Cooking Tips for Working Mums
The modern working mom has her hands full with work, family and household obligations. This leaves very little time to spend on food preparations, so how can a busy mom get a delicious yet nutritious dinner ready for her family?
The first rule is simple: don’t panic! Yes, it is entirely possible to have home-cooked meals even during busy weekdays without sacrificing quality or flavour. Here are the top three steps you should observe in order to achieve this:
1) Plan ahead: Prepare the menu for the week ahead and ensure that you buy all the necessary ingredients beforehand. You can actually turn the drudgery of grocery shopping into something fun. The best thing is that you can spend more quality time together with your child by making it a part of your family’s routine and involving him in your hunt for groceries.
2) Prep in advance: After buying your groceries, you should spend a little time doing some of the preparatory work, e.g. gutting the fish, peeling garlic/shallots, portioning out ingredients for the next day, etc. It is easier to organise things if you already have your menu planned out. You can store each day’s menu into separate zip-lock bags or containers. It may help if you label them, i.e. with the menu and date that it is planned for. This way, you won’t have to spend too much time preparing the ingredients on weekdays and can just get on with the business of cooking.
3) Share the workload: Get the whole family to chip in. For instance, you can get your toddler or young child to help set the table, older children can be asked to help prepare simple side dishes, and your spouse could handle other tasks such as washing up. Delegating the workload will help you to save your time and energy, and best of all it has the added bonus of having the family spend time together.
Four Simple Tips
The three steps already outlined will require a little self-discipline. However, there are other things that you can look at in order to help you get a dinner ready for your family. Here are some additional tips that can help you save the day!
1) One-pot meals: There are plenty of easy-to-do-one-pot meal recipes that you can easily find online. Just hit Google for a complete, nutritious, and delicious home-cooked family meal you can make in one pot. To further speed things up, you can prepare all the ingredients during the weekends and place them all in a freezer bag. This is especially useful if you buy your raw ingredients in bulk as you can prepare everything on the same day. Just pop the contents of your freezer bag into your pot for a quick meal when you need it!
2) Slow-cooking saves time: Buy a slow-cooker. You can just place the ingredients in before leaving for work and come home to a ready meal. These handy appliances may take several hours to cook, but the process often results in mouth-watering dishes that retain th juicy and tender flavours of your ingredients. This type of cooking works best with tough meats such as lamb or beef, but it also works great with chicken as well.
3) Prep meals ahead of time: One handy method to dramatically cut short the time needed to prepare a meal during weekdays is to do your preparation during weekends. In fact, you can take this a step further and cook extra portions during the weekend. Once done, you should portion them out in appropriately sized containers before storing them in your freezer.
4) Invest in a freezer: If your refrigerator’s freezer compartment is too small, do consider getting a larger, dedicated freezer. Having a larger freezer not only means more storage space for your raw foods or individual ingredients, but it also allows you to freeze ready-made meals for those occasions when you just don’t have time to cook. This could be anything ranging from soups to stews, fried foods, meatballs, casseroles, and even bread or rice.
There are three simple rules you may want to follow, namely:
1) Allow hot/cooked foods to cool to room temperature first. Placing hot foods into a freezer can cause its temperature to rise, thus compromising the other foods stored within. To prevent the formation of large ice crystals, chill the food completely by placing it in the refrigerator prior to freezing it.
2) Label your food with the date that it was prepared. This prevents you from mistakenly consuming foods that have been left for too long. For raw ingredients, you may want to include the recipe and preparation instructions in order to expedite your cooking process.
3) Use your frozen foods within three months for the best taste/texture – eating foods that have been frozen too long is risky as there is a risk of contamination.
Yes, there are products that are available that can make your life easier. You do not need to make everything from scratch yourself to cook a delicious yet nutritious meal for your family. For instance, you can buy pre-cut produce, bottled sauces, ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken, and pre-made pizza dough.
An educational collaboration with Nutrition Society of Malaysia.