Simple mealtime prep can bring your family back to the dinner table
It’s a typical night after work. I go home briefly, pick up my son, and then rush to get him to baseball or another activity. On another night, I might be rushing to a parent/teacher conference, or to finish some errands. On the weekends we are often traveling to see family, or at an event for one of our children. Sound familiar?
The reality is that most families are on the go. This can make mealtime challenging - especially if you aren’t at home to eat together. Dining out frequently gets expensive, and depending on the choice of food, it can be unhealthy. When we stopped to look at what we were spending on eating out, it really hit us that we were wasting a lot of money! So - we took action and turned things around.
Here are some things my family did to change our old habits and become more prepared for meals with our busy lifestyle. Even when you are short on time, you can still eat together and make healthy choices!
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Preparation is key. We make the menu and prepare food a week or two in advance. I buy fresh meats and veggies and then assemble simple freezer bags filled with the ingredients. Everyone participates in the process, so even though we can’t always eat together, we still get to have fun in the kitchen as a family. We play music and the kids love to use the scale to weigh out the meats! The bags go into the freezer and then we take them out as needed.
Use the crockpot!
Crockpot meals save so much time. You can find blogs and websites that are devoted entirely to crockpot cooking. Before you go to bed, put your ingredients into the crockpot and turn it on. In the morning you will have a home-cooked meal that is ready to go. Pop the crock in the refrigerator and heat up your meal when you get home, or freeze portions of the meal to save for another time.
Take it to go!
Buy easy finger foods such as nitrate-free sausages or brats, cheeses, fruits, and veggies and make kabobs with them. You can also cook chicken breasts and cut them into strips. Be adventurous!
Keep a cooler in your car to store your snacks, and pick up a bag of ice along the way. You can also buy natural fruit juices and add protein powder or gelatin to them for extra nutrition. Store some stainless steel water bottles in your trunk to fill with water for drinking or washing up.
Editor’s note: Share your favorite family recipes on our entry form, which you can find on the American Family Insurance Facebook page. We’ll include some select recipes and stories in our upcoming Back to the Table electronic cookbook.