When you have two preteens who are at swim practice a couple hours a day, they build up an appetite.
A big one.
And so for Number 3 and 4, I started having them eat dinner before they went to practice. They both had practice at different times, so Number 3 would eat his first dinner at 3 pm, and then another one around 7 pm. Number 4 would eat her dinner around 4:30, and then eat something a little smaller when she got home around 8.
Number 5, 6, and 7 don’t eat as much yet, plus they don’t work up the appetite that 3 and 4 do at swim practice, so they were getting off the bus around 4 and eating a snack and then eating dinner around 7.
I was basically running a restaurant after school and feeling like I was constantly feeding everyone in different shifts from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and it was driving me a little insane. Plus, the little guys weren’t really eating their dinner because they were eating ridiculous amounts of snack food (which was largely junk).
Since switching swim teams, our schedule has changed. It’s a 35-45 minute drive to get to the pool (depending on traffic), and we leave the house around 5 pm and don’t get home until around 8:30 or 9:00.
Since I don’t want to pack up dinner for six people every time we have to drive to swim practice, I made a switch.
Now we eat dinner at 4 p.m.
And I’m kind of wondering why I didn’t do this sooner.
Changing dinner time to 4 p.m. has made a world of difference for us!
First, the kids are always starving when they get home from school.
When I was feeding them snacks after school, they were eating so much of that stuff that they hardly ever at a decent dinner.
This led to me getting extremely frustrated because I’d spend time making a dinner that half my family didn’t even eat.
Another thing that’s changed is I’m not doing the 7 p.m. oh-shit-I-haven’t-started-dinner-yet freakout because I have to make sure I have a plan and that dinner is ready early. So it’s forcing me to be more organized.
We are also eating so much less junk! The kids aren’t even that hungry later at night. I’ll pack a little of what we had for dinner in a couple thermoses if there are leftovers or a snack like a soft pretzel for each of them, or some fruit, or sometimes we have dessert in the car — today we have chocolate chip cookies for the ride home.
So we still have some snack stuff, but I am not buying nearly the amount of chips and snack food I was before, and our grocery bill is noticeably lower.
This is also helping me get back on track with my eating. I am thinking about healthier options for the kids, and planning better for them, which is leading to planning better for me! I am either packing a better dinner to take to the pool with me when I don’t totally have my act together, or I am down at the same time as the kids rather than eating on the couch after everyone has gone to bed.
If you are entering that crazy time of year where you have baseball or soccer or lacrosse practices at night or if you just find that your kids are not eating dinner because they are famished when they get home from school, you might want to give this a try, too!