Jon Acuff is Bringing Dinner Back! Week #1: Dinner, unplugged.

My marriage is better, when my wife and I spend lots of time together.

That’s shocking, right? Who knew that being connected, connected you? Who knew that hanging out, talking and making time for each other were critical parts of growing a healthy marriage? I am dropping some bombs today!

Great marriages don’t just happen. And neither do great families.

Days gets busy. Schedules pull at the seams of the fabric of family life. Soccer practice, business trips, after work meetings, the list of things that compete for our time is extensive. That’s why a few weeks ago on my blog, Stuff Christians Like, I decided I wanted to bring dinner back. More than just wish and hope my family had time for each other, I decided we would make time for each other. Starting with dinner.

For the next 90 days, every Friday I’ll post an update on this blog. I’ll tell you how many days the Acuff family had dinner together that week. I’ll tell you about an E-Mealz meal we loved and I’ll tell you one thing I learned.

I’d love for you to join in this simple challenge. Just keep track of how many family dinners you had together from Saturday to Friday and then post a comment on my weekly blog post. I’d love to hear what E-Mealz meal plan you’re family is doing and what your favorite meal was that week. And I should warn you, I’m probably going to talk trash about my dinner record each week. You up for it? You want to bring dinner back with me?

Here’s what happened with the Acuff family during week 1.

What we learned: Family meals need to be unplugged.

I check my iPhone approximately 764 times a day. I’m emailing, tweeting and text messaging friends non-stop with the frequency of a teenage girl who has just seen Justin Bieber at the mall. And until last week, that included sometimes during dinner. My wife usually asks me to put up my iPhone, but I realized I was doing something pretty sneaky to get around her wish. Whenever someone at the table would ask a question like, “What was the name of that ride I loved at Disney?” I would grab my iPhone. Under the guise of being helpful, I would say, “Let me look that up for you.” And then, once the phone was out, I would check Twitter, send an email and eventually make my way to looking up the answer to the question they had asked. Ugh. Dad of the year.

To combat that, that digital distraction that seems to dominate dinner, I used a trick my counseling friend Rhett taught me. All it took was a basket.

Now when dinner is about to begin, my wife and I both put our iPhones in a basket on the counter. We turn them off and agree that once something is in the basket, it can’t come out until dinner is over. Since neither one of us are heart surgeons or currently negotiating world peace, chances are reading a text message we get during dinner can wait 30 minutes. I know that sounds silly, but I promise you it’s reassuring to my kids to see me physically saying, “The phone is off during dinner. Dinner with y’all matters more to me than this phone.”

When dinner is over, we can decide to grab our phones again, but some nights we forget. It’s weird, but it’s almost as if having broken the spell our iPhones have over us, we’re able to enjoy the rest of the night without worrying about them.

Give a basket or a box or a bucket a shot some night at dinner. You might just be surprised how quickly it works.

Our favorite E-Mealz meal of the week.

We’re doing the Publix Meal Plan right now. This week, the meals offered ranged from Low Country Boil to Thai Thighs. (You know, your basic Louisiana to Thailand menu.) Our favorite of the week was the Bacon-Corn Chowder. Even though the weather started to warm up a little this week in Tennessee, it was a perfect complement to winter. And it was incredibly easy to make. We went from store to supper in about 30 minutes.

Our dinner record for the week.

We went 6 for 7 this week. I had a dry run for a speaking engagement one night and didn’t make it home in time for dinner with the kids. I did get to have dinner with my wife though so maybe I was 6.5 for 7.

How about you?

How many nights this week did you eat dinner with your family? Did you beat me?

What was your favorite E-Mealz meal?


Jon Acuff is the author of the book and the blog, Stuff Christians Like. He is on a new adventure with his family, and will be blogging about it here every Friday! He told us about his personal challenge to bring dinner back in his blog last week. “Think of it kind of like a dinner fantasy football league.”

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24 thoughts on “Jon Acuff is Bringing Dinner Back! Week #1: Dinner, unplugged.

  1. Jim

    I’m not quite up to your level yet but it has been on my heart to have more family dinners together. My wife and I talked about it just a few weeks ago. I have been working 2 jobs that had me away from home from 7 am to midnight each day. After a short time of that I said enough! So now I have a window of 2 hours between jobs that I can go home to be with my family. I would really like to make that time count and having a sit down dinner would be super. We’ve looked into the e-mealz but haven’t really implemented them yet.

    I like your challenge. Thanks for posting it to help me get in the game!

    1. justen

      Jim great job on trying figure that family is important. I have the same struggle right now. I was filling my evenings with things to do outside and extra work. I travel sometimes during the week and finding a part time working around was hectic. If I may ask what part time jobs do you work?
      I have been spending more time during the week with family and it has been very grateful.

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  3. Melissa

    Great job for eating together most days of the week! I hear it’s a rarity these days. My family consists of my husband and I, and our 3 boys who are all under the age of 6. We are 7 out of 7 this week. My husband works second shift right now, so we switch it up and eat “dinner” at lunch time and then eat a lighter meal (lunch) at dinner time. This way my husband is always able to eat dinner with us, and the kids are too young to be anywhere else but home. We’re doing the low fat any store plan, and our favorite meal this week was the baked spaghetti, although we are a week behind on our menu plan, so what should have been this past weeks menu will actually be what we eat this coming week.

  4. Angel Castaneda

    SeptemberLily and I are doing the Awesome Meals For Two program (or whatever it’s called), but this week, we fell trap to the I’m Tired, And Lazy, And I Don’t Want To Even Do Dishes Syndrome.

