Monday is one of the busiest days of the week for my family. Our three daughters have tennis lessons from 4:30 to 6:00 pm, and our son has lacrosse practice from 7:30 to 9:00 pm. That means our time together at the dinner table has to be scheduled and well planned out. Here are five tips for the making the most your busiest nights:
Be organized and think ahead. You’ve probably already heard this before, but planning your meals ahead of times helps. I know I can’t wing dinner on Monday nights. My menu is usually planned and prepared early in the day so there is no room for indecision. I also make Mondays my grocery shopping day and I restock our refrigerator shelves full of healthy fruits, veggies, lean protein and healthy grains to prepare for dinners for the rest of the week.
Get the homework done. My husband and I divide and conquer. I usually take the girls to tennis, and let our son finish his homework. Then, after dinner, when my husband takes our son to lacrosse practice and I’m cleaning up the dishes, the girls sit around the table and do their homework. I’m there, readily available to answer any questions. This plan provides an opportunity for wonderful family conversation, both during dinner and at homework time. There is nothing more important then our children knowing we are there for them, and that we have the time to listen to their ideas, their concerns and any issues from their day.
Focus on the time you have and not the time you don’t. Make the most of the limited time you have. Don’t try to answer emails, return phone calls or fold laundry when you only have 30 minutes to get dinner on the table. Prioritize what’s important. For our family, that’s sitting down to a meal at the table and having a meaningful conversation. Laundry and emails can wait till later!
Stay positive! Feeling overwhelmed and stressed will not help you get through a busy night. When you start to let negative, self-defeating thoughts drift into your mind such as “We’ll never get homework done,” Or “I won’t get to bed till so late,” replace them with self-affirming positive thoughts, like “We can get this all done!” Take deep breaths and focus on one thing at a time.
Enlist help from your family members. Getting your husband, kids, mother or anyone else that is part of your family involved makes cooking fun and faster! My kids love peeling carrots, adding water to a pot, even cracking eggs and dipping chicken or fish in breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Remember, many hands make light work, and that’s makes for a more efficient night! And don’t forget to get everyone to help you clean up, too!
Meals for Busy Nights My go-to recipes for the busiest nights are crock pot recipes, which can cook all day long and be ready to put on the table quickly when our crew gathers for dinner, or simple and healthy menus with few pots for clean up. Here are a few of my favorite simple recipes for you:
Pulled Pork Tacos
Find your favorite shredded pork crock pot recipe online or in a cookbook. After the pork cooks for 7-8 hours, serve on warm tortillas and top with your favorite coleslaw. I like adding cilantro and jalapeno to mine for a nice kick!
Buy a rotisserie chicken. Shred it and put in on top of a tostado. Top with Cheddar cheese, broil until bubbly. Then top with lettuce, tomato, avocado and salsa.
Tilapia with Green Beans
Tilapia is a mild fish that most kids love! Bake it with some olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon, and serve with green beans and brown rice or whole grain pasta.
Salmon and Asparagus in Foil
Place asparagus on a piece of foil. Top with Salmon. Mix honey and Dijon mustard together and pour on top of Salmon. Top with walnuts (optional). Fold the foil into a packet, and bake till salmon is medium. Serve with whole wheat orzo or quinoa.
Also, The Family Dinner Project’s recipes are typically eight ingredients or less–and take only 30 minutes!
Not every Monday is perfect at our house, and there are times when we are still working on homework at 9 pm. But we try our best, and continue to make sitting down to dinner together a priority. I know it will pay off in the long run.
AmyBowers lives in Dallas and is a busy mother of 4. She is currently going to school to become a Health Coach. She is passionate about exercise and fitness, being a devoted wife and mother, and cooking and eating healthy. Her goal is to help families spend more time together and eat whole foods that nourish the mind and body. You can learn more on her blog.