Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms

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Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms via Homemade Mommy

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

  1. 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.
  2. Have a regular ‘breakfast for dinner’ night (eggs, bacon, grain-free banana pancakes, etc.) one night.
  3. Head out to your local farmers market one night.
  4. On other nights, do leftovers, a family night out or a date night!
My three year old enjoying her roasted chicken
My three year old enjoying her roasted chicken

My three year old enjoying her roasted chicken

Keep in simple and delicious

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients” – Julia Child.

  1. Source local ingredients. Your food will sing without a lot of fuss – I promise you.
  2. Keep recipes simple.  Today’s recipes may be complicated.  Stick to the simple ones!
  3. 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
  4. Fat makes food delicious and filling. Add as much butter as your veggies can hold after steaming or roasting.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Grab n’ Go Pickles
Grab n' go pickles

Grab n’ go pickles

 

Discover your new convenience foods

  1. Make and ferment your mayo and ketchup to store in the fridge for up to a month.
  2. 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? )
  3. Always keep raw cheese and hard boiled eggs on hand. Raw cheese is very easy to find.

Make big batches

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

    Homemade Frozen Chicken Broth

    Homemade Frozen Chicken Broth

  3. 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.
  4. Use the meat/chicken from making broth to make stir fry, curries, enchiladas, tacos, chicken salad, etc.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Buy local produce, eggs, cheese, milk and meat at the Farmer’s Market or farm. 
  3. Buy meat locally and in bulk.  My garage freezer is my butcher counter.
  4. 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
  5. Enlist someone else to do the weekly grocery store run now that your list is a lot shorter.
My chest freezer full of local meat!
My chest freezer full of local meat!

My chest freezer full of local meat!

Get help!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Clean as you go.
  4. 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!

This post is featured on Monday Mania, Make Your Own Monday, Natural Living Monday, Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Fill Those Jars Friday, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Living Well Wednesdays, The Mommy Club

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I am a very busy real food mama! When I am not taking care of my 5 year old, I take time to share my real food recipes on my blog, Homemade Mommy. I finds the time for homemade cooking because eating this way has truly changed my family’s life. Ditching processed food has helped us all to heal from a number of ailments including asthma, allergies, recurrent sinus infections and ADHD. I buy organic, from family farms, local and grass-fed. I am passionate about achieving vibrant health and am happy to share tips, techniques and recipes in my eBook, The Real Food Survival Guide for Busy Moms which is an excellent resource for any busy mom (or dad) who wants to cook real food for their family but is not sure how to take the plunge.

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67 Responses to Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms

  1. Tara Chin says:

    Love this, thanks Lindsey Bernat Gremont, you're superwoman!

  2. Cindy Burke Bernat says:

    Thanks Linny for all your thoughtful hints. I have incorporated many in my life and they do make a big difference in taste and health. I'm so proud of yiou and admire your passion on this vitally imporant topic. We should all eat only real food!

  3. These are great tips – thanks Lindsey!

  4. This is really good advice even for a SAHM. I never used to cook and am slowly learning (at age 41!) and am struggling with menu planning. Thanks!

  5. These are great tips! I only work very part time, but with two small children and a husband in grad school, I can certainly use time saving tips, too!

  6. Jennifer Rustgi says:

    This is great. I'm sharing!

  7. Thanks for these! People always ask me how to eat real food with a full time job. Ill be sure to share this!

    I would love it if you would share this on mt new linky party Natural Living Monday. I know my readers would too!

    http://www.naturallivingmamma.com/2012/09/23/natural-living-monday-3/

  8. You did a great job with this! I am so with you on the 2-3 meals per week gig. On other nights, I try to put together a quick soup or pasta dish with the leftover broth and/or veggies. Our only challenge now is to stop eating out so much!

  9. Great tips!! Thank you so much!

  10. Lindsey Griffiths says:

    Thanks for all the helpful tips, Lindsey (great name BTW). I am a SAHM, but I am going back to school so my time in the kitchen is limited.
    I recognized that Sandcreek Farm label in your freezer, Ben and Alysha are THE BEST!

