NEW YORK — American families are most likely to eat dinner together on Wednesday – which is also one of the days parents feel the least in-control of their home life. That’s the takeaway from a recent survey, which asked 2,000 parents to describe the numerous challenges they face in managing their household, particularly their mealtimes.
The data suggests that families are most likely to eat dinner together on Tuesday (50%) and Wednesday (51%). That said, Americans are least likely to have a plan for dinner on those same days (46% and 44%, respectively). Those surveyed also named Monday as the day when they’re most likely to be “on top of everything” (23%) and Thursday as when they’re “struggling to stay afloat” (16%).
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Pound of Ground, the results also reveal that for many parents, February (33%), March (28%), and January (28%) are the most challenging months for their families in a given year. Although many kids have their calendars filled up with after-school activities like dance classes or baseball games, most respondents believed themselves to be the busiest member of their family (76%).
As one respondent puts it, “We schedule our life around our kids, not the other way around.”
“There are so many factors that can make it hard to get dinner on the table – from kids’ activities to not having the right ingredients on hand or not having enough time to defrost meat,” says Heidi Meyer, creator of Pound of Ground Frozen Ground Beef Crumbles, in a statement. “As a busy parent myself, I know how hectic the week can be, and I’m constantly on the search for a solution for dinner on nights that I don’t have a plan.”
Commitments aside, 74 percent say their family’s usual dinner time tends to be fairly consistent from day to day. For 62 percent of households, it regularly falls somewhere after 7 p.m. In fact, only half as many households (29%) have dinner earlier, between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The survey also shows that 69 percent describe themselves as meal planners rather than improvisers, and are responsible for making dinner between three and four times a week. However, 35 percent don’t figure it out until that day or just hours before mealtime. More often than not, that last-minute meal is a pasta dish (40%), followed by frozen meals (37%) and burgers or hot dogs (36%).
When asked about their biggest hurdles when trying to improvise a meal plan, over a third (36%) cite missing a key ingredient, while another third blame a lack of energy (33%). Waiting for frozen meat to thaw (33%) also proved to be a significant challenge for respondents, so much that nearly three in four (76%) sometimes forget to take meat out of the freezer in time for dinner, and nearly half (46%) do so frequently.
To simplify the dinner-making process, almost two in five (40%) have tried implementing a consistent menu, assigning specific meals to specific days like “Taco Tuesday.” Others (39%) stock up on common pantry items or divide up the work among family members (41%).
“I find that having pantry staples on hand is the best way to set myself up for success come mealtime,” Meyer says. “By extending what we think as typical ‘pantry items’ to what’s in the freezer, like frozen uncooked ground beef, we open the door to new, easy possibilities.”