Are you an on-the-go family? Tell me if either of these sound familiar . . .
- You try to be healthy but struggle to come up with meal ideas for your family?
- You are busy with activities during many evenings of the week?
Then this guide is for you!
In an effort to prepare for the upcoming baseball season and summer nights when we’d rather play outside instead of cook an elaborate dinner, I made a few lists to pull ideas from each week.
Even if you aren’t in sports or other activities and you simply want to create extra time for yourself by having some quick and easy go tos, I hope these can help. Included below are Full-on Meal Ideas, Sides & Snacks, and General Tips.
On the Go: Full-on Meal Ideas
They get a bit of a bad rep, but they provide such a variety to please every member of your family. Many brands make “healthier” versions of lunch meat and bread now and switching up the condiments by adding variations of mustard or horseradish can totally change the taste if you get bored.
Try ham & cheese sliders on Hawaiian rolls. They’re great cold or with a little butter and garlic powder on top, heated in the oven for a bit while you’re packing up. They’re also tasty as leftovers if you prep and bake them the night before.
BLTs are Always a Hit
Side note: Bacon cooked in our air fryer has become a recent obsession of ours. I can see a container filled with cooked bacon slices not lasting very long on the ride to the fields this summer.
In fact, pairing the bacon with some hard-boiled eggs or quickly warmed up waffles and voila! Nothing better than breakfast for dinner!
Pre-make your taco meat when you have time (or your plain meat for picky eaters like my daughter) and put the other ingredients in individual containers to top your Fritos as you choose. These are easy to assemble at home and eat in the car or to assemble off-site, as well.
Charcuterie-inspired ingredients are always a hit on the go. Target sells a tray we really like when we need an easy meal. There’s also a large tray of Good & Gather precut cheeses. Add these and a box of Triscuits or other crackers in a bag or cooler (more on my favorite cooler below).
Any grocery store sells these both hot and cold for you to slice up and add to bread, tortillas, salad, or to eat plain for a super easy staple meal.
Two words: Chicken salad. So many different varieties and recipes out there, with many stores selling pre-packaged options. I like these pre-portioned ones from Target.
This is a tried and true option at my house. Throw a bag of frozen meatballs (we love Target’s Good and Gather turkey meatballs for this) in the slow cooker a few hours before you go to the game. Meatballs can be added to spaghetti (or a noodle alternative), a sub sandwich bread, or eaten on their own with some veggies on the side.
This one may not work if you have to eat before the game, but you can easily prep and cook ahead of time and warm up leftovers.
Sheet pan nachos
This is a super easy before or after-game option as well. We often do a pulled pork version where we top some tortilla chips with leftover pulled pork from a meal earlier in the week, then add some shredded cheese and green chilis. You can use whatever toppings your family likes. Even a plate of nachos like this is still likely healthier and more satisfying than a fast food stop.
If you’re counting calories . . . Chobani Plain Greek yogurt is a perfectly yummy substitute for sour cream on the nachos?
You can fill tortillas with deli meat and cheese, with peanut butter and jelly, and with so many other ingredients to make taco-style wraps, or even pre-make some cheese quesadillas, which taste great hot and cold. In fact, my kids prefer them cold!
Shrimp is so easy to make and eat! You could buy the peel and eat kind or the pre-cooked, tails-off bag to make some in the air fryer (takes less than 10 minutes). For extra fun, put them on some kebob sticks!
Salad in a Jar
A simple internet search will show you all the things you can fill a Mason jar with to bring a salad on the go. Just remember – dressing on the bottom!
If nothing else, throw some brat or hot dog pieces, chicken nuggets, or macaroni in a thermos and call it good.
On the Go: Sides and Snacks
Put enough of these together and it can count as dinner!
- Trail mix
- Hard-boiled eggs (make ahead a large batch if you have an instant pot)
- Fresh fruit and veggies
- If the veggies are already cut up inside a bento box or similar container, maybe even include some Ranch dressing or other dip to mix things up
- Pita chips & hummus
- Beef or turkey sticks
- Cheese sticks
- Frozen yogurt tubes
- Protein muffins
- We like this recipe for Clean Chocolate Brownie muffins, and I can’t wait to test how they taste by adding chocolate protein to the mix.
- Protein bars and cookies (Lenny and Larry’s new lower-sugar chocolate chip protein cookies or any kind of Quest bars are our kids’ faves)
- Pasta salad
- Again, lots of options and recipes here to create variety. If the traditional rotini with tomatoes and such isn’t your thing, check out this recipe for Asian noodle salad that can be served hot or cold.
On the Go: General Tips
- Eat early, then have a light bedtime snack.
- If it’s feasible for your schedule, it may be worth a try to offer dinner before loading up for the night’s activity, rather than an after-school snack that day. Likely, kids will be hungry again, so it’d be good to have a quick snack in mind to suggest for when you’re back at home.
- Let kids help select and pack their dinner.
- The likelihood of my kids eating the whole meal increases exponentially when they put it together themselves!
- Do pack something, even if it’s small, so you aren’t stuck resorting to the options at the concession stand.
- Think about packaging: I find my daughter, who is 4 years old, likes opening and closing containers, so bringing the food above inside bowls with lids or bags that zip, or packing stickers she can put on the paper bags, can help burn some time off the clock and occupy her attention at big bro’s games.
Speaking of what to pack things in, we have the best backpack cooler! It’s easy to carry, slim enough to fit by our feet if we’re doing bleachers, and still fits so much stuff. It’s incredibly versatile and durable as we’ve used it quite a bit in the two years we’ve had it.
My best advice for busy activity nights?
Do whatever the easiest thing is and don’t feel guilty about it!