Busy mom meal plan: Avoid the drive-thru

Welcome to spring. Or, as we call it in my house, the season of soccer practices, track meets, piano recitals, running club and field trips. I checked and there is not one school night in the coming month where we don’t have at least one activity or obligation on the calendar. It’s about to get real.

So then how in the world, when I’m racing around town trying to get Daughter A and Daughter B from Point A to Point B on time, are we going to find time to eat a frickin’ meal? Are we doomed to a solid month of Happy Meals and drive-thru dinners?

Absolutely not. Some tips:

  • Plan ahead: The best way to avoid fast food is to have something – anything – in your fridge or freezer at home. I have (extremely smart) friends who will take a Sunday afternoon and meal prep for the week. Other (equally smart) moms will get together and make freezer meals, such as those offered by Wildtree. PS – Never underestimate the pre-prepped power of your neighborhood grocery store’s deli counter and/or salad bar. Dinner = served.
  • Order help online: Moms who are too busy to grocery shop might want to look into a grocery delivery service. I’ve never used one, but I hear you can get groceries delivered from Meijer via Shipt.com, or from Pick N Save via Instacart.com. In a rush? Order online from Festival Foods De Pere or Green Bay East and pick up your groceries on your way home from work. Those food box deliveries by Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, etc., also seem to get great reviews.
  • Hug your Crock-Pot: Spending 15-20 minutes getting your slow cooker ready in the morning will ensure that you’ll come home to a ready-made meal. Throw in chicken breasts and salsa for easy-to-shred chicken tacos, or a pork roast and barbecue sauce for pulled-pork sandwiches. Pinterest has about a zillion more ideas from soups or beef brisket to Sloppy Joes or lo mein noodles. And have you tried the Insta-Pot? Countless busy moms have hearts in their eyes for these handy little gadgets. Make a double batch of whatever you’re cooking and freeze the leftovers to serve after that doubleheader.
  • Think outside the (pizza) box: Growing up, my dad insisted on family dinners of meat, potatoes and vegetables. Well Dad, in the 21st Century, we’re doing things a little differently. I’m talking about quick-and-easy breakfast for dinner, make-your-own sub sandwiches or fruit smoothies with Greek yogurt and fresh spinach. You can never go wrong with the kid-friendly grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. And don’t look now, but there’s protein, carbs, dairy and veggies in my girls’ favorite pasta or tuna salad recipes.
  • Grab ‘n’ go: Some evenings are just too hectic to sit down at the table. But just because you are dining at the ball field doesn’t mean you need to choke down a hotdog. Stock your vehicle with healthy snacks – trail mix, pretzels, protein bars. Pack a cooler with pre-cut veggies and fruit, then add string cheese, hummus or hard-boiled eggs for protein. If your kids are sick of sandwiches, try wraps or even crackers and cheese with sliced deli meats.
  • Take a break: There are going to be nights when you need to eat out. Cut yourself some slack, moms, and let somebody else do the cooking. Some places like Subway and Papa Murphy’s will let you order ahead. Other restaurants have curbside carryout, such as Applebee’s, Panera, Red Robin and Olive Garden.

Regardless of when, where or what you eat, savor these moments with your kiddos – busy though they may be. Because, to paraphrase a favorite saying, “The track meets, soccer matches and ballgames might run long, but the years are short.”

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