When you are a busy parent, the thought of coming home and whipping up a meal at the end of the day can be overwhelming. Even if the kids are tired, emotional and hungry, you don’t need to stop for takeaway on the way home. With a little forward planning, you can create quick, easy and healthy meals which everyone will enjoy.
Start by planning your meals
Being prepared is going to make your night time ritual run much more smoothly. You don’t want to have to detour to the supermarket or try to defrost and cook a roast the moment you walk in the door. Plan your week in advance, when you do your weekly grocery shop make sure you have a rough plan for those days when you are working late.
Invest in a slow cooker. It will be your new best friend and your home will smell delicious on a cold winter evening. Turn it on before work and voila…you will be welcomed by a hot bowl of soup, casserole or that 2.5 kilo roast you were going to throw away. If you have fussy little ones you can puree soups – pumpkin soup is always a popular choice!
When you cook, cook up a storm! That way you have enough for leftovers and you can fill up your freezer. Get your children involved in the process and they will be more likely to eat it. If freezing meals, remember to store them in sealed plastic containers and label correctly with the date to avoid any food wastage.
Don’t let emotions take over. If you know the kids will be hungry on the way home early evening, be prepared with some healthy snacks such as vegetable sticks, piece of fruit or a slice of cheese which will not fill them up completely and should allow you some time to prepare dinner in peace. Some great afternoon/after school snack choices are wholegrain crackers and cheese, a tub of yoghurt, a piece of fruit, English muffin with peanut butter or fruit toast. Don’t forget to eat- feeding yourself is just as important as feeding your children.
Quick, healthy meals
Stirfry takes just minutes to cook and can be mixed and matched with different meats and vegetables depending on what you have on hand. Pop your frozen meat in the fridge so it can defrost throughout the day, and serve with vegetables, brown rice or soba noodles.
Frozen vegetables are a great choice and still contain lots of nutrients. Look for Australian grown varieties with a range of different colours. To get the most out of your vegetables, try steaming or microwaving them instead of boiling.
Bolognaise sauce can be made in bulk and can be packed with vegetables- finely chop or grate some mushrooms, garlic, carrot and zucchini for extra nutrients. Add some pasta and dinner is served.
Mashed vegetables can be a side dish to any meal or create healthy burger patties combined with lean chicken and cheese. Try sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli and carrot.
Fish is a healthy option as long as you bake not fry. Check the ingredient list carefully, as you can even find frozen, crumbed fish with less than 10g of fat per 100g. Fish can be grilled/baked and served with baked potato or corn cobs along with salad or veg. This takes no time at all, and with happy kids, parents are happy too!
Canned Tuna is another easy choice if your children have the taste for it. You can make tuna and vegetable patties, baked potatoes topped with tuna, salad, avocado and cheese, add it to pasta or as part of a light wrap or toasted sandwich. You can swap tuna for salmon, turkey mince or chicken when you feel like a change.
Five minute meals are a fabulous takeaway substitute. Try eggs on toast with sliced tomato, avocado and baby spinach OR a toasted sandwich/ wrap with chicken, cheese and tomato OR baked beans on toast. With so many nutrients these meals are much better fast food options.
Know your family and create a routine
Often your children will eat a simplified version of what the grown ups are eating. For example you may be having a side serving of fresh salad, a salad option for kids could be carrot and cucumber sticks, sliced avocado and canned corn. If you are eating a spicy Mediterranean dish, set some aside before adding the extra flavours.
When you are a busy parent, a good routine will help you get through the week without too much stress. Plan, prepare and make sure any cooking required when you get home is minimal. The odd takeaway is OK too, but should be on occasion, not a lifestyle choice.
We hope you enjoyed these tips for busy working parents!