  11. beth says:

    I work 40+ hrs a week with an hour commute. I like to try to make one pot meals that I can prepare, put on the stove and then leave alone for a few hours. For ex. I might add some turkey legs w/ potatos and broth. This means I don’t have to hang over the stove fussing w/ it, plus it’s covered up and the dogs can’t get into it. I can go do something else for a few hours until my partner is home to eat w/ me.

  12. Karen says:

    Thank you for this awesome post! I work full time outside of the home and have to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. Besides using a crockpot and having freezer meals stashed away, I realized I can cook real food every night if I do some prep the night before. This usually just involves some chopping of veggies and it doesn’t take too long, but it saves a lot of time when I go to cook them the next night. I don’t have much time on weekends to do prep work.

  13. Karen says:

    I forgot to mention that I’m going to be starting my own vegetable garden based on the Square Foot Gardening method. It seems to be a pretty low maintenance way to garden. Once I get it flourishing, I won’t have to go to the store as often. I’ve considered CSA’s but I think they’re too expensive for the little produce they provide. The company I work for is going to start having a weekly farmers market — that will be a true blessing to me if the prices are good.

    Regarding your tip for making homemade ice cream, have you tried “one-ingredient ice cream”? You just freeze bananas and run them in a food processor. The pectin in the bananas gives it an ice cream consistency.

    • That sounds great! Gardening is awesome and relatively easy once you get the hang of it – there will be trial and errors for sure! Best of luck to you! As for the ice cream – I have not tried that yet. I think the best part of ice cream is the ‘cream’! :)

  14. Karen says:

    I agree with you on the ice cream. If I’m making or eating real ice cream, it has to be made with cream!

  15. Cori says:

    Lindsey, I am terrible in the kitchen, just a disaster. I would really like to take a cooking class or two to learn some basic skills as you mentioned. Anywhere in Austin that you would recommend? Thanks!

  16. Great tips! I try to do these, I am just no good at planning ahead. I pinned this page as a reference.

  17. [...] Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms from Homemade Mommy. This is a very thorough tutorial for organizing yourself. [...]

  18. April Grace Paik says:

    Hi, thanks for the great post! Where do you buy in bulk for the best value on things like almond flour, nuts, spices, etc.(preferably organic)? Thanks so much!

    • We haven’t been using almond flour or eating a lot of nuts lately but I have been looking for a bulk source. I believe Kitchen Stewardship has a post on this. Anyone have a good source they can post here for all to try?

  19. [...] you read my real food survival guide for working moms and now you want to get started adding real food to your menu but not sure where to [...]

  20. [...] Comments TweetIn my Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms post one of my main tips was cooking in bulk and storing items in your freezer for when you do not [...]

  21. Nicole says:

    This is definitely just as helpful for stay-at-home moms. I really have so little time in the kitchen without kids around bothering me. Dinner is very often a rush through crying, whining, and a mess everywhere! Good ideas Lindsey.

  22. Risë Wood Ruhl says:

    Many of these are tactics I also use. Fortunate to telework today (although that isn't usually the case) so we are having Rosemary Pot Roast!

  23. Rachel says:

    Thanks for a great post… just found it thanks to the Just Eat Real Food FB post. Any tips on using those items from the freezer other than the ones in the delitainers? I can’t get in the habit of meal planning and am always forgetting to take the meat out of the freezer. Or I take it out in the morning (or even the night before), but have to leave it in the fridge and it isn’t defrosted when I get home. Thanks!!

    • In a pinch you can put the meat in a warm bowl of water and it should defrost pretty quickly. This will work very quickly for a package of steak but not stew meat which requires a bit more planning!

  24. Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures’ Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! :)

  25. While not a working mom, I am a working wife with a demanding technology job. Trying to balance that with my desire to prepare healthy meals for me and my husband, I’ve started to use many of the same tips you have above. Thanks for such a complete and thorough list!

