There are tons of tricks and tips out there for weeknight meal planning (hello, meal prep!). But now that the food’s in the slow cooker, how do you actually get in the zone to enjoy dinnertime? Between work, spin class, and catching up on your Netflix queue, weeknight dinners often get put on the back burner (no pun intended). That’s why we put together a few seriously simple suggestions for how to make those few minutes around the table actually count.

1. Enforce a no-screen zone. Turn off all of your devices. Even if it’s only for 30 minutes, you’ll feel like you got a mental break. You’ll also be able to better connect with your friends and family, if you’re dining with company.

2. Designate your dining area. It’s tempting to flop on the sofa, but chances are you’ll have a more mindful experience if you set up a specific place to enjoy your meal. A table is great, but the end of the counter with a couple of bar stools will also do just fine. Keep the space free of clutter and instead set out a vase, salt and pepper shakers, or a few votive candles.

3. Treat yourself to real place settings. Subtle upgrades can make even pizza delivery feel special. Cloth napkins are easy to toss into your weekly laundry rotation, and a couple of placemats not only set the scene but also keep cleanup a breeze.

4. Upgrade your beverage. Whether it’s a glass of wine or a simple carafe of water, having a proper beverage puts out the restaurant vibes.

5. Dine al fresco. If you have an outdoor patio or backyard, make use of it. A little fresh air will break up weeknight monotony. Even on cooler nights, it’s fun to bundle up and head outside with a bowl of something warm and delicious.

6. Turn on the tunes. Background music always adds ambiance. Just keep the volume low and go for something mellow that you can easily converse over.

7. Clean as you go. You’ll have a more relaxing meal if you’re not stressed about facing a disaster kitchen later. Use the time while your food is cooking to wipe down counters, put away ingredients, and wash dishes used in prep.

8. If you’re going to ignore the rules, own it. If you’ve been waiting for The Bachelorette all week, make it the main event. Plan a low maintenance meal that can be easily enjoyed from your sofa and get cozy. A charcuterie board is perfect for grazing, or grab takeout and a bottle of your favorite bubbly.

Looking for more midweek meal inspo? Follow us on Pinterest for tons of easy recipes!

(Photos via Pixabay, Brooke Lark/Unsplash, Brooke Lark/Unsplash, Pixabay, Pixabay, Travis Yewell/Unsplash, Mikael Cho/Unsplash, Jens Kreutner/Unsplash)