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Healthy Meals on the Run

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I've recently found myself entering the world of the "soccer mom".  Though my spouse is the one that has been taking the lead on coordinating schedules for practices and games, this will soon change.  With two working parents, two kids participating in soccer, two evening practices per week, and game day on Friday evenings and Saturday...you get the picture!  Juggling schedules for picking up the kids from school and daycare is one thing, but to try to fit in a nutritious supper on soccer days is mind boggling. For us, there really is not even slack in the schedule to allow going home to prepare a meal and feed the kids before practice. This leaves me wondering how others cope with afterschool activities and feeding the family.  I'd love to hear your meals-on-the go ideas.  Do you feed them post practice or do you try to squeeze it in before?

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We did a heavy snack before and a family meal after. Crockpots help. So do a variety of pasta or rice dishes that can be made quickly or the night before and then heated up.

Last year during soccer season, some of us parents teamed up for picnic dinners in the park right after practice. In our house, one parent got the kids organized and off to practice and the other put together the meal and came a little later. We had delicious soups from a thermos, pasta salads, cheese and crackers, fruits and chopped veggies, sandwiches, spreads....potluck! It was a little cold by the end of the season, but we still really enjoyed it.

We don't have after-school events but I get home on the max and my family picks me up a few miles from home. This gets us home just in time for (late) dinner. I've been planning out our week so that we have dinners ready-to-go as soon as we walk in. This means slow cookers, BBQ that I prepare the night before, making large batches that I can re-heat for dinners, etc. No matter what I cook, I make extra so that we have leftovers or warm food for school lunches.

We also do a decent snack late afternoon to avoid the crabbies that come with hungry kiddos. Protein plus fruit helps them a lot!

This has become an unfortunate divide and conquer situation in our household (and maybe an example of why not to do extracurricular activities!). My husband picks up our 6 year old after school and they eat dinner before heading off to the 6:15-7:15 soccer practice. The younger two kids and I eat dinner by ourselves at home the two days a week there is practice. I couldn't get home from work with the younger two in time to squeeze in dinner before soccer and our kids are bathed and in bed no later than 8:00, so a family dinner after soccer didn't work either (particularly because we have very slow eaters). Sigh.

Just yesterday I was telling my husband that there should be a cookbook for families in these situations. There should be three categories--1. meals to make ahead of time and reheat them for dinner (crockpot meals probably fall into this category), 2. meals to pack and take with you (we usually pack dinner for our four year old to eat during practice even if the rest of us eat at home afterwards), 3. meals that are super quick and easy to make

So in that vein, here are a few of my ideas, by category.
1. chicken soup, beef stew,
2. hearty sandwiches, homemade nachos (layer beans, meat (optional, extras, and cheese in a casserole dish, then bake, scoop some into a container and top with sour cream and serve with chips), simple stirfries
3. grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti if you use bought or premade sauce, omelettes, fried egg sandwiches

When we're in the middle of a season and it seems overwhelming, it usually helps to get out the calendar and look at home many times I have to schedule something. If I can say there's only six Monday practices left, that becomes more manageable. I only have to think of two or three meals and then repeat them on those days.

My crockpot is my best friend.
We're starting to enter prime crocking season, too.
Bring on the soups, stews, and chili!
Mmmmmmmm........
My crock has a snap on lid, so taking it to go is easy peasey and spill proof.
One less thing to worry about.

We did munchkin soccer for a few seasons, then ditched it when we realized the effect it was having on our family schedule. Worth it? Not to us. The boys were, like, five years old, and their soccer "practices" looked a lot like the running around they did in our yard. I think it's great for kids to run around, but I do wonder about the trend toward suiting up small children in uniforms, cleats and shin guards.

It's worth a thought, anyway.

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