    About twice a month, I try and spend a few hours on a Sunday with a mass food prep. Easy, nutritious food – not fancy by any means – but I’m usually able to stock up 20-30 prepared meals in the freezer to make it easy for us to grab and go for lunches and dinners the rest of the time. Throw in crock pot cooking, and dinners have become SO EASY!

  26. Lindsey, I wanted to let you know that I’m having a problem with your blog. Whenever I go to your posts there is a big white panel across the right side of the first few paragraphs. I think perhaps it is coming from your social media plugin? (The plugin wants me to switch back to my personal Facebook profile, instead of using Facebook as my fan page.) It makes it hard to read the beginning of the post. I hope this doesn’t sound rude, or anything–I just thought you might want to know.

    • Yes–it wants you to be on your personal Facebook. I have seen the same problem on other blogs. No way to fix it really. It only happens to people with FB pages! Sorry – just switch and it will be fine!

  27. [...] Working moms can still get real food on the table with this great survival guide. [...]

  28. Oh Lardy says:

    This is some great advice. You really break it down and make it easy for people to understand how they can fit Real Food into their lives. I am going to share with my friends! -tm

  29. [...] check out this real food survival guide for working moms. Even if you’re not a working mom (I’m not), I think this is great advice for anyone [...]

  30. kirsten@FarmFreshFeasts says:

    These are great tips! I’d like to piggyback onto your tip about saving bones in the freezer for making broth. I also save the onion skins, celery leaves, carrot peels when I am prepping vegetables in a bag in the freezer. I call it my Soup Pack. When the bones bag and the soup pack are full, it’s time to make a batch of broth.

    Thanks!

  31. [...] you a real food working mom?  it ain’t easy putting three squares out and bringing in the bacon, but it can be done. i [...]

  32. [...] new survival tips for a great work-life [...]

  33. [...] I have shared with you before in my Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms post – your family will enjoy rice more (white or brown) if you cook it in nourishing bone [...]

  34. Love this post! Thanks for helping out all the working mamas!

  35. Kiya Tabb says:

    I *LOVE* this post. As a working mama and real foodie, it IS hard to balance things sometimes. A few questions, if you have a chance to answer:

    1) I always worry that if I do “breakfast for dinner”, I won’t get enough veggies into our diet that day. Dinner is usually our meal where we load up on veggies. How do you counter the veggie-free (usually) breakfast meal at the end of the day?

    2) I try not to serve rice more than once a week due to arsenic concerns. Is that something to be concerned about? Also, I guess I have always viewed rice as kind of an empty starch. What type of rice do you cook?

    3) What’s the best way to serve fermented veggies?

    Thank you for this post. Keep the working mama/foodie posts coming!!

    • Thank you Kiya!

      1) I always worry that if I do “breakfast for dinner”, I won’t get enough veggies into our diet that day. Dinner is usually our meal where we load up on veggies. How do you counter the veggie-free (usually) breakfast meal at the end of the day?

      I sometimes serve kale chips or other roasted veggies with this dinner…if I have the time. We always eat kraut with our sausage as well.

      2) I try not to serve rice more than once a week due to arsenic concerns. Is that something to be concerned about? Also, I guess I have always viewed rice as kind of an empty starch. What type of rice do you cook?

      I am not sure anyone really knows the answer to this one. My personal feeling is this: we eat an almost 90% real food diet. I think our bodies can detox effectively. If rice bothers you don’t it eat. It doesn’t seem to bother us and I really like getting our bone broth this way. We generally eat it twice a week and I try to buy from California vs. Texas where supposedly the arsenic is lower.

      3) What’s the best way to serve fermented veggies?
      I eat them as a condiment with every meal. All you need is one bite to get beneficial bacteria.

  36. Michele says:

    My favorite part (the part I need to focus more on)… “Nothing is perfect. Be flexible.”

  37. I love this post! Many of these things I already do but I learned a few new things. Thanks :)

  38. Link Love says:

    [...] takes a whole lotta time, don’t I know it?! Here are some tips that will help make it all a little bit easier to eat well AND spend time doing what you [...]

