Question: I heard in a shiur that one must not eat before lighting the menora. My husband does not come home from work until about seven o’clock. Can I not eat at all that night before he lights?
Answer: The Magen Avraham (672:5) writes that one should light their menora with their family members present, and ideally before eating. He adds, quoting the Maharshal, that when it is time to light, one should not even sit down to learn Torah, but should perform the mitzva as soon as one can (See Mishna Berura 672:10).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 235:2) writes that one must not begin eating half an hour before the time of maariv. However, the Mishna Berura (235:18) writes that if one asked another person to remind them to daven then one may eat. This even applies if it is already nacht and one could say shema already.
R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 4:58) writes that while women are obligated to light the menorah, they should be allowed to eat while waiting for their husbands to light. He compares it to a father who is allowed to eat the morning of his son’s bris before it is performed if he has appointed a mohel to perform the milah. Nonetheless, the minhag is for women not to eat before the menorah is lit, especially as they are supposed to be present and involved with the lighting. If necessary, such as there will be a long wait, once can be lenient and eat (See Rivevos Ephraim 4:163:29).
R’ Gavriel Zinner (Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 5:5) adds that as the prohibition is only to eat a full meal, it would be best for her to eat snacks or fruit while they are waiting rather than eat a full meal.
If she must eat a meal, she should ask someone to remind her to perform the mitzva.
In conclusion, one may have a snack while one is waiting for their husband to come home and light the menora. If one needs to sit down for a meal, they should ask someone to remind them to perform the mitzva.