A day in the life of a #ymwoman

This is one of those basic real life...gee how do you get dinner on the table when it feels like you are NEVER home kind of posts. As a busy working mom in ministry, I don’t “clock out” until 5pm most nights, and on youth group nights, it’s much later. And then there are those ministry meetings, volunteer check in’s and small group leader recruiting interviews often taking place in the evenings. I looked at my calendar and counted 6 straight nights out in a row. My ministry colleague looked at me and asked, “why did you do that to yourself?” I responded, “I know, I am breaking my own rule [of no more than 2 nights out a week].” On the plus side, I took Wednesday off to chaperone my 3rd grader's field trip and this Memorial Day weekend has turned into a wonderful 4 days straight of sabbath. As in sabbath=ignore whatever else I should be doing and do nothing instead.

I don’t know about you, but May is May Madness around here in youth ministry. Graduation parties, volunteer thank you's, end of year programming, ministry “promotion” time of 6th graders, 8th graders and Seniors. Band concerts. All of this in addition to end of year program evaluating [what worked, what didn’t], and all the other stuff we want to think and plan for. Summer Camp, Summer Bible Studies...that kind of thing. As fun, relational and thought provoking all of this youth ministry stuff is there is still a family of 5 to feed when I get home. At about 4:45pm each and every day Monday-Friday I get the “what’s for dinner?” text from my husband. He is a teacher, so he gets home an hour or more before I do on most days.

Or let me re-phrase that....”What’s for dinner that you would want me to heat up?” asks my husband via text message almost every day.

Here are my top 5 suggestions for making dinner time work when you are never home:
[note: skip to the last section if you are a cook from scratch kind of girl person].

1) Freezer Meals via Homemade Gourmet has been my answer to “what’s for dinner?” for a long time. You can order their Pantry Staples online from Texas and they provide recipes and ideas for the assembly of quick (and almost homemade) freezer meals. I love having “Meals so Easy Your 5 Year Old Can Cook them.” Yes I loved it so much I made a video about it 6 years ago. I don’t use it as much these days, because there are cheaper alternatives but nothing beats their Taco Soup mix. I still keep their Spaghetti Sauce Mix, Grandma’s Sunday Roast, and Southwest Seasoning in my pantry. Freezer meal=my slow cooker is my bff and my husband doesn't have to do much of anything [can you say...add instant rice and open up a bagged salad?]

2) Fresh and Easy [California, Arizona, Nevada] is hands down my favorite store. I miss it a ton. I live in Michigan now and there are none of these here. It’s a store you can drop in and pick up ready made meals which truly are Fresh and Easy. Even hipsters can eat them with no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup, and no food coloring. I can purchase a meal for one, two or five to pop in the microwave or oven (or to grill). Anytime I went on a youth ministry trip or off to speak somewhere, I stock the fridge with these for my family to heat and serve for dinner while I am away. My husband always LOVED it when I left him a ton of Fresh and Easy meals. The beauty of Fresh and Easy, is that’s it’s also a grocery store. You can pick up the rest of the stuff on your grocery list too. It’s not a prepared-meals only type of store. Oh I miss this place so much. F&E Meal+Microwave=dinner. Yum.

3) Costco
Who can go wrong with Costco? Maybe if you are feeding only one or two people than yeah, I agree Costco might not be your best choice. For a family of five it’s awesome. I hit up the meat section of Costco to pick up my meat for those Homemade Gourmet Freezer meals I mentioned earlier. I also purchase as many pre-prepared meals as we can eat before the expiration date. We love Costco’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes, fettuccini alfredo, chicken noodle soup, rotisserie chicken, and enchiladas. Any meal requiring nothing more than turning on my oven and plopping in a micro-steamer of broccoli florets into my microwave is a winner for me. Oven+Costco Meatloaf=happy family of 5.

4) Schwan’s [my latest obsession] delivered to my office...I mean home
I honestly flinch a little when my Schwan’s guy drops my order off at my office. Most of my co-workers are the farmer’s market, eat local, say no to processed food kind of people. For me, I say “hey-it’s better than McDonald’s or Pizza Hut” which is exactly what I would be picking up on my way home from work if it wasn’t for Schwans. A few months ago my husband was playing xbox live with his handy dandy headset on to talk to our friends in California while they were saving the world from Zombies or something. As he was shooting up bad guys via xbox with our friend Neil from San Diego, they were somehow discussing dinner. Guys apparently discuss "what's for dinner" from time to time too. I overhead Neil say, “Chicken Kiev from Schwan’s” and an a-ha moment was born. 

I knew Neil and his wife Cheryl were just as busy as we were and both of them worked full time jobs too. I figured if Schwan's worked with their lifestyle, it could work for mine [and I no longer lived in proximity to Fresh and Easy]. When my husband asks, “what can I heat up for dinner?” he gets my usual “something from Schwan’s” answer. I come home to delicious skillet meals, or baked ziti and cheese stuffed breadsticks, or beer battered cod with quick baked fries. Our favorite right now is the pulled pork which we serve up on hoagie rolls w/bbq sauce, corn on the cob and baked sweet potato fries. Oh and I asked my Schwan’s driver to deliver to my home now, so my co-workers will never know. Plus...it saves me from having to go to the grocery store with a two year old on my day off, which we all know equals torture.

5) Menu-Mailer
This hasn’t worked for me in a long time...I don’t have the time for that kind of a commitment to grocery shopping, food prep, and cooking time. But if you want fresh and healthy with a pre-made grocery list and recipes, you might love Menu Mailer from SavingDinner.com Especially if you hate processed foods. There are a ton of different menu mailers to choose from too. Paleo (trendy right now), low-fat, slow cooker, etc. Check it out if you are the crunchy wanna be farmer’s market kind of a girl. I really want to be that kind of kitchen diva, but the reality is I don’t have the time to be a crunchy cool hipster mama.


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