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When you are away

Planning to feed your family when you’re out of town, working in the evening, or simply unavailable for dinnertime can add a layer to stress to already busy parents and caregivers. If you search on Pinterest or Google for ideas, there are plenty. However, many of them are crockpot meals. While I love a crockpot dinner, they typically require prep time four to six hours before, which not everyone has. They also don’t work if you’re going to be out of town for several days. Here, I offer several meal tips and tricks that work well for my family. 

One way to incorporate a crockpot meal is to plan it for the day you leave. Alternatively, you could plan it for the day you return—freeze and have your caregiver throw it in the slow cooker before they leave. Dinner is ready when you arrive home! 

Plan for food that can work for more than one meal. A rotisserie chicken can be served with salad, roasted veggies, or a pasta salad one night. The leftover chicken can then be used in quesadillas, chicken salad sandwiches, or atop a green salad another night or in lunches. 

Plan for takeout one night or buy a frozen pizza and a bagged salad kit for a more cost-effective option. This is a great way for older kids to help prepare dinner. It’s also a simple meal for a caregiver to make while carting kids to and from activities. 

Don’t forget about breakfast for dinner. Frozen waffles and scrambled eggs are always a hit. A quiche can be made and frozen before you leave. Serve it with a simple green salad or a fruit salad. 

Make your kids part of the process; they can do more than you think! Challenge them to prepare dinner one night. My boys learned to make the macaroni and cheese recipe here while on a family trip to visit my aunt and uncle. It’s simple, and they now prepare it by themselves. 

Finally, try not to stress about it. If your kids don’t eat the way they you would typically like them to, it’s ok. Eating some less healthy choices four or five days out of 365 is not going to make or break their healthy habits. 

If you are lucky enough to have family members caring for your kids while you are away, remember that your parents and/ or in-laws (likely) successfully raised two fairly normal humans. So, the way they feed your kids is fine (despite what you think!). 

A few days or a week away to recharge and spend time with yourself, your friends, or your partner is more important than the kids eating perfectly healthy 100 percent of the time while you are gone. This is an example of when the saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” is especially true. Your kids and caregivers are creating wonderful memories together as well. There’s nothing better than the kids thinking that they and Grandma are pulling a fast one on Mom and Dad.

Uncle Benny’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese 

Makes 8 servings 

Prep time: 5 minutes 

Cook time: 12 minutes 


1 box (16 oz.) elbow macaroni or shells 

1 cup milk 

8 oz. sliced American cheese, cut up 

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 

Salt and pepper to taste 


1. Heat large pot of water to boiling. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain. 

2. Add milk to pasta pot and heat over medium heat. Sprinkle in cheeses, salt, and pepper, and whisk until melted. 

3. Add macaroni back to the pot and stir to combine.

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