Have you ever been frustrated trying to feed your family real food but feel like you are falling short because of how little time you have?
As a full –time teacher, mother of 2, and wife (among other things!) my time these days feels very limited.. In fact, I feel like I constantly am watching the clock and rushing around!! It would be too easy to give in to reaching for a frozen pizza or takeout after a busy day, but I desire to feed my family real food with wholesome ingredients and make it a priority to do so as much as possible.
Here are my tried and true 10 tips for eating real food while being a working mom (of course, these tips can apply to people who work at home too-they definitely are focused on saving time and being efficient). As a teacher, there is nothing I hate more than wasting time or being inefficient so I strive to use my resources wisely!
I hope they help you on your journey towards real food with your family!
1. Crockpot Love :
I think almost everyone has them, but how much are they used in your house? As working moms, we need to take more advantage of these things (myself included)! I simply LOVE coming home to smelling dinner in the crockpot. This crockpot is fabulous!
If you are gone from your home for long hours like me, check out these recipes. I have left many of them simmering in the crockpot for long periods of time and they have been delicious. One time saving tip is prepare the ingredients for your crockpot the night before. I will often chop all the veggies, put the spices on the counter, thaw the stock, etc so I can simply dump and go in the morning. Every second counts when trying to get out of the door on time!
Check out my pinterest board for tons of yummy crockpot meals!
2. Sunday Stock Up:
The weekends are my time of PREP for the week. I spend several hours in my kitchen on Saturday and/or Sunday to get things ready for the week. I might whip up a double batch of our favorite breakfast cookies, make pre-made smoothie packs, roast several pans of vegetables, or make a huge batch of chicken noodle soup for lunches.
I always wash and cut up fruits and vegetables for the week using my food processor or my Salad Master Shredder. I used to chop everything by hand and realized how much time I could save by using my wonderful machine. And who doesn’t love to save time!
By using this way, you can do the large quantity that you need for the week and don’t have to make a huge mess throughout the week. Am I the only one that always has a messy kitchen when prepping vegetables? I always get cauliflower bits everywhere! I use these to store my cut up produce in. I have several sets actually- you can never have too many containers! to make for easy access throughout the week’s recipes and lunches.
On the weekends is a great time to enlist your husband’s help or have your kids help you too! We all like to work together in the kitchen and it is SO much faster with extra hands. And a lot more fun too!
3. Simple is Super :
I have to preach this one to myself quite a bit! I love to experiment and cook new things in the kitchen. But during the weeknight I simply do not have time to do that. We need easy, quick meals that are nourishing. Cooking a main dish with 15 ingredients and 2 side dishes that require extensive oven time may be tasty but it’s not practical.
So I save my fancy cooking for the weekends and during the week stick to simple meals such as Quiche with fruit or Zucchini Noodles and homemade meatballs with spaghetti sauce. While these meals aren’t fancy, they fill us up and are filled with real food ingredients. And honestly, my family doesn’t seem to care at all. They are all just ready to eat by 6pm regardless of what it is!
4. Multiple Meals:
When I am making a meal that is well-loved (such as these chicken thai enchiladas) by my family and somewhat time intensive, I will double it and freeze the other meal. It is honestly not that much additional work to make two meals than one. When I make muffins, I always make a double or triple batch and freeze the rest. If I brown ground beef for tacos, I will cook two pounds and freeze the other pound for use at a later time. Your time is valuable- use it carefully by working smarter, not harder. Oh and another bonus of this method- you aren’t spending time cleaning up two different times!
5. Easy Sides:
I am pretty good at cooking main courses, but I struggle with what to make to “go with it.” My mom was always good about pairing main dishes and sides together; homemade cornbread and chili, salads and spaghetti, etc. Dinner always felt so "put together" and I loved that. But we don't always have time to be put together at our house. Sometimes we are a hot mess on the week nights!
However, I have learned that stir fry broccoli and cauliflower goes with everything! So does a simple green salad. Fresh fruit always tastes good along with some cut up raw veggies and hummus. Roasted vegetables are an easy side and a wonderful thing to make on the weekends to use throughout the week.
6. Meal Plan:
I know that this has been said on every single blog post ever written about real food but it is worth repeating- make a plan for what you are going to eat for the week! I like to meal plan and grocery shop on Saturdays or Sundays for the upcoming week.
For some reason, I feel very constricted by writing down exactly what we are going to have every single night because sometimes I am not “feeling it” that night. So, I have a menu planning board where I write down all the meals, but then each day I can make what I want. I do plan out crockpot meals in advance (usually on a busy night) because those require advance preparation! There are a hundred different ways to meal plan but I think it’s important that you do what works for you and to stick with it. As long as you have some meal options, you are less likely to pick up pizza!
7. Freezer Swap Club:
I have a dear friend who has almost identical food values as me and is a busy teacher and mom too! We have formed a supper swap club where once a month, we make double of four recipes that our family loves, and meet to exchange the pre-cooked, meals. Thus, we each end up with EIGHT meals that are already prepared and frozen with instructions on how to cook. It has also been a great way to try new recipes!
This has been a lifesaver for me knowing that 1-2 nights a week, I can pull out a meal to defrost the night before and pop in the oven. See if you have find a like-minded friend (or 2!) to form your own swap club. This has been one of the biggest time-savers for me!
8. Dinner to Lunch:
I have to pack two lunches every night for the next day. Having salads gets tiresome very quickly for lunches so we try to pack leftovers. However, I have found that with an active three year old who eats more these days and a husband who enjoys eating, we are often eating ALL of dinner if we aren’t careful. So, I have become the food rationing police of sorts- I dish up our leftovers in these for lunch the next day before we even start dinner. That way, I know that the main part of the lunch is already accounted for. Nothing is worse than realizing we have nothing to pack for the next day!
9. Cook Staples in Batches and Freeze:
I like to cook huge batches of things like beans on the weekends and freeze them in mason jars (these are my favorite) so they are easily accessible during the week to grab, defrost, and use! My chicken stock is also stored in these same jars. I also cook meat in bulk and freeze in meal sized portions in a Ziploc bag. It is so much easier to make a simple chili on a weeknight when I can simply grab a bag of cooked ground beef, some beef stock in a quart jar, and some black beans! Dinner comes together quite nicely when I am prepared.
Make your peace that you cannot be perfect. As a working mom, there is a LOT on your plate. I get that! So give yourself some grace and remember that every single meal (or part of the meal!) that you make from scratch is better than eating fast food! Even if you are having eggs for dinner for the 3rd time that week (not that I speak from experience… *ahem*). Your family probably doesn’t care half as much as you do so enjoy your family dinners and the conversations that happen around it and don’t stress about perfection!
I hope you found these tips useful and will help you streamline your time in the kitchen so that you can spend MORE time with what matters most- your family!
What are your tips for eating real food while working?
~Be sure to follow me on Pinterest to see what new recipes I post next!