Making holiday meals more meaningful

JSSPA Extension Information

As we begin the holiday season, meals with extended families usually become more frequent. The fun conversation starters available on “The Family Table” website will fill your family meals with laughter and memories.

How about this conversation starter: What’s your most memorable Thanksgiving dinner?

Making Meals More Meaningful

Families celebrate many holidays throughout the year, and every family probably celebrates a little differently. More than the special foods, gifts or ceremonies, the best part of a holiday is often the connections we make with the people who mean the most to us.

Whether you are celebrating a homemade meal, holiday, birthday or another special occasion, why not include a centerpiece? Use items from around the house that have special meaning. Talk about why you chose those items at mealtime. Lead with “My Great-grandpa Ervin embroidered this table runner more than 70 years ago.” Then share a memory about him with your children.


For a fall centerpiece, bundle up and take the family outdoors on a crisp fall day to walk and collect interesting bits of nature to add to your centerpiece. Young children can wear a piece of masking tape, sticky side out, on their arm so they can add pieces such as small pine cones, leaves and feathers to their “nature bracelets.” You may wish to wash off your outdoor finds and set them in the bathtub for a while before bringing them to the table, just in case you collected more than you thought you had.

If you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary, include photos of the honorees in a variety of small frames or on a cardholder in a fresh bouquet.

Break out the (flameless) candles, the table linen and the good manners before a holiday or special event so everyone has a chance to learn and practice. Read up on the basics of good table etiquette. Teach the basics and accept that manners take practice.

Save on Holiday Meals this Season

Holiday meals can put a strain on any budget. With a little planning and ingenuity, you can find ways to save some money this holiday season.

  • Make a plan. Write it down. When you go shopping, have a list and don’t deviate.
  • Check grocery store ads for items on sale. This time of year, grocery stores will have sales on most of the things you need for your holiday meals. Start stocking up when items are at a reduced price. Even think about things such as baking ingredients. These items will keep until you are ready to use them.
  • Make it a potluck. If you are hosting a big group, have family and friends bring some of the dishes. If you like to do all of the cooking, ask them to pitch in with some of the ingredients or some money toward the meal.
  • Don’t make too much. If you’re just going to end up throwing food away, you are wasting money.
  • If you do have leftovers, have a plan for them. Send some home with guests, freeze them or use them. For ideas on what to do with leftover Thanksgiving foods, visit .

Article used with permission from Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension, The Family Table newsletter, Issue 11. For more information about this topic, contact the Stutsman County Extension office at 252-9030 or email .

Related Topics: FAMILY
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