When my children were young, I promised myself that we would always have dinner together as a family. I promised that no activity would get in the way of those family dinners. But now that my kids are older, reality has hit. My two oldest children are very talented in very different areas. Between soccer and marching band, our dinnertime schedule can be very crazy.

It would be easy to hit the drivethru on the way to soccer practice on any given evening. However, that gets expensive, not to mention it’s incredibly bad for my family’s health. Over the course of the last month, I’ve come up with a few ways we can connect over dinner as a family, while still allowing our children to participate in their chosen extracurricular activities.

crock pot

Use the Crockpot

This tip is a no-brainer, and I’ve preached it for years. The crockpot is a busy mom’s best friend. I love to throw dinner in the crockpot first thing in the morning and smell the yumminess all day.

At the end of the day, just gather your family together and set the crockpot on the table.

Crockpot cooking can get boring, however, if you use the crockpot every day. Sometimes my family just wants a typical dinner. So….

Eat Early

There’s no rule that says dinner needs to be at 6:00 PM sharp. There are days when our family eats dinner at 3:30. Yes, that’s pretty much right after my son gets home from school. He’s starving, so what’s the harm in eating early? He gets a nice meal before heading off to soccer or karate, and I get to make sure he eats healthy.

On days that we eat extra early, I just need to make sure we have nutritious snacks available, because the kids need something to eat before bed to tie them over until breakfast. But eating early has saved our family dinner hour many a night.

Keep it Simple

Wednesdays are super crazy around here. Between karate, marching band, and AWANA, everyone has a different schedule, and right now it’s the one night we don’t eat together. But I don’t want our schedule to force us to eat junk.

What’s my solution? Sandwiches! They’re versatile, and easy to pack along for my daughter’s dinner (they take a break to eat at marching band practice). My son has the option of eating early before karate or packing his dinner along to eat between karate and AWANA. Either way, he’s fed and fed well.

Cook Ahead

Finally, there are days I just make dinner in the morning, put it in a container in the refrigerator, and microwave it at dinner time. Right now I have a pork lo mein dish in the refrigerator for dinner tonight. My daughter will get out of marching band practice at 5:00 PM, and my husband will need to leave for his job announcing a high school football game shortly after she gets home.

By making the meal microwavable, we can try to have dinner together as a family, but if marching band practice runs long, we can all microwave our own dinner on our own schedules.

Regardless of how you solve the after school activity rush, make sure you have a plan for dinner. I’ve learned from experience that without a plan, we will inevitably end up in the drive thru line, whether I like it or not!

What do you do to avoid the drive thru line on busy nights?

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.