In addition to Simple Suppers, I'm also a full-time professional.  I travel for work fairly often and over the years I've developed a game plan for family meals when I'm away.  Back in the day I used to try to pre-cook every supper. I made myself CRAZY! I tried to come up with recipes that reheated well, and that would keep in the fridge for the duration of my trip, and then cook like mad right up until I left for the airport.  It wasn't fun. It was super stressful.  And then, it happened...

My husband said "You know you don't have to do that." I was so upset!  I felt like he didn't appreciate all the work I did for him to make all those meals (anybody else have a love language of "acts of service"?)  But really he just wanted me to let go of some of the stress. He wanted me to realize that he could share the load.  And, for once, I listened.

So, I came up with a strategy to help me plan for those trips - or even especially crazy weeks.  It takes the pressure off and then when I do cook, it's out of joy and not stress. So here it is:

Key principles

  1. How we practice "nutrition" around here is flexible. And during my trips or extra-busy weeks, it gets even more flexible - like ketchup qualifies as a vegetable and the blue box of mac & cheese makes it in our house. 
  2. No-fight food. The foods kids eat without blinking an eye are on the menu. The week is hard enough, so I try to remove these battles from the mix. Pasta, sweet potatoes and breakfast are three go-tos in our house.

How the nights break down:

First meal/night away: Eat out. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we don't eat out a lot as a family and at the time we were hardly eating out at all.  Kids were too small for it to be enjoyable or for anyone to appreciate it, so we just didn't.  We now have 2-3 reliable spots for eating there or getting carry out and this is by far the easiest option. And sometimes the price of convenience - and sanity - is well worth it.

Second meal/night away: Husband cooks.  My husband has a couple of his own recipes that he can make quickly and he's gotten better and better at it.  Favorites like Shake & Bake and boxed macaroni and cheese with applesauce also make an appearance on the "daddy cooks" nights.  Breakfast for dinner is also a reliable favorite. Finding something that's simple for Hubs to make and the kids will eat happily is the key. 

Third meal/night away: Something from my freezer stash. I am not one of those people that gets the luxury of a massive "freezer meal" prep session every 1-3 months.  I have a much sneakier way of stocking my freezer - I do it as I'm making regular meals.  The general idea is to identify meals that making double of is not any more effort than making a single recipe, then freeze half of it. I'll post another blog on this soon! Complete with recipes, of course :)

Fourth meal/night away: It is rare that I'm gone four nights, but if I am, I actually pre-cook something over the weekend for the family to have during the week. I do love cooking for my family, after all!

If I'm gone longer than four nights, I call in reinforcements.  Usually my amazing mother-in-law will fly into town to help and she is fantastic about planning, shopping and cooking for everyone. If that's not possible, then we usually get a pre-made meal off the hot bar at the grocery store or from a local business that cooks real food to take home and reheat.

And, the most important night of all when I travel - THE RETURN!  I always plan something super easy for my first meal back. I'm usually beat and need something I can make in my sleep!  Slow cooker shredded chicken tacos is my go-to, or sloppy joes (recipe), or maybe just take out again!