A study of 2,000 parents with children at home found working hours, kids getting hungry earlier than adults and after school clubs all have an impact on dinnertimes.

And 30 per cent only manage three or less of their evening meals together during the typical week.

More than a quarter of parents also serve up different dishes, with an average of three meals being cooked each evening.

Similarly, households typically have two sittings for food during hectic dinnertimes.

It emerged children’s bedtimes, differing food preferences and lack of space are also reasons for families not sitting down at the same time to eat.

Sarah Hanley, a spokesperson for Old El Paso, which carried out the research as part of its Fajita Friday campaign, said: “It’s a shame to see how little time families spend together around the dinner table.

“But we know it’s a reality of busy family lives to struggle to eat together, particularly now kids are back at school and busy schedules can get in the way.

“We want to remind people of the importance of spending time together, despite how hectic life feels.

“Mealtimes should be fun, not stressful, so it’s great to see the survey found parents feel meals that are hands on – such as fajitas – get their family together and talking more at dinner time.”

The study also revealed what parents think would make families inclined to eat at the dinner table more often.

These include working shorter hours and fewer distractions around the table such as TV and mobile phones.

And with kids now back at school, almost a quarter think planning a weekly sit-down meal into their family routine will help.

Enjoying more meals where each family member can help themselves to various dishes and meal components would also make a difference for the better, according to 18 per


More than half of mums and dads said dinnertime should be quality family time, but it often feels too busy in their household.

Families are least likely to enjoy a meal together at the dinner table earlier in the week, with most households tending to eat collectively towards the end of it.

While one in 10 said Fridays in particular are the day they usually eat with one another.

36 per cent would like their whole family to eat together more often, while 35 per cent

would also like to cook more with their kids.

A further 34 per cent enjoy involving their family in the meal prep and cooking process and 31 per cent would like to have time on weeknights to all cook as a family.

But four in 10 admitted cooking together should be enjoyable rather than rushed and hectic.

According to the study carried out via OnePoll, the meals families are most likely to rustle up as a group include fajitas, pizza, and curry.

Sarah added: “Mealtimes will often be much more enjoyable when cooking together and enabling each family member to ‘customise’ what they eat by plating it up themselves.

“Not only is it an opportunity to put down the technology and spend more face-to-face time with your loved ones, but it’s also an easy way to ensure that everyone is getting something on their plate that they’ll enjoy.

“Friday evening is a great time to set aside and celebrate the end of a long week at work or school with the family.

“Switching it up with a more hands on meal and making it more of a weekly occasion like Fajita Friday naturally adds extra excitement to the dinner table, kicking off the weekend in style.”


1.           Mine or my partner’s work hours

2.           Children get hungry earlier than me or my partner

3.           Kids are out with friends

4.           Social engagements e.g., dinner out with friends

5.           Different food preferences

6.           After school clubs

7.           Children don’t like the food we eat

8.           Children having their friends around for food

9.           Kids eat in front of the TV

10.         My out of home activities e.g., going to the gym

11.         Children’s bedtime

12.         I eat in front of the TV

13.         Kids have a hot meal at school so have cold food for tea

14.         Kids work their mealtime around homework

15.         Not enough room for us all to sit down at once

16.         I work my mealtimes around TV shows e.g., watching the soaps

17.         Dietary requirements e.g., one of us is allergic to nuts

18.         Can’t fit enough food for all of us in the oven

19.         One of us following a specific diet

20.         Don’t own a table to sit and eat around

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