I grew up in a household built upon after school activities. Our family is die-hard for sports and you could find us at the soccer field, basketball court, or baseball field at least one night a week. When we weren’t at the field, it was piano practice or marching band for my brothers.
It was hard to sit down and have a good family meal a lot of nights, and eating on the go wasn’t always easy. Of course like most families the occasional stop at McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A was a must. It’s just hard to beat the convenience of fast food service when you’re in a time crunch. Obviously those nights will happen, and that’s ok, but our parents became champions of packing dinner on the go. So to help you become a weeknight hero, here are my top 3 tips for how to pack a dinner on the go your entire family will love.
Prep It the Night Before
The great thing about making to-go meals is all of the prep work can be done the night or weekend before. Pasta and salad dishes are usually super easy and can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Why not Taco Tuesday when you’re on the run? These Caribbean Chicken Tacos take just 30 minutes. You can build the tacos the night before, and have them ready to go for the next night. If you are just running by the house real quick, you can give your kids these prepared meals or sides, and off you go. If packed properly, they are easy to eat in the car and are less messy than a fast-food burger.
When it comes to prepared meals to go, you have a lot of options, especially if you can quickly reheat the prepped food in the microwave. Taking 15 minutes to change, heat up some food, and be out the door is a lot more manageable than cooking an entire meal. Your family can prep meals on Sunday, and meals will be prepped and ready for the whole week. "Eat This, Not That," has great tips on Sunday prep cooking you can read here. Remember, it doesn’t have to be all on Sunday. Whenever you cook these tips can be followed, giving you freedom later in the week. Now, if you can’t stop by the house, what are you to do. Remember fast-food doesn’t have to be the answer.
Pack It and Go
Getting your family healthy home cooked food doesn’t have to be hard. Your best friend in the endeavor? A good cooler and several ice packs. If you need it, and you can, store your food at work, with your ice packs in the freezer. When you’re ready to pick-up the kids, load up the cooler.
Cut vegetables and hummus can be portioned out and kept on ice as a side. Pasta salad can be enjoyed nice and cold if need be, which means your kids get a nice helping of carbs to help them through that long, hot practice. For other great advice on packing meals to go, here is advice from the "Eat at Home" blog.
Wrap It Up
One of our family's go-to meals were wraps. They were customizable and easy to make the night before. I personally love wraps, and could eat them for three meals a day if need be. That being said, our parents usually changed it up and packed us something different for lunch if we were having a wrap for dinner.
The nice thing about having a wrap is the sides can be simple and easy. A munchable snack, like a bag of pretzels, and a nice piece of fruit, is easy to compliment any wrap. And don’t think a wrap can’t be a hearty meal. It may require a little more prep work, but how hard is it to grill off a few more chicken breasts this weekend for a jam-packed chicken wrap during the week? The options are limitless when it comes to giving your kids a healthy and well-balanced meal when wraps and sandwiches are involved.
Here are a couple of my new favorite wraps for you to try: Creamy Avocado and White Bean Wrap , Mediterranean Chicken Wrap
Home cooked meals are never out of the question for busy families. It takes more planning and preparation, but the rewards can be well worth it. As I said before, the occasional fast food meal is going to happen. Some days it just isn’t going to work out and be possible, and if that happens it’s ok. Just don’t let it be a habit. After all, it takes a lot of energy for your kids to perform at their best, no matter what they’re doing. So go ahead give them the edge with a home cooked meal, and all the other parents will be wondering how you did it.