How to Make the Most of Dinnertime in a Hectic House
As my sister says on crazy days, “Something has to go and it is going to be dinner.” I just received the Fall soccer schedules for my three girls. Together, they have eight practices per week and I haven’t even done the dance and gymnastics sign ups. Gone are the Happy Days of a family dinner. Selfishly, even more than missing the opportunity to do some family bonding, I am already resenting my role as diner waitress in my own home. Some nights, the kitchen needs to stay open from 5 – 9pm, with meals, snacks and people coming and going. This year, rather than don my Alice’s Uniform — I am going to be prepared.
The following are some tips for meal planning that will allow you to better manage life with busy kids.
1. Use a slow cooker. Even if you’ve never used one before, start now. You can finish making dinner before noon and then have the night to yourself.
2. Make meals best served at room temperature, so you are not cleaning pots when everyone else is sleeping.
3. Plan healthy snacks ahead. Leave cut up vegetables, cheese and breadsticks on the counter. This way, the kids aren’t inhaling cookies or chips as they are running out the door for practice.
4. Leave one or two places set at the counter or table to minimize the mess. Treat yourself and use disposable plates and silverware. Even better, insist everyone cleans up after him or herself.
5. Decide which child you are going to eat with. Some of the many advantages of a family dinner can be had one on one as well. Plus, this way, you don’t end picking all night long.
6. Finally, take advantage of nights off from activities, whether a gift from the scheduling gods, a rainout or by your own design, and insist on everyone at the table together. Studies show children from families who sit down together benefit in many ways, including less participation in high-risk behavior and less incidence of obesity. If nothing else, it will remind you what it feels like to be a mom and dad instead of a short-order cook and a chauffeur.