We all know how it goes. The little kids wake up from naps around the same time the big kids get home from school and everyone is famished. There’s a lot of noise, a scramble to grab something to satisfy the hanger and then an hour later it’s time for dinner. Does this happen in your house too?
With two school-aged kids and two kids that still nap in our house, afternoons can be nothing short of chaotic. With after-school activities to get to, early bedtimes for little kids, and my desire for feeding our family good food, I was really struggling with making three dinners and spending a majority of my afternoon or evening in the kitchen. No matter how much convincing I tried or offers of healthy snacks to “help you wait until dinner,” after-school snacks seemed to never fully satisfy our kids. My solution- move dinner time to right after school.
I can’t take credit for the idea, a friend of mine actually suggested it at the beginning of the school year. We were going to have a quick playdate after school one day and I made the comment that we could come right after I finished getting dinner prepped. She said, “Oh I’m so glad you eat early too, we eat dinner right after school every day.” I couldn’t believe it! Here I was working hard to have dinner prepped for a 5 p.m. meal when I could have just made the whole thing and had the meal taken care of already. I tried the next day and it was a game-changer.
Every weekday we get home from preschool pickup, I get the littles settled down for naps and if I’m cooking dinner that night (I try to make ahead or in bulk so I don’t have to cook every night) I’ll get started. I try to have my meal finished in time to wake everyone up, meet the bus, and dish up our food right after we get home. Then we can turn around well-fed and ready for evening activities. My husband is usually still at work during all of this so we have a second seating for the grown-ups with a smaller post-activity second dinner-usually an apple or an additional serving of dinner.
I was a little apprehensive at first to do something that felt so drastic. Dinner is supposed to be in the evening! Since moving the meal up, I’ve found so much extra time and frankly patience in our later afternoons. Our kids are less grumpy because they have full tummies and I’m not racing to get something on the table while listening to the chorus of “I’m hungry!” I am able to get most of the dinner dishes cleaned up well before bedtime which means less chores to do after the kids are in bed. The kids are all so hungry during this timeframe it has easily become their biggest and healthiest meal of the day. By doing something as simple as moving our evening meal up a few hours, I’ve simplified our evenings and made our household a tiny bit less chaotic. Would you give it a try? With everyone still trying to recover from the weekend time-change, this might be the perfect time to do it!