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The Only Hack You Need to Survive the After-School Hustle

There’s no doubt about it: Surviving the weekday hustle of ferrying kids to all of their after-school activities is exhausting. Between soccer practice, ballet, and school meetings, it feels impossible to make bedtime happen on time — something that is important to many parents, including me. Often, the whole family is coming home with our fuel tanks at E. And because of that, our attitudes are a little less than ideal (to be honest, we’re a family-wide hot mess). It used to be that when our family got home, I did my best to rush the kids through an entire dinner I had prepped in advance so that their heads could do a crash-landing into their pillows at a relatively decent hour. All this rushing usually ended up in yelling and tears, of course (hurrying children never seems to work very well).

Until, that is, I finally figured out the only hack I need to carting kids across town and still making bedtime: The whole family eats dinner in the car. Yep.

Many of us parents have seen the viral post about serving a tray of “little things” for dinner; this is a simple way to get out of cooking while still providing kids with nutritious options. And it’s exactly what I do for my kids on busy weekday nights — only they eat those “little things” in the car. I pack healthy items so that they can eat dinner while in transit to and from their practices: cheese sticks, carrots, apples, almonds, Go-Gurts, grapes, a healthy wrap with lunch meat and spinach, and more. The joy in this is that the kids get to pick what they eat out of the smorgasbord — and we all know kids love having control. Plus, it’s a great way to nurture their independence.

We don’t always put those food items in little trays, although sometimes the kids do like doing that. Typically, it’s easier — and less messy — to just use a Bento Box or even sandwich bags. That way, they can close the containers and food doesn’t end up on the floor of the car. (Ok, food always ends up on the floor of the car, but this way, not as much.)

One important thing to note for those looking to copy this hack is the ages of my children: They are five and seven. This means choking — a real risk to younger kids eating in the car — is not as much of a hazard anymore now that they’re older and can easily chomp on nuts and carrots without assistance. But, as the American Association of Pediatrics points out, “choking is a leading cause of injury and death among children, especially children 3 years of age or younger.” So, yes, if you have a toddler at home, you’ll want to shy away from giving them small food items that they can choke on. And even if your children are school-aged but you tend to be a nervous Nellie, you can still accomplish this hack; just stick to foods that you feel comfortable giving your children while driving. There are so many options out there that are softer and will leave you less nervous about your child eating in the car.

This hack has saved me in so many ways. Not only do my kids make it to bed on time and with full bellies, but I no longer have to nag them to hurry when they get home. Plus, I don’t have to worry about cooking my kids a “real” meal — or meal-prepping ahead of time. It’s a win-win.

As for my husband and I, we choose to either eat leftovers on busy after-school nights or make something simple like eggs or a sandwich. We don’t need a fully prepped dinner every single weeknight, that’s for sure. Because who’s got time for that?

Surviving the after-school hustle can feel overwhelming. Between giving the kids dinner and wanting them to get their sleep, it often feels like a battle we’ll never win. But this hack — giving kids several healthy choices on the go — helps in many areas of a busy life. Sure, your car may become a little messier, but at least your kids will make it to bed on time.

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