No more gazing forlornly into the fridge at 5pm or frantic, last-minute market runs! With the help of these time-saving strategies from Circle of Moms members, even the busiest of moms can conquer the daily dinner challenge and serve up quick, healthy meals for the whole family.
1. Plan Meals Ahead
"I usually make a menu for the entire week," Amanda V. shares, "and get most of the groceries in one stop to the grocery store." In addition to eliminating time-consuming trips to the market, planning meals thoughtfully in advance (instead of making on-the-spot choices after an exhausting day) can encourage you to make better nutritional choices.
2. Buy Pre-cut and Pre-cooked Foods
Purchasing prepared foods easily cuts down your time in the kitchen. Bonnie H., a mother of 11 children in Kentucky, keeps pre-cooked chicken breasts and potatoes on hand, which helps her quickly make everything from chicken salad to potato soup. Though prepared foods generally cost more, full-time working mom Marcy C. argues that the cost is worth the convenience: "I have come to terms with spending a little more money and buying things that are already cut up for me (veggies specifically)."
3. Cook Double Portions
"When I make chili, or sauce for pasta, I always make enough for two meals and place the excess in the freezer for the following week," shares mother of two Amy D. "That is one less meal that I have to cook!" Alison L., also a mother of two children, recommends cooking large batches of a single main ingredient to make several different meals: "Cook a whole chicken at the beginning of the week, then use it to make sandwiches, a stir fry, chicken pot pies, etc."
4. Cook for a Whole Week in Advance
"When I was a working mum I used to do a mass cook-up at the weekends to carry me through the week," recalls Louise G., a mother in England. If you have the energy, cooking an entire week's worth of healthy meals on the weekend virtually eliminates your kitchen time on weekdays.
5. Cook and Freeze in Bulk
"We formed, wrapped in wax paper and foil, and froze about 30 turkey burgers!" says Crystal K., a mother of three in Washington. Like Crystal K., Brenda T. also finds freezer cooking simplifies dinner: "I do a big session (or sometimes a few mini-sessions) and make up a bunch of things to keep in the freezer. Then all I have to do is pull out of the freezer, defrost, and warm up or grill."
6. Prep Ingredients in Advance
Even if you're not going to cook entire meals days in advance, prepping certain ingredients in advance can help you make healthier choices —you're more likely to toss in extra veggies into salads, soups, and pastas if they're already ready to go. Tiffany V. a mother of two says, "Go ahead and chop your fresh fruits and veggies and keep in containers so there is less prep work when cooking."
7. Invest in a Slow Cooker
Countless Circle of Moms members praise the slow cooker, or crock-pot, as an essential kitchen appliance for moms. "I love my slow cooker" says Jade Y., a mother of two. "All you have to do is take 10 to 15 minutes in the morning to chuck it all in the pot, turn it on, and leave it to cook." The bonus of crock-pot dinners? There's only one pot to wash!
Looking for more ideas on healthy, easy cooking? Got a great tip we missed?
Circle of Moms is a friendly, helpful place to share advice with fellow moms. Whether you're looking for healthy breakfast ideas for kids and quick and easy lunch recipes, or healthy toddler snacks, easy healthy desserts, and healthy meals to make without a stove or oven, communities like Recipe Swap are great places to ask questions and trade tips.