Meal ideas/planning for working moms - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 08-02-2008, 02:26 AM - Thread Starter
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What resources do you use for finding recipes/ideas for meals to cook that are healthy but don't require lots of prep/cooking time? Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies but during the work week, I hardly have any time to really cook. DH & I have almost opposite work schedules so it's not an option for us to be a tag team in the kitchen. I'm finding myself putting together the easiest thing I can find or just reusing the same meals over & over. I have 2 of Rachel Ray's 30 min meals cookbooks but I find her recipes to be hit or miss and while the cooking may only take 30 mins, most of the prep work can take nearly an additional 30 mins. Any recs for food blogs, cookbooks, websites, etc??

freethinking mom to DD 4/2006 and DS 1/2010
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#2 of 15 Old 08-02-2008, 03:57 AM
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In addition to RR cookbooks (I agree that prep seems to take a long time), I go online to different recipe sites ( is one off the top of my head). Most of them have a category for quick meals. I will look in cookbooks that I buy to see if they have sections for weekday meals. I also have started to prep everything the night before after DS is in bed, so all I have to do when I get home the next day is toss it on the stove. DH isn't home during dinner either so I have to do all the work.

Kirsten, mama to Monkey since May 2007 and Bean born 11/7/09
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#3 of 15 Old 08-02-2008, 10:29 AM
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I too LOVE cooking--it is really my only hobby!--and it's frustrating to come home from work to a hungry family who wants to eat NOW...this situation often leads to pizza even though I have an obscenely well stocked fridge for scratch cooking.

What I try to do is plan as much in advance and prep as much as I can in advance (i.e. on the weekends or days when I'm at home). Lately I've been really into freezing things. I got an awesome book from the library called Fix, Freeze, Feast by Katy Neville. It's got recipes for using warehouse sized packages of meat, cheese, etc. and then making up whole entrees that you freeze to cook later (along the lines of those dinner assembly places). You have to remember to thaw the night before, though, that's the only downside.

I also try to prep as many ingredients as I can in advance--for example on Sunday I'll chop up three pounds of onions and put them in the freezer, same with peppers, etc. Then I can more easily cook say a RR recipe (I agree the prep work is often the deal breaker there for me, as well!) in 30 minutes or less since I don't have to do all of the chopping.

Robin ******'s recipes are also pretty good for prepping in advance and are quick to actually cook.

I also have been buying whole chickens and cooking them to use the meat later; I keep it shredded in the freezer.

Sarah, with 3.5 yo DD Charlotte + brand new baby Eleanor Jane April 28, 2010
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#4 of 15 Old 08-02-2008, 11:30 AM
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I plan all my meals and make sure weeknight meals are quick. When I do find new recipes, they can only have a few ingredients or I know I just won't have time to do it. Over the years, I've found stuff we all like that I can make in 30 minutes or less. Its just not possible to make some elaborate meal after work. For me at least.

Our meals aren't terribly exciting but they're good and usually eaten so that works for me.
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#5 of 15 Old 08-03-2008, 01:27 PM
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S-L-O-W Cooker!!

I use mine at least 1-2 times per week. I just throw everything in before I leave for work in the AM (sometimes chop the night before) and then turn it on. It's the best $10 investment from craigslist I ever got!

I also cook on the weekends which make great leftovers for lunches.
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#6 of 15 Old 08-03-2008, 02:12 PM
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No recipe ideas, but 2 things keep me on track:

1) cook several dinners/lunches on the weekend
2) make double batches to freeze and in fact, break up into individual meal-size portions to freeze
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#7 of 15 Old 08-04-2008, 03:10 PM
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I have a 14-day menu of quick n easy meals to do. For example, Monday is pasta night so week one is spaghetti or pasta bake and week two is pasta with chicken and alfredo sauce or cheese ravioli/tortellini with chicken sausage and pesto. I have other options listed for nights when not everyone is eating or if we're sick of something, etc. I keep stuff frozen or buy premade (like spag sauce) to save time, organic if possible. That seems to work for us, they're all meals my dh can make if I'm running late or have another committment, and they're things we all like (except meatloaf which dh and I both love but ds doesn't... lol). The other thing I considered was the night we have swim lessons -- that night we do sandwiches (egg or chicken or tuna salad, philly cheesesteaks, blt's, etc.) or leftovers so we can get out the door by 6!!

When I go to the farmer's market I cut and portion the veggies into separate containers so sides can be microwaved in a snap. When I buy eggs I boil half so they're ready for salads or sandwiches. When I buy cheese I shred half and cube or slice the other half right away.

I don't really do new recipes all the time since we're happy with the menu and I have about 20 substitutions we can throw in when we get bored! (baked potato 'bar' is a sunday night don't want to cook fave)

B wife to B and mama to my two boys B 1/23/07 via csect and H 9/27/08 my vbac babe!
We , selectively (don't) vax, babywear, cosleep, love music, and try to be as crunchy as we can get!
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#8 of 15 Old 08-04-2008, 04:08 PM
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We use It costs about $7 per month, less if you sign up for a longer period. Overall, nearly everything is from scratch (once in a while sometime funky slips in) and meals are usually two dishes, like a main course and a salad.

