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Homecooked Meals for Working Parents

Homecooked Meals for Working Parents

    Working a 9 to 5 job and then adding in the time to commute, plus having kids means very little time for parents to do much of anything, especially in households where both parents work or in single parent homes. That means very few homecooked meals for many families during the work week, and instead a lot of processed foods, take-out, and fast food dining. As we all know, that’s not a very healthy diet, especially for growing children. So what’s a working parent to do? It is actually possible to make some homecooked meals for your family, even if you spend more time at work and on the road than you do at home.

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    Plan Ahead

    Before you head out for your weekly grocery store trip, think ahead for the next week of some meals you might like to have. I personally am not into meal planning very far in advance because it’s too rigid of a structure for my likings, but that does work out for a lot of people. If this sounds like something you might like, pull out a calendar or print one off your computer and start planning out what you want to make for meals each day. Then, add each ingredient you’ll need to your grocery list so you’ll remember to get everything when you’re at the store. If meal planning isn’t your thing, you can do like I do and plan for a variety of scenarios and buy foods that you could use to make one of several different meals. For example, chicken can be prepared in a multitude of ways. You can buy chicken breasts, as well as spaghetti, bread crumbs, marinara sauce for a chicken parmigiana meal. You could also buy some chicken broth, carrots, and celery in case you decide you might want to make chicken and dumplings instead of the chicken parmigiana.

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    The benefit to planning ahead and making a grocery list is that when you get to the store, you’ll remember to get everything you need and are less likely to forget something. You’ll also avoid some impulse purchases if you have a plan of action and an idea of what you’d like to eat the following week.

    Gather Up Some Quick Recipes

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    Pull up your favorite search engine (mine is Google) and type in “quick dinner recipes”. You’ll get a lot of results and a lot of different sites with many of the same recipes. Choose which ever site looks interesting to you, and start looking. If you find recipes that you like, bookmark them and/or print them out. 10 or so different recipes is usually enough variety for your standard “feed the family” meals. This is a part of the “Planning Ahead” process, and you can reference these prior to heading out to the grocery store. Look for ones that take 20 minutes or less to prepare, and an hour or less to cook.

    Invest in a Crock Pot

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    Crock pot cooking is popular among working parents. All you have to do is throw your ingreidents in the crock pot, set the heating setting to low for 6 to 8 hours (depending on the recipe), and when you get home, you’ll have a hot, fresh homecooked meal just waiting to be dished out. You’ll want to look for special crock pot recipes, or pick up a crock pot cookbook. Many of your favorite dishes can be altered to slow cooking in a crock pot. The plus side of crock pot cooking is that when you get home, it’s all done and you don’t have to spend an hour making dinner.

    When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking

    There are days you’ll come home, too tired to cook or not wanting to make the effort. Many times, this is when people get pizza or Chinese delivered. But if that happens all too often, you’ll want to have a few no or little effort meal ideas on hand. Some of my favorite go-to meals for the days I just don’t feel like cooking include:

    • Spaghetti with sauce & rolls or breadsticks. Parents like it, and kids love it too. In 10 to 15 minutes, and you’ve got a meal.
    • Grilled cheese & tomato soup. The kids might be okay with just the grilled cheese sandwich, and parents who need a little something more will appreciate the bowl of soup. I recommend two kinds of cheese for an extra tasty sandwich (muenster and cheddar is my favorite combo). Pan fry the sandwiches in butter while you warm the soup in a pot. In less than 10 minutes, you’ve got a meal.
    • Breakfast for dinner. Kids will often find it fun to have breakfast for dinner, and its an easy meal for you to make. Ideas include French Toast, waffles, pancakes, toast, eggs, sausage, and bacon.

    It’s possible to make homecooked meals for your family as a working parent; it just takes a little forethought and planning. Readers – what are some of your favorite, fast and easy meals to make?

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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