Organized sports and other extra curricular activities are not for every family. But for many families they are an important part of their children’s lives. This purpose of this post is not to debate the role of organized sports in the family, but rather to provide families with tips for making healthy, inexpensive meals during the busy seasons.
This year (after a two year break) we have five children playing soccer. Unfortunately they are all on different teams, which means nightly practice. Thank goodness the field is right down the road, but it definitely disrupts dinner! Whether you have one child or five managing meals and after school activities can be quite challenging.
While it is tempting to swing through the drive thru or order pizza those options aren’t very healthy and can break the food budget in a few days! I’ve made a list of the things that have worked for our family when it comes to sports schedules and meals.
If you don’t have a plan, you will not be serving dinner on a regular basis on activity nights. Usually teams have a practice schedule set up weeks in advance so you know what nights you will need to accomodate a different meal schedule. No matter what you decide to serve on these nights, having a plan sets you up for success.
If you are new to menu planning read 5 Simple Ways to Menu Plan.
Meal Prep on the Weekends
This is a scaled back version of freezer cooking. Cook any meat, chop vegetables or make bread on the weekend to serve throughout the week. Spending a few hours in the kitchen on the weekend saves time during the week since you are only putting the meals together each evening.
Use Your Crock Pot
The nice thing about many crock pot meals is that people can eat at different times. If the meal is kept warm in the crock pot the kids that have practice can eat right when they get home, no need to wait for a meal to be made.
Serve Soups and Chili
Soups and chili can stay warm on the stove top or heat up quickly in the microwave.
Stock Your Freezer
Spend an afternoon making some freezer meals. Then on practice nights or game days you just need to thaw the meal and pop in the oven. While I don’t leave my house with the oven on, if someone is home they can bake the meal and have it ready by the time practice is over.
Eat the Big Meal at Lunch
This is obviously easier for homeschoolers, but consider serving your big meal during lunch. Then serve sandwiches or lighter fare during the dinner hour. Kids can eat before or after practice.
Eat Dinner Earlier or Later
Sometimes I will serve dinner at 4:30pm or 7:30pm to accomodate our practice schedule. This has worked well for our family, but I usually need to serve a snack either before bed or late afternoon so the kids aren’t hungry.
Create a List of 30 Minute Meals
Meals like pasta, tacos, salads, nachos, and skillet dishes usually take about 30 minutes from start to finish. Make a list of your 30 minute meals and keep a stockpile of those ingredients in your kitchen. Your kids can munch on carrots or a banana while they wait for their 30 minute meal.
Make Practice Nights Yo-Yo Nights
I learned about yo-yo nights from my friend Joy. Yo-yo stands for “you’re on your own” and it basically means every man, woman and child for themselves in the kitchen. This works well for families with older children who can make their own meals. Yo-yo meals can be anything from sandwiches to leftovers and is a great way to clean out the fridge and keep everyone fed.
Sports seasons might not be the best time to tackle those gourmet dishes. It is okay to eat spaghetti, soups, and meatloaf for a while. Throw some vegetables on the side and you have a balanced, inexpensive meal that takes the stress out of meal time. We all have busy seasons and not so busy seasons of our lives, so make a plan to help get you through the busy season. Your kids will not remember that they had spaghetti 3 nights a week for 3 months. But they will remember you were at their games, recitals, and other extra curricular activities.