I don't always use every single menu each week but is it a good base for us.

I also operate under the same meal for everyone in the family, no second meal for DS or DH.

Mom to DS, born fall 05 after ,,, wife/best friend to DH We have
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#9 of 15 Old 08-05-2008, 12:04 AM
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I like the "Super Fast" section in Cooking Light. Then if I'm feeling inspired and have a little time on the weekend, I can find a recipe from elsewhere in the magazine to try. I get tired of cooking/eating the same quick meals week after week, so I like that with the magazine, there are 5-8 new ideas every month.
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#10 of 15 Old 08-05-2008, 12:16 AM
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I like to grab ideas from those little Martha Stewart Everyday Food mags in the check out aisle in the mega marts. They have some great quick meals that have few ingredients, made for those busy week nights.
I use the crock pot twice a week. Some nights are cheese quesadillas with refried beans if I am in a huge hurry.
here's a good link
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#11 of 15 Old 08-05-2008, 02:25 PM
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This is a great thread. I started a thread for slow-cooker recipes last winter. Now that the weather is hot I've put the slow cooker away for a few months. We've been relying a LOT on the grill. Fish grills fast and needs little prep (not even thawing). Another fav in our house is quick grinders/subs. I buy day-old bread (.45 per loaf) from the local sub shop and take it home. I cut it, add some cheese and broil for a minute until browned. Then add meat and veg and eat! Mexican recipes are also fast and easy: burritos, tacos, casadillas are all typically quick meals.

Like other pp said, I often plan ahead on the weekend and do some prep/cooking/freezing. That saves us from eating out all the time.
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#12 of 15 Old 08-21-2008, 03:25 AM
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I use a cookery book that has several weeks of meal plans and their recipes as my base. Then if I have more time, I can opt to do something more complicated. I also try and make double amounts of favourites so that we have a meal for the next week that I know everyone will eat. I use my slow cooker often during the winter months, I bought a large one so that I can do double, or sometimes triple servings and freeze the leftovers. Works quite well for us and saves me from having to go to the store all the time.
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#13 of 15 Old 08-21-2008, 08:25 AM
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I meal plan and utilize leftovers a lot.

Typical week would be a big dinner Sunday night (enchiladas or a casserole)
Monday night might be a big salad, bread, and chili (we are veg, so I can make this in about 15 minutes)

Tues leftovers from Sunday

Weds some kind of pasta either simple and fresh sauce or a frozen lasagna/eggplant parmigiana

Thurs sandwiches and a big salad or soup. Grilled cheese or veggie sausages and peppers and onions.

Friday night we usually do something--either we are at a friends or we go out

Saturday night we usually cook out in the summer or in the winter I will spend the afternoon making soups and stews.

Someone posted an AWESOME crockpot mac and cheese a while ago? Anyone have that link?

I work from home a lot now, but when I was FT out of the home I found great soups at our local farm market--we could buy one or two of those for 4.95 and it would be a good base for one or two meals, and an easy thing to have on hand each week for nights where people are late or you are totally crazed.

Also, our Costco makes awesome quiche. One quiche equals three meals for our tiny family.

Meal planning really helps, because you won't get stuck with the "I have pasta, but no sauce" or "I can make Mexican, but we have no cheese" issue ever again!
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#14 of 15 Old 08-21-2008, 11:57 AM
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I spend a Saturday morning once a month cooking a LOT of freezable food. We have some extra room in the deep freezer that we got for BM, so we store it there. I use for ideas. This also has the side-benefit of being cheaper because we can but things in bulk and they won't go bad because we use them (and freeze) right away. I take it out of the freezer in the morning or the night before. I store everything in casserole dishes or lasagna pans so that I can put it right in the oven.

Of course, there are nights when I cook and don't use the frozen food, but it is really nice to have a big stock on hand to use.

There are some books out there (look for "once a month cooking" or "freezer cooking"), but we are veg, so we don't use any of them (have not found a veg version yet).

Mom to DS 12/07 and DD 11/13, plus a bunch of chickens, dogs, and cats.

Moving past many years of infertility and always thinking of my friends in the infertility forums.

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#15 of 15 Old 08-21-2008, 11:51 PM
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I have this cookbook called "Desperation Dinners" that I love. A lot of it is "duh" kind of stuff but I'm not usually creative enough to think of it. So, for example, they'll say -- don't have time for meatloaf to cook -- shape the meatloaf mix into burgers and you can cook it in 20 minutes. Don't have time to make Chicken Parmesan -- make "Chicken nugget parmesan" and it will cook faster (with homemade chx nuggets). It is also really clear about when canned or frozen is just as good and when to take the tiime to wash/cut up the real thing.

I also do a lot of "super fast" meals like -- boil i the bag brown rice, some boca crumbles cooked in salsa, stir it all together with a little cheese or nonfat plain yogurt and some frozen veggies and Ta da -- Chipotle's! Or scrambled egg with some stuff thrown in.
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