Evenings are a busy time for many families. There are only three or four hours between school and bedtime, and those hours quickly fill up with homework, activities, dinner and showers. I don't consider my kids to be over-scheduled, but they are involved in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and when a sport is layered on top of that commitment, the math works out to activities four nights a week. Those commitments almost always fall right around dinnertime.
Some nights we're able to eat dinner as a family before Scouts or after baseball practice, but sometimes we're rocking a car dinner.
Car dinners are my way of feeding my kids a somewhat healthy meal on the go. They are a step up from the sandwiches the kids ate for lunch, and they're inexpensive; most importantly, they're a hot meal that isn't fast food.
Most of my car dinners are mess-free and easy to throw together. I like to have several ingredients on hand to prepare quick meals that can be wrapped in foil or kept warm in a thermos. When sports are in full swing, my cabinets, refrigerator and freezer are well-stocked with:
- Frozen vegetables
- Frozen meatballs
- Canned beans
- Hot dogs and buns
- Easy fruits like bananas, apples and oranges
If I know we have a busy week ahead, I'll make a big batch of shredded chicken on Sunday or Monday and repurpose the chicken all week.
Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
- 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (frozen)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Place the frozen chicken in the slow cooker, sprinkle the seasonings on top and pour the chicken broth over everything.
- Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours.
- I shred my chicken directly in the slow cooker so the chicken can absorb more of the yummy juices.
This big batch of shredded chicken may be chicken tacos one night, chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, chicken fried rice or chicken and black bean burritos. I also serve it on top of salad or tossed with mixed vegetables, pasta and a few shakes of parmesan cheese.
Sure, my kids would be happy to eat something similar to what they had for lunch as their evening meal, but I feel better feeding them a proper dinner, even if it has to be eaten as a car picnic.
On nights when we don't need to eat in the car, but I still don't have time to make dinner, I use my trusty slow cooker to have a hot dinner waiting for us at home when we finally drag ourselves through the door. While I'm watching soccer drills, my slow cooker is roasting pork, simmering chili or filling my house with the delicious smells of beef Bolognese.
With a little planning and creativity, your kids can be happily chomping wraps or slurping pasta on the way to or from evening activities, freeing up the time at home for homework, showers, books and snuggles.