. . . . [A]s a full-time working mom, putting family dinner into practice is a constant challenge for me. I don’t get home until 6:00 and I try to get my kids in bed at 8:00 or at least not too much later than that. So in the two hours I have with my kids, I need to cook, have us all eat dinner and then get them into bed. As a result, I’m constantly coming up with some new plan that is going to make it all work. This has included using a crockpot, though I’m discouraged by the fact that so many of the recipes that actually sound good and don’t call for a can of cream-of-something soup require maintenance during the day. If I were home and able to add the peas three hours into the cooking cycle, I wouldn’t be cooking with a crockpot! I have also at times relied somewhat heavily on the places where you can go assemble (or have them assemble for you) a bunch of meals that you then freeze. This has the advantage of good ingredients and a wide variety of menu options to encourage my kids’ palates to develop. Plus, the required steps for cooking are minimal enough (often just plopping it into a pan and baking/roasting) that I can have my nanny start the meal before I get home. I’ve also signed up for the service called Relish – a website where you can generate a list each week of the meals you’ll cook each night, plus a grocery list (helpfully sorted by category) for the entire week. All the meals are designed to be quick weeknight choices, so I can usually make one of those pretty quickly. [Ed. Note: I posted yesterday about Relish and similar menu planners.] I’m looking forward to hearing others’ ideas since I still continue in search of the perfect solution. . .
As a parent who doesn’t work outside the home, I feel a little guilty lauding the benefits of family dinners when I’m not under nearly the same time constraints as someone like Gretchen. It’s admirable that she’s able to do it at all. I’d love to throw open her comment to the Lunch Tray community – especially those of you who work outside the home — to see if you have any advice to share?