The Working Mom’s Guide to Cooking Healthy Meals

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If you’re a working mom, you’ve already got enough on your plate without worrying too much about what to put on everyone else’s. You probably want to provide home-cooked meals rather than drive-thru pickups or frozen dinners, right? But sometimes that can be easier said than done… unless you’ve got these tips working for you!

Here’s how you can make healthy meals fast, even if you’re juggling a full-time job with crazy hours and young children who can wreak havoc with your schedule at the drop of a hat (or, rather, a tiny sock).

A meal plan

If you’re like me, you may resist meal planning. However, once you embrace it, you’ll see that taking that bit of time once a week will save you a lot of time (and stress) during the week.

Set aside the same time every week to plan your meals for the next 7 days, preferably right before you go to the store. Once you decide on a time, stick to it. You’ll see the difference in a few weeks!

Try to plan your recipes around ingredients you’ve already got in the house, and plan all of the main meals first. Those half-opened packets of lasagna don’t need to go to waste! Hence the importance of making your plan right before you buy your ingredients. If you’re stuck on what you should cook and the ingredients you need, you can draw inspiration from this cookbook at that will give you some great ideas for your family meals.

Once you’ve planned your main meals, decide which one you’ll make on which day and put it into your calendar or planner. Then look at some quick sides you can include – a fast packet of steamed veggies or rice goes with just about anything and doesn’t require a lot of effort.

For recipe inspiration, you can keep a Pinterest board and then refer to it any time you need fresh ideas. The brilliant thing about a Pinterest board is that you can update it in a quick minute or two whenever you’re waiting outside that football match, dance lesson, karate club… fill in the blank!

Include some emergency staples

Nothing always goes to plan, and that includes meal planning. Keep on hand some healthy items for last-minute meals when the unexpected crops up.

Handy extras could be healthy meals stored in the freezer that can be popped into the oven by a helpful spouse or child, or simple staple ingredients that can be prepared by anyone. Pasta with a nutritious sauce comes to mind, but there are other options, too, so look out for those on your first shopping trip so that you can stock up once and then forget about it.

A brilliant way to have backup meals is to make large quantities of a casserole, soup, or stew, and then freeze half. You can get portion-sized, freezer-safe containers to fill and date and have on hand for those unforeseen emergencies.

Shave time off of your shopping trips

No-one likes having to dash out to the store every few days because you’re missing a crucial ingredient. Organize your grocery list according to sections of the supermarket so that you can shop once a week. Produce, dairy, dry goods, meat, non-food items, etc., are all in different places. You don’t want to forget something on your list because it was buried on your list between the toilet paper and the grapes.

Don’t forget to check in with your family to make sure they’ve added what they want for snacks, drinks, etc. You don’t want to get so focused on the main meals that you forget they’ll want other things too.

As to when to shop, try to find a regular weekly time when you can, if at all possible, go by yourself. Children can slow you down with their requests and you want to be able to whizz through the aisles and pick up everything on the list and nothing else. You’ll save money, too!

One-pot recipes

Collect a selection of go-to recipes that you know your family appreciates. Crockpot and other one-dish recipes are perfect, and if you don’t have a Dutch oven, now’s the time to invest. The beauty of a Dutch oven (like these is that you can pop in a few ingredients and let it cook slowly while you get on with other things.

Soups and stews are brilliant dishes to make with minimal effort. Beans and rice, ham lentils and barley, or a quick chili are all simple to create, and there are many recipes online. Look for ‘crockpot’, ‘slow cooker’, or ‘Dutch Oven’ recipes and add them to your Pinterest board or another online file planner.

There you have it, lots of tips for you to have healthy meals on the table quickly and easily, all while being a working mom.