A busy mom can find it challenging to plan, prepare, and execute meals on a day to day basis. Inside you’ll find help for navigating cooking during a busy season of life.
I don’t pretend to be an expert in cooking…
I am, however, an expert at being in a busy season of life.
Like… for the past 10 years with 5 kids.
Talk about seasons, I went through a phase with one young baby where I was still able to cook whatever I wanted at leisure.
Then, I had another and my first baby became a toddler and I found food preparation to be the most burdensome and annoying part of the day.
Follow this checklist until your tidy routines become second nature.
For many years my husband worked 4 evenings a week which meant cooking in the kitchen with kids (when some were babies) did not come easy to me.
Here are some things that have helped:
Crockpot + Bulk Cooking
This is a no brainer since there are about 2,356 websites dedicated to slow cooker recipes only.
However, it wasn’t until I sat down to figure out how I was going to make this work that I finally took the slow cooker out. I made a point to include at least one (if not two or three) recipes a week using it.
Tips for crockpot/bulk cooking:
- Cook enough in the crockpot to feed your family for two or three evenings.
- Prepare an item like a roast and then add different sides each night.
- If you prepare a big casserole dish, add a salad and use it for two evenings.
- Don’t feel like eating the same thing two nights in a row? Skip a day and then bring it back out.
- If it’s something like taco soup, eat it one night in a bowl and the next night in a tortilla. Mixing it up can make it less mundane.
I know it seems like the lazy way out, but I have found it the efficient and organized way. There is nothing like the evenings where you know all you have to do is heat up dinner and put it on a plate.
Keep the Kids Occupied- in a Productive Way
I’m also wary of too much screen time for kids just to babysit them.
And… I worry they’ll become TV zombies. Weird, I know, but there you have it. What I do find is helpful however, is to save screen time for when I really need to focus on something. And to occupy them while I’m cooking.
If this is their screentime, they are not trying to touch the hot oven or get in the pantry and I’m able to prepare dinner in peace.
I think it’s great to have your kids learn to help you cook early, but right now that doesn’t work for me. Perhaps when they are a bit older, or when we have one of these handy Children’s Kitchen Helper Stands.
Accept that a Dietary Change is “ok” During this Season
Perhaps, before children, you were used to spending lots of time in the kitchen preparing things that required high skill, technique and focus.
If you can keep that up then that’s great.
I’d hazard to say that many women cannot complete challenging meals whole cooking during a busy season of life.
Often, unless you eat dinner quite late and your husband is home to watch the children, dinner preparation time is one of the busiest and most stressful.
This rings particularly true if you have a few children who are very young.
I can work on perfecting my souffle later. Lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs and tacos are not going to kill us. I don’t mean skimp on nutrition, simply that the meals don’t have to be Masterchef worthy to be good.
Later, when the children are a little older and able to help, are doing homework or playing outside (because they don’t need constant supervision) I may be able to cook some meals that are more time-consuming and “finicky.”
I can’t do that right now… and it’s “ok”.
This meal planning and food staple guide will help you cut your meal prep and planning time in half.Learn More
Can You Say: “Delivery?”
Why not get your groceries delivered, if you can.
Where we live rurally in Florida, we can’t get delivery but we CAN get pickup.
Same store deals apply online as well and I’m sure you can use coupons too. If you frequently make grocery lists or meal plan then this option allows you to save a regular list and then order it to come at a convenient time.
I always spend more than $10 in impulse buys at the store so I don’t begrudge them the delivery fee.
- If you have dairys or co-ops near you then you can also have vegetables, fruit and milk delivered to your house, aside from what the supermarket offers.
- There are many online market’s that specialize in delivery of fresh or packaged foods right to your door. Here are a free of my favorites- Amazon Whole Foods Market, Misfits Market, and Thrive.
- Check the prices and availability before you write delivery off. It will save lots and lots of time.
Top Up on Staples while Cooking During a Busy Season of Life
A dear friend’s husband grew up in a family of four boys. That’s 6 adult mouths to feed, 5 of which are men.
His mom made enough dinner to give everyone a good portion of meat, vegetables and starch, etc. and then put some bread and butter on the table and said fill ‘er up if you’re still hungry.
And… it wasn’t because they were short on money. There’s a difference between being satisfied and being stuffed, and teenage boys may not care to differentiate.
If that’s the case, don’t break the budget buying enough steak so everyone can have two filets. Just serve an adequate amount and then let them fill up on mashed potatoes, rice or homemade bread.
A loaf of cheap white bread might not do the ticket, but some homemade bread, cheesy bread, or a loaf of some kind can be quick, easy and very cost efficient.
Don’t feel pressure to make enough food to stuff everyone with high-priced veggies and meat at every meal (as in, more than one serving) or you’ll have a high and rising food bill.
Evaluate Your Standards
One of my friends told her husband that while their children were young her goal was something edible at dinnertime…
If it actually tasted good, well then that was a bonus!
If your standard is French gourmet cuisine but you can’t seem to make it happen while you’re cooking during a busy season of life…. then you will start to feel like a failure in this area.
Check off critical household, social, and hygiene skills for your child so they’re prepared (not petrified) of growing up!
By evaluating and perhaps tweaking your standards (remember, that you’re cooking during a busy season of life) you’ll be able to give yourself some slack and relax.
Thanks for the tips. I struggle and only have a 6 month old.
A Mother Far from Home says
Oh, I know the feeling! Something that was once fun (or at least bearable) becomes so burdensome quickly. Hope you figure out some good strategies for you guys :)
Great tips Rachel!
A Mother Far from Home says
Thanks so much! I went through a few months of “pull my hair out let’s just eat peanut butter” nights until I sat down and got organized :)
aunt kack says
I still have problems and i don’t even have the kids as an excuse. more power to you.
A Mother Far from Home says
Ha, Aunt Kackie :) Love you!