Think it is impossible to be a working mom and cook real food? Think again! If you are a regular reader then you know I am not a ‘stay at home mom’ – I work a full-time corporate job for IBM. However, I do work from home which has allowed me the flexibility to develop a real food cooking strategy that is efficient, simple and will work for others. So how do I find the time to cook real food from scratch without collapsing at the end of the day? I am going to share all my secrets with you.
Break it down
- Focus on cooking a full dinner 2-3 nights a week. In our family that includes a protein, vegetable and rice/corn. If you are on a paleo or grain-free diet then you would skip the rice/corn.
- Have a regular ‘breakfast for dinner’ night (eggs, bacon, grain-free banana pancakes, etc.) one night.
- Head out to your local farmers market one night.
- On other nights, do leftovers, a family night out or a date night!
Keep in simple and delicious
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients” – Julia Child.
- Source local ingredients. Your food will sing without a lot of fuss – I promise you.
- Keep recipes simple. Today’s recipes may be complicated. Stick to the simple ones!
- Cook rice in chicken broth (where to buy broth online) and coconut milk not in water. This will make it tasty and rich and it will play a nice recurrent role in your dinner rotation without protests from your family. Note: use a stainless steel rice cooker. There is a warm setting to make your life easy. – where to buy rice
- Fat makes food delicious and filling. Add as much butter as your veggies can hold after steaming or roasting.
- Make real homemade ice cream. Most store-bought ice cream is full of chemicals and thickeners. This is an simple make ahead dessert.
Ditch the microwave
Reheat your food on the stove or in the oven. Food reheated this way tastes like it was freshly made not nuked. Focus on the goal of sitting down to eat together not in two minutes intervals. When food is reheated properly it will all be hot and ready at the same time and will also remain warm for second helpings.
Minimize last minute cooking
- Plan ahead. Try making everything on a Sunday or prep ingredients in the mornings before you take your kid to school or cook during the day if you work from home.
- Do quick searing and grilling about 15-30 min before dinner is served. In most cases the meat will need to rest. For salmon filets, quickly sear them skin side down and then remove from heat and cover the pan. After about 15 min the salmon will be cooked perfectly.
Discover your new convenience foods
- Make and ferment your mayo and ketchup to store in the fridge for up to a month.
- Make pickles and sauerkraut for veggies that don’t go bad before you can eat them (plus they have more nutrients and probiotics! – See my post – What are Fermented Foods? )
- Always keep raw cheese and hard boiled eggs on hand. Raw cheese is very easy to find.
Make big batches
- Cook double what you need. Roast two chickens and freeze one of them. Then use the frozen chicken another time when life gets in the way. Make extra rice – eat what you want for that meal and then save the rest for the next real dinner night or freeze the rice to use another time.
- Make chicken broth (where to buy broth) on a regular basis and store in plastic delitainers or ziploc bags in the freezer. Note: don’t heat the containers or bags – they are plastic. Quick defrost them in hot water in the sink and then the contents easily release into a pot on the stove for re-heating.
- Save all the roasted chicken or beef bones of any meats you eat throughout the week in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you get a pretty full bag, add them to a pot with an onion, carrot and celery and simmer on low for 24 hours.
- Use the meat/chicken from making broth to make stir fry, curries, enchiladas, tacos, chicken salad, etc.
- Cook a big batch of black beans in chicken broth. Store in the freezer in small containers and take one out each week for school lunches.
Buy provisions efficiently
- Join a CSA (Community Support Agriculture) program. Your veggies will be selected, boxed and ready for you to pick up each week and will taste better than the supermarket.
- Buy local produce, eggs, cheese, milk and meat at the Farmer’s Market or farm.
- Buy meat locally and in bulk. My garage freezer is my butcher counter.
- Buy online in bulk. You can buy rice, coconut milk, coconut oil, etc. in bulk just like you do at the big box stores and get it delivered to your door. – where to buy quality products online
- Enlist someone else to do the weekly grocery store run now that your list is a lot shorter.
- Take a cooking class. It will be the best money you ever spent. The two most important classes to take are knife skills and cooking techniques (roasting, sauteing, steaming, braising, etc.). Avoid classes that focus on one type of cuisine.
- Get a sous chef. Mama’s little helpers can probably do a lot more than watch your kid. Have them prep vegetables or set the table.
- Clean as you go.
- Have a kitchen playdate with a friend and their kids.
Last but not least…
Nothing is perfect. Be flexible. Real food isn’t consistent like the stuff you buy from the grocery store. You will burn a pot of beans. You will cook a steak too well done. You will forget to heat up dinner. You will make mushy pickles (ew!). You will get too busy. Keep calm and carry on to plan B whatever that may be.
Happy Real Food cooking! You can do it!
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