Do you find yourself…
in line at the drive-thru more often than not?
eating on the run, grabbing a bite to eat for you and your children to eat on the way to a child’s practice or activity?
and your family eating whenever and whatever you feel like, everyone on his own schedule?
and your family eating in front of the computer or TV or alone in your bedroom?
I get it, it seems impossible to make a dinner AND have everyone home to eat at the same time! I have kids on swim team, so understand the challenges of having practice right during dinner hour and also a husband with a long commute who gets home very late each day. Having a spouse who travels frequently is also something we have had to deal with for several years of our marriage.
However, as I covered in "What's the Big Deal about Family Dinners Anyway?," there are a lot of benefits to eating dinner at home, together. Even if this can be accomplished sometimes, striving to increase the frequency is going to be a worthwhile endeavor.
Trust me, this is an area I struggled with so long. I was pretty good at baking because I did a lot of it growing up. Baking was something I enjoyed, and it was rewarding to see my treats quickly devoured by my brothers and—when I was older—my husband and children.
My cooking skills, however, were not as good. Growing up, I did help my mom with some cooking, but she had to do very quick dinners because of her work schedule. She taught music lessons in our home, so she usually worked from the time school got out each day until 6:30 p.m. It was the late 1970s and early 1980s; we were happy that the microwave had been invented! Much of our food was fried or microwaved. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have a lot of diverse cooking skills when I was married. The kids always joked, “Mom is a good baker, but not a very good cook.”
However, as our kids grew older and became involved in more activities, preparing food and eating together at home became a big challenge for our family. I knew I had to figure out something when I had 5 young boys and our days were filled with home schooling, then heading to swim team practice at about 4:30 pm each day. With a long commute to swim team, we would arrive home hungry and tired, well past dinner time and I was struggling with dinner. My husband was traveling extensively for work, so I had to get this figured out!
It was about this time that I first went to a meal prep business; they had the recipes and
ingredients all laid out, and customers like me would go from station to station filling a Ziploc bag or 9x13 aluminum pan with the ingredients. It took trying a few venues before I found one I liked, but it worked out very well for our family. My kids tried new foods, and I learned to cook, one recipe at a time. Better yet, I had food that could be cooked in a crockpot or was ready to bake as soon as we got home from swim practice or whatever other activities took us out of the house for the day. I no longer dreaded the infamous question of “What’s for dinner, Mom?”
We relied on that meal prep business until Dave and I moved across the country from Seattle to Delaware; at that point, we had five sons, a 15-month-old daughter, and I was 30 weeks pregnant with identical twins. Two weeks after that move, the twins were born by emergency C-section and spent their first month in the NICU; I spent a lot of time traveling to and from the hospital