Why my family eats dinner at 4:00

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My family is VERY busy. All 3 of my kids (5, 8, and 10) are in different activities and our calendar is full every night of the week, that’s Monday through Friday. Our dinner situation is getting out of control. We leave for practices around 5:30 and don’t get home until 7:30- 8:30. This doesn’t give me much time to prepare a meal.  We’ve switched things up lately and have been doing dinner a little different and it seems to be working.

I know it's a little strange and it was hard to adjust, but this is why my family eats dinner at 4:00.

What time should I eat dinner?

We noticed the kids getting cranky.  When they got home from school they were eating all kinds of snacks- granola bars, apples, cereal, smoothies, crackers, whatever they could get their hands on.  I was using my crock pot a lot and having dinner around 8 or later and they wouldn’t eat!  I knew they had to be starving, but no one would eat.  I just think it was bed time and they weren’t wanting to eat a big meal that late.

Here’s what I did.  I started making dinner earlier and we have been eating at 4:00 the past few weeks.  I know it’s a little weird to eat dinner that early and then send them off to do homework, but it seems to be helping with crankiness.  It’s also helping them actually eat and not snack.  When they get home from their practices they still get a snack, usually the kind that you would normally eat right after school.

I’m still using my crock pot, so I can still run errands and get things done during the day.  Here are two of our favorite slow cooker meals, pork salsa verde and roast beef sandwiches.  I’m having trouble adjusting some days because I forget to start dinner that early.  Today I had to run out and get a rotisserie chicken so we’d have some meat cooked!  I put sweet potatoes in the crock pot, but totally forgot everything else.  I am loving microwaved vegetables too!

I’m hoping to get on a good schedule so I can get back to some meals that I enjoy and prepare some ahead of time.  I’m really happy that everyone is getting a better meal and not snacking.  They are eating healthier foods and sleeping better too.  Sometimes trying something that seems the craziest will work the best for your family.

If you are having dinner issues, maybe try switching up the times for an easy solution.

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14 Responses

  1. chellie says:

    I think it’s awesome that you are still making time for a family dinner, where everyone can gather together at the same time. It’s so hard to do when you have so many activities and you are making it work!! It makes perfect sense for you to have an early dinner and snack later. Great job Holly.

  2. What a great solution to your problem! Family dinners are so important. I am in the same boat of always eating late, but it’s because my husband doesn’t get home from work until 8 or later. So we’ve started eating without him and then we all eat our dessert at the table with him while he eats his late dinner. Haha crazy, but it works!

    • Jenica says:

      Awesome idea! I was trying to figure how to work it bc my hubs I usually home after 7. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Betty says:

    4 pm is a great time for dinner, especially as soon as they are home for school.

  4. Soup song says:

    i can understand the practicalities of this decision . As a teacher this week we were discussing how so few children sit down together at a table with their family members. Not all homes have 2 parents but it is so important for that family unit to be conserved and if a partner is still at work they get no part to play in this arrangement. Perhaps adjusting the week to avoid so many activities and have at least one week night whole family meal together to discuss how everyone’s week is going is more important. They will all go their separate ways eventually – your family time is precious.

    • Jo says:

      My babies and I eat dinner together early. I find eating with them means they eat better. My husband usually gets home at 530 which is then an HOUR of family activity heading into bath and bed time followed by a story and then sleep.

      It works for us but what’s crucial for them is that time with both parents even if it’s not over a meal

  5. gemgemmum says:

    My daughter and I eat together around 4.30 after small snack after school at 3. Then start bedtime routine at 6 with bed by 6.30 or 7. hubby eats alone as often wee one in bed when he gets home.

    A Thursday she had after school club and we are all home at the same time to eat around 5.30. At the weekends we eat together around 4.30.

  6. Terri says:

    This is a wonderful idea! The nights that we cannot eat early I pack dinner: tacos, chicken w/ vegetables and salad or pasta and meatballs with salad. We carry it in the cooler to the YMCA our branch has indoor and outdoor table so depending on the weather we can have a sit down family dinner before sports practice, dance class or swim lessons. When my children were younger, birth through age 8, dinner was early and they were in bes by 6:30. No evening melt downs, family time, full tummies and enough sleep!

  7. Lilly says:

    this is a wonderful idea and I hope that I am in a position to do this when my daughter is older and doing activities during the week. Unfortunately it is not a practical solution for all families, such as mine. I work full time and I don’t get home until 6.30pm. I lament often that I wish I had time for this. We have our family time in other ways. We get up early and spend time in the morning together and have a hearty breakfast. If she is too tired to eat she is usually not too tired to help me cook, or snuggle on the couch to watch one tv show before she goes to bed.

  8. Lori says:

    I’ve done this myself when I made dinner in the crockpot. Kids are always starving when they get home, so we might as well give them something nutritious at a time when they’re starving!!! Makes a world of sense.

  9. Veronica says:

    My kids are 3 and 1 years old. We have dinner at 4:30pm. It works for our family. My boyfriend works at night and I used to have work at 6am. The only time they don’t have dinner at this time is if my boyfriend is off from work. I noticed when their off schedule, both are cranky and overtired.

  10. Angie says:

    Maybe, I should try to have an earlier time for dinner. I work as an instructional assistant at our local school 4 days/28 hours per week which I do not get home till 3:30-3:45 pm and my husband gets home usually around 4 pm. I have 2 teenagers, son in high school is is not in much of extracurricular activities except Golf in the spring and my daughter in middle school is in several activities including cheerleading, swimming, band, National Jr Honor Society. But, her swimming schedule alternates between after school till 5 pm and 5:30-7 pm. It is hard to fit dinner in except being late. I, also have a blog I keep up plus trying to keep up our house work responsibilities. Great Idea! Maybe, alternating a dinner schedule depending on the schedule for the day. Thanks!

  11. D Atherton says:

    I too have started feeding the kids at four. I’m lucky enough to be a stay at home mom and pick the kids up from school. They have karate at 5:30 twice a week which is the same problem as a few other commenters. Can’t make them eat afterwards besides we need the time for showers etc. They were scarfing all kinds of snacks, “tea time”, and still claimed to be hungry on the drive to class. I gave up too. Might as well give them dinner. Can’t wait for the hubby… he doesn’t get in until 8 sometimes. Takes some planning but works for us for now.

  12. Brian says:

    I don’t know. I can appreciate the practical approach to this problem, but somehow I doubt your whole family makes it to the table at the same time.

    Where I live in the Washington, D.C. area – I see a lot of dads, including myself, get sidelined by working hours that optimally end by 5pm, and then struggle to get home within an hour. I think the dads are good with anything from 6PM afterwards, while I see more flexibility with moms to do what you have done before 6PM.

    We talk about how important it is for the family to get to the table TOGETHER, but I think the execution these days is harder to imagine.