Aviva Goldfarb is the founder of the Six O'Clock Scramble, a dinner planning service. Her cookbooks include The Six O'Clock Scramble: Quick, Healthy, and Delicious Dinner Recipes for Busy Families and SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
Q: How did you first come up with the concept of the Six O’Clock Scramble?
A: The Six O’Clock Scramble really developed out of my own struggle as a relatively new parent. I grew up in a home with family dinners almost every day, and I wanted to create that for my own kids. I found it really challenging: that time of day is so stressful; how do you get a simple dinner on the table.
Writing the cookbook, developing recipes, talking to my mom, what was essential to me was having a plan for the week. If you shop once a week and get everything you need for the week, you’re not having to scramble at 6. That was the genesis of the Six O’Clock Scramble online—people would join, and I would send them a plan for the week of easy, healthy, family-friendly meals.
Q: What are the advantages of weekly menu planning?
A: There are several key advantages. First, what moms especially dislike the most isn’t cooking, it’s deciding what to cook and what to serve with it. Once the decision is made ahead, dinner can be a stress-free experience with your family. Another huge advantage is that you can save a lot of money and waste a lot less food, and you’re less likely to go out or order take-out. It’s a huge waste-reducer. Twenty to 50 percent [of food in this country] is thrown out.
Q: What do you recommend for picky eaters?
A: That’s a really common topic of concern. When you plan for dinner, it can help with a picky eater; you’re not catering to their whims….but you can modify some meals. …
You want to take the long-term approach: Are they going to be part of this family meal? Include the picky eater: “Should I add this [ingredient]?” It comes down to the whole family eating one meal.
Q: You write, “Several years ago I realized that the Scramble is also a great way for us to reduce our impact on the environment.” How do you think it helps the environment?
A: [With the Six O’Clock Scramble], you’re not driving to go out, you’re not getting Styrofoam—you’re reducing actual waste.
Also, we’ve really reduced the amount of meat; one of the biggest contributors to global warming is the eating of meat.
I include meatless options. I talk about buying more locally. When I recommend fish, it’s fish that’s sustainable, on the safer range from environmental organizations.
Q: Did you expect the level of success you've reached when you began a decade ago?
A: No way! It was just something I thought seemed like a good idea; I didn’t have a long-term plan. Now we have 6-7,000 members and there are offshoots of the business. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Helping people talk about food, creating recipes—I’m really thrilled to still be doing it.
My main mission is to make it doable for families to have dinner together most nights. My kids, as teenagers, I see how much they want to have dinner together. Everyone’s making eye contact. We’re disconnecting from technology and connecting to one another.
Q: You also contribute to the PBS Parents site with tips on cooking for families and getting kids involved in the kitchen. What have been some of your most popular suggestions on that site?
A: I’ve been doing it for a couple of years; I’m one of two weekly contributors. One of the most popular posts I had was talking about healthy options for class parties.
Q: What are you working on now? Are you writing another book?
A: Not right now. I’m taking a break from writing books. I like working in the online world. Instead of a book, this year my major priority is the Family Dinner Challenge. It’s a way of [noting] the 10-year anniversary of the Six O’Clock Scramble. I’m trying to get 10,000 people to sign a pledge to have family dinner at least three times a week for four weeks until the end of September.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb