Ah, spring…there’s so much to love, right? You’ve got climbing temperatures, sun-lit evenings, and flowers starting to bloom.
Yet if you’re like many of us here at The Family Dinner Project, you also have your kids’ crazy sports schedules to manage. Trying to juggle practices and games with dinner can feel overwhelming. Here are some suggestions for getting the kids (and yourself) fed without having to sacrifice nutrition or quality time together.
One word for you: Crockpot. If you don’t have a crockpot or slow cooker yet, you might want to consider investing in one. Crockpots make cooking dinner simple. Most recipes require a little preparation, and then the cooking occurs while you’re busy doing other things. Here are some kid-friendly recipes to get you started.
There are also other ways to Keep it simple without sacrificing nutrition. Don’t try to impress your family with your gourmet cooking skills on those evenings when your kids have practices or games. Chicken or egg salad sandwiches on whole grain bread are a quick and easy dinner choice, as are soups, chilis and casseroles. You can get a lot of mileage out of rotisserie chicken too, as this article suggests.
Taking dinner on the run is an often necessary and fun way to eat together when you need to get the whole family to the field on time. Consider turning dinner into a picnic. All the suggestions above under keep it simple travel well in a thermos or cooler– including chicken drumsticks, which are yummy cold. Throw in some fresh fruit and veggies, insulated water bottles, paper plates and utensils, and you’re all set!
In between soccer and gymnastics practice recently, The Family Dinner Project’s John Sarrouf and his family took their dinner to the basketball court at the YMCA. They ate rice and lentils from a rice cooker, with carrot sticks on the side. A good time was had by all as they played a game of keep away with the basketball and raced each other (bet they slept well that night, too).
Plan ahead and be flexible. Planning your meals ahead of time for the week is always a helpful exercise, but during sports season, this type of planning can relieve a lot of stress. Take some time over the weekend to look at team schedules for the week so you know what nights you may want to make something in the crockpot vs. have a picnic, for instance. This blog by Lynn, another one of our staff members, outlines how she plans out her dinners each week.
Some nights you might also try to schedule an early dinner together at home, say at 4:00 or 4:30 pm. Then, if your kids are still hungry after the game, consider a healthy and filling snack before bedtime, like a smoothie or an apple.
Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make the ideal family dinner happen during this time. Just do your best, and try to have fun together in the process.