    ITALAIDWTEDDS affects 70% of Canadian population. While some studies indicate that it’s due to the lack of sun, no cure is currently know. For only $1.25 a week, you can help a fellow Canadian pay for an e-Mealz program, and help us erradicate ITALAIDWTEDDS .

    Oh, and Taco Calzones were definitely my favorite meal!

  5. Joellen Wright

    We made 7 out of 7; sometimes we eat late because of the kids evening activites, but it’s important for us to sit together and talk about our day. It’s how I grew up and want my kids to experience the same thing. We use the lowfat menu plan. Our favorite meal was parmesan crusted chicken!

  6. Charlie Chang

    We went 7 for 7 dinners together as a family this week. My favorite was the creamy salsa tacos. I’m in love with Spanish food.

    And this week we started letting 3.5 year old daughter sit in the chair without a booster seat. I’ll just say there were a lot of, “Turn around Chloe and eat your food.”

  7. Lauren

    We were 3 for 2. We’re on the Walmart Family plan. I admit to cheating; I have a free app on my iPhone called Mealboard. I input the e-mealz recipes on the Mealboard website, download it to my iPhone, and build my week of recipes and shopping list from there. It’s GREAT for shopping at the store because it compiles all the ingredients on my iPhone, so I can click them off the list as I shop. Plus, if there is an e-meal on the list that I am not sure any of us would like, I can just drop in a meal that we know we love already, or one of my own recipes.

    I say 3 for 2 because I made 3 family meals and 2 of them were e-Mealz. (We had a vacation week so things were crazy and traveling.) We had the Southwest Sirloin Salad and the Cheddar Jack Quiche. Both were very good! I asked the family to be honest – did you like this, did you not like this? What was great? What could you live without? What would you add to make it better? Would you want me to cook this again? It’s been really good. The hubby and the teen are both eager to find out what’s next. Tonight is a birthday dinner, and we start back up tomorrow with 6 more e-mealz already on the docket.

    Thanks, Jon. I joined because of you. I’m also excited to try the Bacon-Corn Chowder, I’ll be sure to add that for next week. 🙂

  8. Lisa DeLay

    I love having dinner as a family. Once every 2 weeks it does not happen, but otherwise, it’s regular thing. I think we all get A LOT from this type of stability.

    BUT—I have a weird problem…esp for someone who’s spend literally HUNDREDS of hours studying how to provoke spiritual growth at the graduate level.
    Okay–here goes:
    My kids HATE to pray… Esp at meals. I’ve even tried ice cream after dinner bribes… but -Nothing.

    I could use your help.

    Maybe you could comment here where I posted “Help! My kids HATE prayers at mealtime.”

  9. Brooklyn Cravens

    Deceptive iPhone trick with feigned helpfulness? Sneak, sneaky! 6.5 for 7 is a pretty good run, though. And thanks for all of these posts about eating dinner together. I am in college now, but they are timeless truths to be used for my future family. Thanks, Jon!

  10. Bob Cody

    I love this post. It is a lot more difficult to do dinner together since our son has headed off to college but all through junior high and high school the one thing that set us apart from a lot of other families was that we insisted that we have dinner together. It makes a huge difference when you drive a stake in the ground and declare dinner time “Family Time”. It sends a message to your kids that this time with them matters to you. The benefits reach far beyond the dinner table.

  11. Stacy

    We have dinner as a family every night. But my “secret” is that me and my 3 kids live with my parents. I work full time and my stepmom is home. So dinner is on the table every night when I get home from work. I know how blessed I am to not have to worry about what to cook every night. Eventually the kids and I will be in our own place and it will be a struggle I am sure to have dinner together every night so for now I am enjoying not having to cook.

  12. Perry

    My wife works from home and prepares dinner just about every night. We are about to be hit with the busy-ness of Spring sports for our 3 kids and I’m sure that will affect our dinner time together. My wife and our 2 boys had the flu this past week so even though we were all here for dinner we ended up eating in shifts a few times. My favorite meal was a white bean soup with chicken and Hatch green chiles – perfect for the Arctic Blast we had down here in Central Texas.

  13. Margaret Wetterling

    I love the convenience of e-mealz. Having new things to prepare that don’t take a lot of time or ingredients. I just switched to the WW points plan for 2 even though I’m not doing Weight Watchers. It’s just hubby and me now but we generally eat at home 5-6 times a week.

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  16. Kristy

    Well, we’re 7 for 7, but it’s not a fair contest on our part. We’re missionaries in Kenya and the only place to eat is at home:) I’m a big fan of easy to prepare meals though, so I’ll be checking out E-Mealz!

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  18. meg

    Six. Had to see Harry Potter with the 13 yr old one night. Mostly eating out of the garden and sea this time of year. Our family priority from day one was dinner together and even tho’ we sometimes ate at 9 pm, we made it happen. When the kids were little they’d get a 5 pm snack to hold them over til we could eat our ‘real’ dinner. Now my six are 13 through 25 and dinners are a community process. We all love it. It’s worth all the teenager drama. really.

  19. Sherry

    Jon, on a normal day-to-day routine, we always eat dinner together. I love to cook, so we usually eat at home. What I love about your challenge is that I believe our primary malfunction, as a society today, is not eating meals together. There are so many people out there that don’t know how to cook or don’t have anyone to cook for. So, they turn to social media and post all their feelings, looking for someone to agree with them, comfort them, or give them advice. I’m sure you know those people who post EVERYTHING. Well, my guess is those people need someone to have a meal with. Maybe we can aim for inviting people over for a home cooked meal as well.

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