  39. Liz Page says:

    i love your spirit and your enthusiasm for what you offer to us in recipes and tips for making it easier to eat well.
    Shame you’re not a vego, just cant get past the constant suggestions to steaming boiling and grilling animals x

  40. […] Through Sept 30, 2013 you can also buy both of my ebooks for 30% off! Get the details here. […]

  41. Henry says:

    My wife has taken this office job for the last three months and we decided that I work from home. Naturally, I get to do the cooking, but I was never too gifted. And we’re both fans of organic and natural food, so your post really helps me a lot. You may not have thought of it, but your ‘Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms‘ is actually great for stay-at-home dads too.

  42. […] that I do. So I attempted to write some of my tips down in one of my first non recipe blog posts: The Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms. Many of you current readers probably found me via that […]

  43. […] Chop and prep vegetables and other food the night before for the next day’s meal so that you can make dinner two or three nights a week, suggests Homemade Mommy. […]

  44. […] Chop and prep vegetables and other food the night before for the next day’s meal so that you can make dinner two or three nights a week, suggests Homemade Mommy. […]

  45. […] Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms Plan out your meals ahead of time to take the guesswork out of dinners, and stick to meals that don’t require a lot of prep work or cooking. […]

  46. […] Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms Plan out your meals ahead of time to take the guesswork out of dinners, and stick to meals that don’t require a lot of prep work or cooking. […]

  47. […] Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms Plan out your meals ahead of time to take the guesswork out of dinners, and stick to meals that don’t require a lot of prep work or cooking. […]

  48. […] Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms Plan out your meals ahead of time to take the guesswork out of dinners, and stick to meals that don’t require a lot of prep work or cooking. […]

  49. […] Real Food Survival Guide for Working Moms Plan out your meals ahead of time to take the guesswork out of dinners, and stick to meals that don’t require a lot of prep work or cooking. […]

  50. Uni says:

    Wow! That was a great read! Thanks for your positive uplifting and wise guidance.

    I work (wish it was at home) and take care of my 90 year old father. I try to give 3 squares/day, but have only just started looking at that label with all the soy and fructose in everything I buy at the store. Especially since I just learned that soy destroys the thyroid function. My sister was caring for my dad before and she had him stop drinking milk and replaced it with soy milk. She also had him put on thyroid meds along with his heart meds.

    He has been living with me for 2 and a half years now and we are pleased to say, he no longer takes ANY meds, goes on 1/2 mile walks, up and down stairs, and is in pretty good health. But I want to fix everything. So we get his blood work done once or twice a year to see where we are. I recently started juicing, and want to juice for vitamins and minerals so that he can also quit the Osteo Calm supplement for magnesium.

    I read all I can find for low hemoglobin, thyroid, brain fog, etc and try to find what foods, herbs and spices will help him (and me). I just recently discovered wheatgrass juice and he had his first 1oz shot of it this week. I read all about bucha and fermentation and how he needs it in his diet.

    He loves coleslaw and wants it every day, but I had been buying it at the store, but only recently read what’s in it. Today I made his coleslaw myself but when I remembered I needed some sort of mayo for it, I read the labels on my mayo and the first thing listed is soy oil! I got mad and looked up how to make your own mayo. Read some, found jules blog, then kept reading, found how to make my own sauerkraut and now your fermented mayo and ketchup!

    I have learned so much since I started taking care of him and I just hope that when I’m 90 someone will take care of me the very same way. I may even start a non profit organization that will take care of elderly in this way. I can’t believe how I’ve changed my way of thinking about the food we eat just because I want him to have the very best and get over every slight ailment, though he says he has NO ailments. I tend to believe that no matter how old you are, if you change your diet to healthy, you can use the food you choose to build up your body and to use as healing for most conditions.

    I especially love your timesaving tips on how to do it all. Thank you for passing on how truly wonderfully made you are.

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