It’s official. I’ve hit that “next stage” with my kids. My oldest just turned 12. I also have a 9-year-old, a 7-year-old, and my youngest who just turned 5 (sniff, sniff). I’m no longer in the baby or toddler stage but instead have not-so-little people to manage, who happen to have very busy activities on their calendars. Seriously, it’s almost a full-time job trying to manage their lives. The problem is, I also have a job (hello!) and like to try to keep balance in all of our lives.
I’m quick to tell you about areas that are not my strengths (you’ll never hear me sing karaoke, and I wouldn’t have a clue how to put on any “real” makeup), but I am proud of areas where I do have some strengths. And I’m so thankful that one of them happens to be time management. Any parent can attest to the fact that this is essential when managing the family social and recreational calendar, along with the other demands of life.
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How to Feed Busy Families Real Food
Included in our family calendar are 12 hours a week for gymnastics, 8 for dance, 3 for track, 1 for swimming, and I’ll spare you the rest. Needless to say, afternoons and evenings are a full-on rush from the time the kids are out of school until they go to bed, and I’m sure that many of you can relate. I very strongly value the notion of feeding my kids well and not resorting to fast food places simply because I “have to.” I’ve found the following ideas help me feed my busy family real food without having to compromise. If you’re in a similar position, I hope that these ideas can help you. I also hope you’ll share what works for you in the comments!
- Food prep the weekend before.
This part is absolutely essential for me. As I shared in another post, on the weekend, I do my shopping, some chopping, and fully prepare one meal so that it’s ready to go come Monday. I also try to make some items for their lunches that can double as great after-school snacks or after-sports snacks, depending on their schedule for the day.
- Cook dinner first thing in the morning.
You’ll often find me cooking dinner at 7:00 in the morning. Yes, I know it’s not quite traditional, and sometimes things do taste better when they are fresh, but this works for me. If the meal was not already prepped the weekend before, I’ll get my kids’ breakfasts served, and while they eat, I’ll prep and cook dinner so that it’s ready whenever their schedule permits. As a bonus, I find myself in the kitchen at the same time as them. So while I’m not able to sit with them to connect face-to-face, we still have conversations – me cutting and stirring, them eating.
- Be unconventional.
Dinner at 4:15? Sometimes a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. My oldest has practice Monday through Thursday for 3-4 hours, and practice starts at 5:15 on a few of the days. Since we get home from school at 3:45, it just makes sense for her to flip/flop dinner and a snack. She’ll have dinner at 4:15 and a snack when she gets home hours later.
- Snacks need to be solid.
Snacks are essential for any parent, but they especially need to be ready and on-hand for busy families. This goes back to food prep. Make muffins, cut up fruits and veggies, and have staples like oatmeal (or overnight oats) and cereal on hand so that you can grab them and go. This is particularly good for the passengers (i.e., the younger two who have to be carted around everywhere we go) or for after sports when they need a good, solid snack to refuel.
I know I’ve mentioned them before, but Plan to Eat is a great organizational tool that I love for keeping my meals planned and in check. (Shawn on our team is a regular user as well!) In all honesty, I took a little break from it for a while (got lazy, more or less), but I’m so happy to be back at it again. I can always find “my” recipes (it’s a great place to save favorites from various sources, which in turn helps me clean out my inbox), and I love that I can plan everything and create a shopping list with just one click. Try it out for free for 30 days and see if you don’t love it, too.
Back to feeding busy families real food on the go. I’m certainly not perfect, and I don’t always get the “perfect” meals or snacks into my kids hands, but I do my best in trying. I’d love to hear what works for you in the midst of managing your kids’ crazy schedules!