Living the life of a volunteer wife presents its own unique challenges. There is no set schedule to depend on, no shifts to plan for. Tones drop at any time of the day or night calling a volunteer firefighter from his family. Add in a volunteer's required meeting nights, work nights and training hours they must earn and you have a lot of evening hours where they are away from home.
Dinner is one of the challenges faced by volunteer families. Will he be home from this call he has been out on all day in time to eat with us – should I fix enough for him? How long is he going to be out on this call, should I keep this meal hot for him? He should have been home from his training by now, how much longer should I put off making dinner? These are all questions volunteer wives ask themselves on a daily basis. Schedules go out the window when you deal with a volunteer firefighter and his pager.
So how do you plan for dinner around a volunteer schedule? I have learned a few tricks over the years. Being as prepared as you can be for those unpredictable moments can save your sanity, and save you some time.
Always have something on hand.
Always having an easy meal that whips up quickly on hand has saved my sanity more than once. When we have leftovers of meals that are easy to freeze, I take advantage of the opportunity. Not only does it save room in my refrigerator, but it gives me quick options in my freezer. I like to freeze things like soup, leftover pasta dishes, enchiladas, etc. When my firefighter is out on a call and I have no idea what time he will be home, I can save myself the time and trouble of making enough dinner for him.
When my firefighter is out on a call and I have no idea what time he will be home, I can save myself the time and trouble of making enough dinner for him. I will cook for the kids and me, and when he calls to say he's on his way home, I pull something from the freezer and get it going for him. This also works well when I am not going to be home and he needs a meal.
This also works well for me at home. I do like to always keep some freezer meals ready to go for nights he's not going to be home for dinner due to a meeting, or when he's out on a call. Cooking with kids under foot and no extra hands to keep them entertained is never fun, so having something quick to pop in the oven to heat up is always handy.
Planning on the fly is okay.
If there's one thing I've learned about volunteer life, it's that things don't always have to be planned. If you have to keep his meal warm in the oven until he gets home, he will appreciate it just as much as if he sat down with you to eat it. If he has to stop and grab some carryout because after dinner you have to run the kids to a ball game or piano practice, that's okay too. Being able to adapt your schedule at the drop of a hat is essential if you are living the volunteer life.
How do you handle dinners on a volunteer schedule? Do you have any tricks that help keep things easy when he's out on a call or at station duties? Let us know what works for you!