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Tips for Making the Most of Your Evenings at Home
Serve Kid-Friendly Meals
I leave my office at 4:30, pick up the kids at 5:15 and get home about 5:30. It really helps to have dinner already made. The kids want to eat about 6:15. I use my Crock-pot a lot and serve lots of kid-friendly meals. My kids love frozen vegetables, especially broccoli, so it's easy to slip some nutrition into the mix. I also serve them hot dogs, chicken nuggets, chicken breast pieces, and sometimes we have breakfast for dinner
Discuss Your Day During Dinner
I work 7:30am to 4pm, so I can have the children picked up and dinner started by 5:30. That gives us a little breathing room in the evenings. The kids get to play or watch a little TV before dinner, but TV is definitely off during dinner. Aside from eating, we discuss our days and other issues during dinner. After dinner there might be some more play time, but usually it's PJs, teeth brushing, story time, then bed. After the kids are in bed, I clean the kitchen (if it isn't already done), prepare lunches for the next day, and perhaps start dinner for the next day. I also set up the coffee on a timer for the a.m. Then I hopefully get an hour of TV before bed.
I am trying to plan more dinners ahead, so that chicken, steak or salmon is marinated overnight. Then I can leave instructions and dry ingredients and sauce packets out on the counter and my husband can cook it while I work out. My girls are two and five and after dinner the goals are: two-year-old goes to bed by 8:30, five-year-old by 9:30. I alternate fun "rewards" with required "work"
Find Time to Relax
There are three huge timesavers I use for after school and work. First, I go into work early, before 8, so that I can leave work by 4:30 and get home before 5. My kids don't usually want to eat dinner until after 6 so I can actually relax, read the mail, and sit for a few minutes before starting dinner. Second, I make sure dinner preparation is easy, no more than 15 minutes. I use the "make ahead" method. That is, I usually have a few things in the freezer that I can simply defrost and cook like casseroles, marinated chicken, burgers, etc. Either that or I put something into the Crock-pot before work and it's cooked when I come home. (Plug: There's both a Make-Ahead Meals and a Crock-Pot Style Cooking message board on iVillage!) Third, my son's school provides after-school care. During that time he gets most of his homework done, so when he comes home there is more downtime for him to enjoy and less whining. Before dinner, my kids usually do their own thing