The hardest part about being a working parent is the cooking. I could handle the commute and the nylons, the office politics and the food court sandwiches if it weren’t for that gargantuan task (a second job, basically) that awaits me each night in the kitchen. And yes I “love” to cook, but after a long tiring day at the office, even *I* would rather collapse in front of the TV than roast broccoli, make pasta sauce, and (the worst part) clean it all up. Are you with me?
So today, instead of sharing a recipe, I’m counting down some top kitchen tips from and for working parents. Some of these are my own tricks but many of them come from the Kiwi & Bean readers who answered my desperate Facebook call-out. If nothing else, it’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one toiling in the post-workday meal-making trenches.
Here they are—the TOP 10 KITCHEN TIPS FROM WORKING PARENTS. If you’ve got other tips, please please share them in the comments.
1. WINE. None of the readers mentioned this one, which means I’m apparently the only one unashamed enough to admit that I could not survive parenthood without New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Drinking while cooking not only takes the edge off of a long day; it also makes the daily cooking task something I actually sometimes look forward to.
2. TELEVISION. I like to do my cooking and food-prep after the kids have gone to bed and while watching episodes of on-demand daytime television. It’s a guilty (and embarrassing?) pleasure maybe, but hey I deserve it. And so do you! If you don’t have a TV in viewing distance of your kitchen counter, load Netflix onto a laptop or tablet, or listen to podcasts on your phone. (This is one of my gut-splitting favourite ones.)
3. STOCK YOUR FREEZER. I (sadly) often have nightmares about a power-outage destroying the contents of my freezer. Not only would that be a very expensive tragedy, I would be without the staples I rely on to fuel my family: frozen berries for morning smoothies and pancake-toppers, individually wrapped salmon filets, vacuum packed chicken parts (your butcher will do this for you!) and sausages, edamame and peas, among lots of other things.
4. STOCK YOUR PANTRY TOO. In a pinch, a can of refried beans and some cooked quinoa or rice can be turned into a pretty darn good dinner. I make sure that I’ve always got a good quantity of basics like these on hand: quinoa, rice, canned or tetra pack beans, salsa, coconut milk, canned tuna, pasta, canned tomatoes (whole and crushed), and jarred tomato pasta sauce.
Turn your pantry staples into: Pantry Pasta with Kale, Chickpeas and Sun Dried Tomatoes, One Skillet Peanut Chicken or Quinoa Fried “Rice”
5. BATCH COOK. This was a popular one amongst the readers who responded to my Facebook call-out. At least once a week, make a big (and by big I mean double or triple recipe) batch of stew, chili, braised meat, soup, meatballs or shepherd’s pie, and freeze a family-sized portion for a future dinner. There is nothing more satisfying than popping a ready-made meal into the microwave. (For the record, I still do wine AND crappy daytime TV, even on those nights.)
6. USE YOUR SLOW COOKER. A couple of readers mentioned this one too. If you are the sole cook in the family, think of a slow cooker as the closest you will ever come to walking in the door to a home-cooked dinner. I’ve got a couple of great slow cooker recipes to share with you before the winter is out, so stay tuned!
7. PREP IN ADVANCE. One reader—and I want to HUG her for this—recommended mincing or crushing a bunch of garlic at the beginning of the week and storing it in the fridge with a little olive oil, so that you don’t have to whip out the garlic press every night. I LOVE this idea. Because it’s little things like peeling and mincing garlic that make cooking feel like a chore, right? This principle can be applied to lots of other thankless kitchen tasks too: why chop part of a broccoli bunch when you can chop the entire thing, store it in the fridge, and then use it throughout the week? If you can find the time once a week (and television and wine might help with this) to wash and tear your greens, chop up broccoli and cauliflower, peel carrots, mince garlic, and make some bean dip, granola or quinoa, your daily meal prep grind will be much less painful. Even taking a couple of minutes to fill up the pasta pot with water before you leave for work in the morning will make a surprising difference.
8. COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE (OR 3 TIMES). This should probably be #1. My loyal reader and dear dear lifelong friend Papouli (a pseudonym she earned in the 1990s), also a trained chef and mom of 2 kidlets, is all about the roast chicken. She makes it weekly, saves some of the meat for a second dinner, and throws the bones into the slow cooker for an overnight swim. One chicken, three dinners. You can do the same with a big roast beef or lamb shoulder, too.
9. MEAL PLAN. The holy grail. Honestly. Making a weekly or monthly meal plan means you won’t ever experience that ghastly 2 p.m. “OMG what the hell am I going to cook for dinner?” panic. You will likely also eat healthier and spend less grocery money. Win win win.
Check out: 6 Meals in 6 Minutes Meal Planning
10. GROCERY SHOP ONLINE. This is a bit of a controversial one. I use our local online grocery delivery service so much that I might *actually* be their best customer. But I have lots of friends who cannot fathom the idea of a stranger selecting their avocados. Each to his own. All I know is that the last thing I want to do with precious Sunday hours is stroll through a fluorescent-lit warehouse searching for paper towels. Even if you “like” grocery shopping, get the weekly staples delivered to your door and scratch your shopping itch at farmer’s markets and specialty stores when you feel the need.