Are you a sports mom? Here are some great ideas for how to feed your family on a budget during busy sports seasons! These budget tips are not just for traveling sports moms, these money saving tips will work for all busy families that are on a budget!
Does spring mean weekends spent at the ball park watching your little softball/baseball player play anywhere from 4-10 games in 3 days?
Does the fall mean early mornings at the soccer field followed by running across town to watch another child play in their fall flag football league?
Are weeknights filled with dividing and conquering while this kid needs to be at this practice at 5:30, but this kid needs to be across town at that practice at 5:45 (oh and those two locations are conveniently 20 minutes apart)?
If so, you might be a sports mom! Welcome to the world of being your child’s biggest cheerleader, chauffeur, stain fighter, etc! The days might be long, but the years will go by fast, so soak up every moment!
Have you seen that meme? The one that says, well it’s baseball season! So we’re either having dinner at 4pm or 10pm.
That’s real life y’all!
Unfortunately, if you are a ball-er (haha) on a budget, busy sports seasons can wreak havoc on your budget. Concession stand dinners, quick trips through the drive through, etc. can really add up!
Here are some tips to get through busy sports seasons on a budget:
First off, the obvious…meal plan! I suggest you read these 2 posts about how to meal plan here on FFF:
- Reverse Meal Planning – How I Save A Ton On Groceries By Reverse Meal Planning!
Meal planning is essential if you want to really cut down your grocery bill and it is SUPER important if you have a busy schedule.
Meal planning can be as simple as designating each day of the week to a specific food “theme”:
Monday – Italian
Tuesday – Tacos/Mexican
Wednesday – Slow Cooker Meal
Thursday – Soup & Sandwiches
Friday – Pizza Night
Saturday – Eat Out
Sunday – Leftovers
Or, whatever works best for your family!
OR, you can opt to meal plan using an app like Cozi (I have a full review of the Cozi Family Calendar, we LOVE it and this is personally where I do my meal planning and keep my online recipe box!).
In addition, you might consider letting a meal planning service like eMeals do all the hard work for you! They have options for 30 minute meals, slow cooker meals, kid friendly and just about every dietary/nutrtional need your family might have (including Keto, Diabetic, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free and more!)
Regardless of what you utilize to meal plan, the key will be syncing up your meals with the reality of your evening plans. If you have 2 back to back games from 4-7pm, you are pretty much stuck eating dinner VERY early or VERY late. In this case, a slow cooker meal might be most realistic for this day.
Or this might be a day that you pack sandwiches and chips in a cooler and take it to the ball park with you.
This is actually why I love using Cozi to plan our meals. I can see the meal plan right next to the actual events of the day/night and I can get a good picture at how realistic the meals are for that day all in one screen. I also utilize eMeals for meal ideas, so you could say I use a combination of all of the above techniques!
Action Tip: Start meal planning today!
Use your slow cooker/instant pot
I actually have a Ninja Foodi AND an Instant Pot. Both of these can pressure cook and slow cook food for me. Honestly, I find myself doing pressure cooking more often because it just works better for my schedule/family.
However, even if you just have a slow cooker, this can totally save your budget during busy sports seasons! These salsa chicken bowls are SO easy and can also be portable if you need them to be! This crack chicken travels well as well (and is low carb and keto friendly!).
Slow cookers are great for when your family all needs to eat at different times. You can just pop something in the slow cooker and leave directions for serving so dad can feed the first shift of kids while you feed the second shift while you divide and conquer!
Action Tip: Check out these awesome Instant Pot/Slow Cooker/Ninja Foodi recipes I have posted here on FFF!
- Sausage and Peppers Recipe – Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi or Stove Top/Slow Cooker Friendly!
- Instant Pot Sausage and Rice – Easy & Flavorful!
- Bacon Cheddar Low Carb Instant Pot Chicken Recipe
- Easy To Peel Instant Pot Hardboiled Eggs
- Ridiculously Easy Chicken Tacos (Crockpot Recipe)
- Ninja Foodi Recipes – A Quick Glance at My Favorite Ninja Foodi Recipes!
Avoid Concession Stand Trips By Having Fun & Filling Snacks on Hand
My kids LOVE LOVE LOVE going to the concession stand! I can’t say that we completely ban concession stand trips. Truthfully, for most leagues, these concession stands are actually fundraisers. So we do try to buy a little something every now and again (and usually, the prices at kids sports activities for a small treat are not bad at all).
However, one of my biggest tips is that mom’s bag of snacks should be a bit more exciting than anything the concession stand has to offer. Snacks that are fun (and different from what they get at home) and snacks that are power packed and filling for your little athlete!
Having a good arsenal of snacks on hand offers you an alternative when your kid is begging for the foot long pixie stick from the concession stand.
Some things I like to pack (especially for something like a swim meet or day long tournament!):
- hardboiled eggs
- cheese and meat
- sunflower seeds or pistachios or almonds
- waters and gatorades
Action Tip: Sit down with your kids and write out a list of what snacks they would love for you have on hand. Come to an agreement that if you stock these snacks, that they will only access them when you are on the go and that they will NOT ask for concession stand money!
Utilize containers for meals on the go
This ties into the meal planning and the snacks above. If you are going to be bringing sandwiches or cut fruit to the ball field, you need to have good quality containers to lug back and forth! You also probably don’t want to use your best tupperware though because let’s just be honest, something is going to end up left in the car for a few weeks until you start smelling something funny at some point!
Here are some good quality economical options you might consider:
In addition, if you live in Texas and have an HEB, they have GREAT containers that are very sturdy and inexpensive!
Action Tip: Now is a great opportunity to see what you already have on hand in your reusable container inventory. Pull it all out and see what still looks good, what might have cracks or what doesn’t have a lid. Set aside the containers you are willing to take to the ball field and put the ones that you really only want to use in house for leftovers in a separate place.
I think most of us with children own a cooler. A cooler bag can really save the day though for keeping drinks/fruits/other items cold without having to lug your giant cooler to and from the ballpark.
You might consider a smaller rolling cooler if you think a cooler bag might end up being too heavy to carry around though.
We had one like this and it worked great!
Action Tip: If you don’t already have a cooler bag or small soft side roller cooler, start shopping around!
Get to know the kids eat free days and dollar menus at local restaurants
Let’s just be honest…sometimes you are going to have to eat out. It will just be inevitable! Maybe you didn’t have much faith your team would make it to the last round of the tournament and now you have only 30 minutes between games and no time to run home and eat dinner. Maybe you had a tough day at work and rushing to get everyone fed before getting everyone dressed and to practice might just be the straw that breaks YOUR back.
Sometimes you need to grab food on the go. This is okay! I suggest having a good list of what days kids eat free in your area. In addition, remember that the WHOLE meal does not need to be drive through. You can use some of your snacks (like chips and fruit) and then drive through the nearest fast food place to pick up some dollar menu cheeseburgers.
Action Tip: Grab your phone and make a list of what restaurants in your area have kids free days. Also note which fast food joint has options on their dollar menu that will be a good fit for your whole family.
The key to saving money during busy sports seasons and/or your busy everyday life comes down to planning. The death of your food budget (and some would say your diet too!) will always be impulse food decisions.
When you have a plan (even if that plan does include eating out), you will feel more in control and less stressed about what you are spending and what food your family is eating even when your schedule involves multiple extracurricular activities with multiple children every single night of the week!
What are some of your tips for feeding your family on a budget during busy sports seasons?