Life as a working mom is never simple. You love your work, and wouldn’t want to quit it – after all, it’s what provides for your children. But finding time to do anything other than work and run after your kids can be quite the challenge at times. It is for this reason that cooking somehow ends up at the bottom of the list. It’s easy to make ourselves feel bad about this, but it’s something millions of moms struggle with every day.
More and more families these days are relying on convenience foods, fast foods, and microwave meals. The main reason behind this is clever marketing. The brands behind these meals know that you have limited time and prey on that in their marketing strategy. However, studies suggest that it may not actually save you that much time in comparison to a basic, home-cooked meal. Constantly buying convenience food can also wreak havoc on your bank account, especially if you have fussy kids. For example, buying individual ready meals for three children could cost you over $10 depending on the brand. It’s easy to see that it is not a conducive way to live, especially if you are trying to save money.
Relying on convenience food can also bring about health problems. Most ready meals contain an abnormal amount of fat and salt (sodium). These excessive amounts give ready meals their filling taste, which can be addictive to the consumer. Plus, the salty taste of most microwave meals can leave your children craving a sweet treat afterwards. Adding a dessert is even more detrimental to your children’s health, and doesn’t help your finances either.
Unfortunately, the current health craze doesn’t take into account the amount of time working mothers have on their hands. Therefore, it is little wonder so many of us have to rely on quick options to get our children to eat at all, even if the meals aren’t the healthiest. However, there are ways you can provide healthy meals for your family which don’t cut corners, and which don’t take a lot of time.
The minute we get an hour of peace on a Sunday afternoon, it can be so tempting to crash out on the couch and binge watch your favorite show. But, if you want to make life easier for yourself in the future, that time cannot go to waste. Get in the kitchen and whip together something simple that you can store in the freezer for the week. It doesn’t need to be a three course, five-star dinner – just something home cooked and filling. Even if you’re cooking something traditionally ‘unhealthy’, such as tacos or mac n cheese, it will still be a good deal healthier if you cook it at home. Make sure you learn the rules of freezing; what freezes well and what doesn’t, and how long you can keep food in there. Three months is usually the recommended amount of time.
A food processor can be your best friend when it comes to saving time on your meals. Instead of chopping individual ingredients, putting them in a food processor for a few seconds can do the job for you. Recent advancements in modern food processors such as Cuisinart blenders can also mean that you can use a much greater range of food in them. Old food processors would have struggled with hard food such as sweet potato or sticky food such as raisins. Most modern blenders, however, are equipped to deal with these. Food processors are also great for making smoothies and juices.
Of course, there are plenty of products on the market for these specific uses (smoothie makers and juicers respectively). But you can get pretty much the same effect with a regular food processor. Buy frozen berries to save money and blitz for a few minutes along with a couple of bananas and some almond milk. Then you will have a healthy breakfast smoothie for both you and your children to enjoy, in barely any time at all. Invest in some airtight travel bottles so they can take some to school, too. Another great way to get the most out of your food processor is to make your own condiments. Peanut butter and chocolate spread are both children’s classics but contain high amounts of sugar. Try your hand at blending your own at home in your processor – chances are it will taste even better too.
The slow cooker has really come into its own during the past few years. No longer a product of the past, it is now a firm favorite in many households. One of the true beauties of this product is that it leaves you with barely any washing up to do. Living in a house with young children, it can sometimes feel like all you ever do is clean – so why extend that to your mealtimes? Simply decide on your recipe and chuck all the ingredients in there in the morning before you leave for work. Set the slow cooker to ‘low’ and when you return you will have a lovely, healthy meal bubbling away for you and your children to tuck into.
Most slow cooker recipes involve meat, as the slow cooking process (which involves high levels of condensation) causes the meat to become extremely tender. If you are cooking chicken thighs or lamb chops, you will find that the meat falls off the bone after being in the slow cooker. That being said, if you are a veggie household, there’s no reason why a slow cooker wouldn’t be for you either. Vegetarian chilis, risottos, and curries are all perfect in a slow cooker – just add rice to your meal when you get home. You don’t even need to have your slow cooker on all day. Many recipes can be cooked in just a few hours. In this case, slow cookers are also extremely economical, as they tend to use less energy than an oven when used for shorter periods of time.
What are your tricks for making dinners easier as a working mom?
Note: This is a contributed post that has been edited to align with the opinions and style of this blog.