I'm not religious, but I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan (if you want to know why, read his Omnivore's Dilemma). And what he says in this piece, about the importance of food, cooking, and eating meals together as a family, is vital. And yes, I realize how busy life can be when you have a family. But you know what? It can still be done. Even when you're on the go. We almost literally never eat out (for a variety of reasons; money, food sensitivities, preferences), even when we travel. I stop at grocery stores and buy ingredients instead of going to a restaurant. It is a bit more work, but it certainly can be done.
Pollan has a few handy tips for busy families:
There are a couple of tips that I offer busy parents. One is that it’s not all on Mom to do the cooking. One of the problems with cooking has been that women were stuck with the work for a very long time, and it became a burden, without question. It’s very important to get everybody, men and women, involved in this process not only as a matter of equity or fairness, but also as a matter of teaching.
Second, I would try to put the kids to work. Kitchen skills are some of the most important things you can teach your kids in terms of their long-term health and happiness. If they’re not old enough to chop an onion, they could gather ingredients from the pantry or they could peel things.
Other things to do are to be strategic in the way you cook. I very often will make a few different dishes on a Sunday. I’ll spend a couple hours in the kitchen, and I’ll make three things for the week, either a large quantity or one thing that I can use in different ways. If I’m roasting a chicken on a Sunday for dinner, I’ll roast two. It’s no more work to roast two chickens, and then you have the basis for tacos on another day or a soup on yet another day.
Plus, there are plenty of wonderful recipes for getting real food on a table in 20 minutes. If your kids can’t wait 20 minutes for dinner, then you have some other things to work on.