduled gets done. If the date is a ways into the future, send a “save-the-date” or calendar invite. Can’t figure out what works best for everyone? Send out a “Doodle” poll. Consider setting a regular “date” to come together (every second Sunday or fourth Wednesday), or at least pick the next date when one shared meal is ending. Coming together for shared meals on a regular basis builds a habit that will be anticipated and treasured. Relationships are nurtured over time. Shared meals are an ideal place to form and develop meaningful relationships.

  3. Where? Select a location. Hosting doesn’t necessarily mean having guests in your home. Eating out counts. Meeting in a common location like a meeting room in your apartment complex, or at a neighborhood center, a park, the building of a faith community, or a restaurant are all potential locations. Vary the location or establish one place that feels just right.

  4. What? If not eating out, share the food preparation. Hosting doesn’t necessarily mean creating a gourmet meal solo. Host a potluck and have everyone bring a dish to pass. Don’t overcomplicate the food. Guests can even be asked to bring their own table service. Keep it simple and easily replicated by others. The food is not the center of attention, the people are. Set aside your phones and focus on one another. Have deep conversations, have fun, and make lasting memories.

If you’re looking for more ideas for family or shared meals, check out the resources at the Food Marketing Institute Foundation website: https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-month.

Keep it simple. Just make it happen!

“Welcome is the best dish in the kitchen.” ~ Scottish saying

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