My husband and I both work full-time, so our free time is limited. We want to enjoy as much of that family time as possible. With two active young boys who like to eat everyday (the nerve), over the years we’ve developed a bunch of tricks that work for our family.
Planning ahead is the only way to get dinner on the table every day. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are ravenous when we get home and “dinner’s in an hour” just does not cut it. We’ve tried a number of different methods including once a month cooking, week in a day cooking, meal kits and freeze ahead meals with varying levels of success. About two months ago, we started working on meal planning as a team and it’s been very successful. Saturday or Sunday morning over coffee, my husband and I take a few minutes and talk through the week. Does one of us have to work late? Is there soccer practice? Am I trying to make an evening yoga class (not as much as I’d like!)? Talking it out helps us figure out which meals need to be easy and which need to be super easy, which are the only two speeds in this house.
Another change this fall has been our extensive use of the slow cooker. Love it or hate it, but it really works for us. I generally set up the recipe in the insert the night before, and in the morning I just pop it in, set the timer and leave. When I open the door after a long day, my house is filled with delicious aromas of a well cooked meal that I didn’t have to slave over. I just make a quick side and a salad and we’re ready to eat. I love randomly remembering during the day that while I’m working at my desk, my slow cooker Is working on dinner. It’s the ultimate multitask. I favor recipes that allow you to simply throw everything into the cooker. No pre-browning here. A few of my favorite recipes: 100 Days of Real Food’s Refried Beans (pictured to the left), Clementine’s Produce and Provisions Top 10 Slow Cooker Meals for Parents via Dinner a Love Story.
Another cooking tip is to always double or triple your recipes. If I’m going through the effort to cook, I want to maximize my return. Making big batches gives me extra for lunches or dinner the following day. If I know it’s something my family won’t want to eat again right away, I’ll freeze a family size portion for a day when I really don’t feel like cooking. (Pro tip: use freezer safe zip top plastic bags and mark them with the use by date. Usually about three months for most items.) The package to the right is Goan Style Dal Curry from At Home With Madhur Jaffrey, a dish that my husband and I love but the kids won’t eat. Because it’s slightly more complicated than my average meal, freezing the extra batch is perfect here.
Generally my husband will do the laundry and I’ll do the folding. I really hate folding and again, I’ve tried a number of methods to do it faster. Some people will suggest that folding while you watch mindless television makes it more enjoyable, but I find that it takes me a lot longer. I prefer to play a little mind game with myself where I attempt to break my world record time for folding a basket of laundry. Also, while I am folding, I group the boys clothes into outfits. My younger son wears a school uniform, so each of his bundles includes a school shirt, pants, underwear and socks. Even if your child doesn’t wear a uniform, this is an easy technique for speeding up getting dressed. The night before, I set out both boys outfits and my own on our dining room table. After breakfast and washing up, we’re able to quickly get dressed and out the door.
Here are a few more things you can do the night before to speed up your morning:
- Set up the coffee (or tea)
- Set the breakfast table
- Find out what your kids want for breakfast so you can have it ready when they wake up.
- Make lunches (my husband is the pro lunch maker)
- Pack up backpacks and work bags
- Shower and wash your hair, allowing it to air dry. This saves you time attempting some elaborate do in the morning.
My final tip is to get a good night’s sleep so you can wake up a lot earlier than the rest of your family. I’ve recently been rising at about 5:30 a.m. This allows me to quickly do my makeup and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee while checking out the interwebs before my day begins.
I hope these working mom tips are helpful to you. I would absolutely love to know any tricks that help you get out the door faster.