I find summer to be a really relaxing time with the kids at home—nowhere in particular to be for the majority of the day until…dinnertime. This can cause some real problems and complaints from hungry kids in the backseat on the way home from a ball game (or whatever the activity was that night). The snacks I keep in the car won’t cut it, and they’re absolutely, positively certain they can’t wait until we make it home to eat. In their minds, the only solution is the nearest drive-thru, where they can indulge as quickly as possible. This is when a well-thought-out plan makes all the difference in the world.
My hubby and I are big advocates of downtime and limit the number of activities our boys sign up for throughout the year. However, when they choose activities that run simultaneously, things can get a little tricky. Here are five dinnertime survival tips that come to our rescue on a regular basis:
#5: Use your slow cooker. Simply set everything up in the morning and supper is ready as soon as you walk through the door—even a tasty pot roast, complete with carrots and red potatoes. If you’re planning a simple dinner like sloppy joes or tacos, just have the meal all prepared and keep it warm on the low setting.
#4: Prep enough raw vegetables to last a couple of days at a time. This will make reaching into the refrigerator for ready-to-eat carrots, red peppers, and celery beyond simple. While some vegetables like cucumbers don’t look very appealing after a night in the fridge, if you have some old standbys ready to munch on, the three minutes it takes to slice one up shouldn’t cause any riffs. Be sure to have some washed salad greens or a batch of coleslaw ready to go too.
Some might say that vegetables start losing their nutritional value as soon as you cut them up. While this may be true, a peeled and cut carrot that’s been soaking in filtered water overnight in the fridge has a lot more nutritional value than the french fries your kids would have ate with their cheeseburger at the drive-thru.
#3: Grill up a variety of meats on Sunday to eat during the week. For example, flank steak is delicious eaten cold, so if you have some ready to roll up in a tortilla or put on top of a green salad, you have an almost instantaneous meal at the ready. The same goes for chicken thighs or, for that matter, a pork loin. This trick can get you through most of the week with no prep work, other than the time it takes to whip up your side dishes. (According to this food safety website, cooked meats should last three to four days in your refrigerator.)
#2: Have your kids help you create the weekly menu. This tip works year-round, but especially during the summer months when the kids will try to coax you into stopping for fast food on the way home. Sure, it may not work every time, but when they take part in planning the family meals, they’re more likely to get excited about eating them. It helps when you can say, “Remember? This is Meatball Monday!”
#1: Establish family rules for eating out. Exploring the local food in your area is a ton o’ fun. So decide how frequently you’re able and willing to make an exception for it. If everyone agrees in advance to eating out once every two weeks, for example, there won’t be any surprises. When it comes up (and it will come up), you can redirect the conversation by saying like, “We have some yummy grilled bratwursts at home to eat. Are you sure this is the night you want to go out?” or “Oh, you all decided we should go out to Lark Burger last Wednesday. So tonight we’ll be headed home instead.” Either way, everyone will know what the rules are.
I can’t guarantee these survival tips will completely eliminate the calls for convenience from the backseat. But if you put these into practice, the demand for drive-thru certainly won’t increase any. And you know what? If you break the rules every once in a blue moon, that’s okay too. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it. Just make sure it’s the exception rather than the rule.
Do you have any tips for keeping your eating habits on track during hectic summer months?
Photo from iStock/cookelma