Anyone else miss those winter evenings when the pace was a little less hectic? Spring is a season on the run….running to band concerts, dance recitals, sporting events and practices…all between the hours of 4pm and 8pm! Anyone else struggle with what in the heck to feed their families during these busy spring nights?
I’ve enlisted the help of my friend and fellow business owner, Claire Guarino, Mom of 2 boys and owner of HomeCooked in Paoli. Everyday, she helps families get healthy meals on the table year round….and in this blog, Claire offers her tips on how to change your mindset about dinner and how to feed a family on the go without relying on the drive thru!
Spring nights packed with sports & extracurriculars stressing you out?
You are not alone! But fear not…with a little organization and a mindset adjustment, you can say goodbye to spring dinnertime stress!
Claire Guarino founded HomeCooked in Paoli with families like yours in mind! As a working Mom of 2, one a baseball player, Claire knows how challenging it can be a feed your child a healthy meal when you are constantly on the go!
But just because you spend more time at the baseball/lacrosse/soccer field than the dinner table doesn’t mean that dinner has to be snack bar hot dogs or drive-thru burgers and fries.
Make peace with spring dinner reality! Realize that your picture perfect Norman Rockwell family dinner is not going to happen. It’s fine. Unrealistic expectations only lead to stress, frustration and guilt. Who benefits from that? No one! Life’s too short. Accept that dinner on activity filled nights is not a total loss. Just different.
How to Score a Healthy Meal On Busy Spring Nights
- Dinner Is Whenever You Say It Is
Dinner doesn’t have to happen at 6pm. Dinner happens whenever you have people to feed and food available. Maybe you never considered 4:30pm dinner time, but if it’s the only time that works go with it. This might mean you don’t all sit down & eat together. Some may eat at different times than others. This is okay.
- Dinner Food Doesn’t Have To Be Hot Food.
Cold or room temperature items can be packed with nutrition and easier to prepare. Claire’s go-to options:
- Green salad
- Tuna or chicken salad (by itself on bread or on lettuce
- Nut butter and banana sandwich
- Cold pasta with veggies
- Hummus or dip with raw veggies
- Cheese sticks
- Protein packed smoothie (add nut butter, avocado, or spinach/kale).
If you belong to the “dinner needs to be a hot meal” school of thought remember it’s about nutrition, regardless of temperature.
- Dinner doesn’t have to be an entrée and two sides.
A burrito bowl, chicken/rice/veggie bowl or pasta with protein and veggies all travel well and can even be consumed in the car, if necessary. Wraps, burritos, quesadillas can be heated quickly in the microwave or toaster oven and can pack a nutritional punch. Soups, stews, pasta can also be great options for one-bowl hearty meals.
- Dinner doesn’t have to be “dinner” foods.
Doesn’t everyone love “breakfast for dinner?” Scrambled eggs are a great source of protein. Want to prep in advance?
- Make a batch of breakfast burritos with your family’s favorite fillings. Need a recipe here’s a basic one: https://www.skinnytaste.com/freezer-breakfast-burritos/
- Wrap them in foil and then freeze them.
- Heat them in your toaster oven or even just a minute or two in the microwave and voila—dinner’s done!
- Make oatmeal and top with fresh berries or apple chunks and a sprinkle of cinnamon to offer protein, high quality carbs and antioxidants too.
- Dinner doesn’t have to be at the table (or any table, for that matter)!
Have food, will (and must) travel…it’s all about portability and convenience on long tournament days or nights when eating at home just isn’t possible.
- Invest in a good cooler or two (one for cold, one for warm). The insulation a cooler provides can be very helpful in either case! Heat up burritos, quesadillas and wrap them in foil then throw them in the cooler until ready to eat. There is a whole new generation of food containers made by brands such as Thermos® and Yeti® that keep things hot or cold for many hours.
- Bring your slow-cooker to the fields! Have your slow-cooker filled with your meal and fully heated at home and just before it’s time to leave home unplug it and secure the lid (rubber bands work great). It will keep the food warm for up to an hour or two unplugged (though monitor temperatures and don’t let the food sit for more than 2 hours). Some newer cars/minivans even have outlets or adaptors that can power a slow-cooker!Again, watch and maintain safe temperatures especially on hot or cold days to avoid foodborne illnesses.
- Big Batch Your Family Favorites
Making a pan of chicken enchiladas or baked rigatoni? Make two. Put one in the freezer or portion it in individual serving containers that can be re-heated quickly and easily. If you’re going to make your kitchen messy by cooking why not get multiple meals done and only have to clean up once?
- Cook While You Put your slow cooker to work and wake up to food that’s ready to eat or ready to be cooled and sit in the fridge until you need to heat it quickly for dinner. Think chili, pulled pork, chicken for burrito bowls, stews, soup etc. Make a big batch and have it ready for future nights so all you need to do is reheat it.
- Keep It Simple, Silly
You know you’ll be pressed for time so seek out options that simplify your life vs complicate it!
- Think pre-cut veggies, fruits, salads, meats and sauces that can go together to make meals your family will enjoy.
- At HomeCooked, you’ll find easy options where all the prep is done for you, just pop in the oven, on the stove, or in the slow-cooker or pressure cooker to cook and dinner is done.
- Spend an hour or two when you can making a meal or two in advance and then pack it up in easy to reheat containers if you’re not eating it right away and tuck it in the fridge for busy nights later in the week or freeze it for later in the month.
As busy Moms, we’re all trying to nourish our families with food we feel good about and it often seems as if life creates one challenge after another to make that nearly impossible.
Give yourself a break and do the best you can.
If you can get organized, plan ahead and have an open mindset around what dinner “should be” we can get dinner taken care of and enjoy the fact that our kids are busy, growing and getting faster and stronger.
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