Managing Meals and Sports

Organized sports and other extra curricular activities are not for every family. But for many families they are an important part of their children’s lives. This purpose of this post is not to debate the role of organized sports in the family, but rather to provide families with tips for making healthy, inexpensive meals during the busy seasons.

This year (after a two year break) we have five children playing soccer. Unfortunately they are all on different teams, which means nightly practice. Thank goodness the field is right down the road, but it definitely disrupts dinner! Whether you have one child or five managing meals and after school activities can be quite challenging.

While it is tempting to swing through the drive thru or order pizza those options aren’t very healthy and can break the food budget in a few days! I’ve made a list of the things that have worked for our family when it comes to sports schedules and meals.

Menu Plan

If you don’t have a plan, you will not be serving dinner on a regular basis on activity nights. Usually teams have a practice schedule set up weeks in advance so you know what nights you will need to accomodate a different meal schedule. No matter what you decide to serve on these nights, having a plan sets you up for success.

If you are new to menu planning read 5 Simple Ways to Menu Plan.

Meal Prep on the Weekends

This is a scaled back version of freezer cooking. Cook any meat, chop vegetables or make bread on the weekend to serve throughout the week. Spending a few hours in the kitchen on the weekend saves time during the week since you are only putting the meals together each evening.

Use Your Crock Pot

The nice thing about many crock pot meals is that people can eat at different times. If the meal is kept warm in the crock pot the kids that have practice can eat right when they get home, no need to wait for a meal to be made.

Meal Ideas

Serve Soups and Chili

Soups and chili can stay warm on the stove top or heat up quickly in the microwave.

Meal Ideas

Stock Your Freezer

Spend an afternoon making some freezer meals. Then on practice nights or game days you just need to thaw the meal and pop in the oven. While I don’t leave my house with the oven on, if someone is home they can bake the meal and have it ready by the time practice is over.

Meal Ideas

Eat the Big Meal at Lunch

This is obviously easier for homeschoolers, but consider serving your big meal during lunch. Then serve sandwiches or lighter fare during the dinner hour. Kids can eat before or after practice.

Eat Dinner Earlier or Later

Sometimes I will serve dinner at 4:30pm or 7:30pm to accomodate our practice schedule. This has worked well for our family, but I usually need to serve a snack either before bed or late afternoon so the kids aren’t hungry.

Create a List of 30 Minute Meals

Meals like pasta, tacos, salads, nachos, and skillet dishes usually take about 30 minutes from start to finish. Make a list of your 30 minute meals and keep a stockpile of those ingredients in your kitchen. Your kids can munch on carrots or a banana while they wait for their 30 minute meal.

Meal Ideas

Make Practice Nights Yo-Yo Nights

I learned about yo-yo nights from my friend Joy. Yo-yo stands for “you’re on your own” and it basically means every man, woman and child for themselves in the kitchen. This works well for families with older children who can make their own meals. Yo-yo meals can be anything from sandwiches to leftovers and is a great way to clean out the fridge and keep everyone fed.

Be Realistic

Sports seasons might not be the best time to tackle those gourmet dishes. It is okay to eat spaghetti, soups, and meatloaf for a while. Throw some vegetables on the side and you have a balanced, inexpensive meal that takes the stress out of meal time. We all have busy seasons and not so busy seasons of our lives, so make a plan to help get you through the busy season. Your kids will not remember that they had spaghetti 3 nights a week for 3 months. But they will remember you were at their games, recitals, and other extra curricular activities.


  1. We have three kids who all do different sports which means I have to have a plan each week. The Crock Pot is my best friend, but another meal that works well and is always a hit is a create your own pasta bar. I cook up two different types of noodles, offer up a red sauce and a white sauce, then put out any leftover veggies, meat and other potential toppings and the kids can create their own pasta creations quickly and when the timing works for them.

  2. dgsandbjsmom says:

    Great Ideas. I would like to have put our kids in T-Ball but it would be a 20 mile round trip to practices and games so the added time plus gas is prohibitive.

  3. Loved this post! All three of our boys play soccer-2 at the rec. level and one is a travel player. Because my husband coaches 2 out of the 3, and we are heavily involved in our local soccer org. we were able to make sure all 3 boys practiced on the same nights-even though they were all on different teams. However, that meant that we were often practicing from 5:00 to 8 or 8:30 (as long as there was light)! I was known to cook something-pork bbq, hamburger helper, chili, etc.-and bring it with us in a thermos to keep it warm. Each of the kids ate on the fields whenever they got hungry, either before or after their practice. This worked well for us until we started loosing daylight which meant practices were cut short and we could all eat at home afterwords.

  4. Thanks for this post! I have two children in USA swimming which is a year-round sport with practice 6 times a week (9 times with doubles for my oldest teen). We love the sport but it does make dinner tricky! I look forward to using some of your tips. As well, because we homeschool, we tend to have our BIG dinner-type meal at lunch and then have lunch-type things for dinner after swim team practice. This works best for our family as the kids don’t like to eat a heavy meal right before swimming for two hours.


    • Kelly Overend says:

      That is a really good idea, as I homeschool also, and my son is about to start team gymnastics.

  5. Meal prep…that’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now. Making chicken stock and freezing the cooked chicken and stock. Browning beef. Pressure cooking rice. Soccer season is starting up next week and I’ll have three of the boys playing this season. I usually plan for crock pot meals on practice nights or spaghetti.

    Gotta go get busy. Thanks!

Speak Your Mind