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Working parents - how do you manage to cook dinner...

(34 Posts)
Noomininoo Fri 28-Sep-12 22:58:34

I have 2 DDs aged 5.4yo & 2.4yo. I work pretty much full time. DD2 goes to nursery & gets fed 3 meals a day (plus snacks) there so I have no worries about her diet (as they follow very strict policies about how much salt, sugar etc they use in their cooking & always use fresh fruit & veg in their meals).

The problem I have is feeding my DD1. Twice a week DD1 goes to after school club & so we generally don't get home till gone 6pm. Of the 3 remaining days, 1 day she has a swimming lesson after school & another day she has Rainbows so on both of these days we generally don't get in until gone 6pm either. Given that she goes to bed at 7.30pm & in that 1.5hrs I have to a) cook/prepare the dinner b) get DDs to eat the dinner c) help DD1 with her homework d) bath the DDs & e) get them ready for bed (inc stories etc), I'm really struggling to find healthy dishes to make which can be prepared, cooked & eaten within (say) an hour.

DD1 does have school dinners on the days she goes to after school club but tbh I've seen Jamie's school dinners so I'm not under any delusion that these are in any way healthy.

At the moment I'm kind of falling back on quick & simple meals that are not particularly healthy such as Oven chips with fish/chicken etc, pasta with ready made sauce, Soup (from a can) & sandwiches etc none of which are great. I'd love to be able to cook her nice healthy meals but I just don't have the time.

How do other working parents cope with this? Any quick & easy menu suggestions that are also healthy? Oh & they do have to be easy as cooking is definitely not my strongest skill blush

FiveBells Fri 28-Sep-12 23:01:01

Batch cook and freeze. It's the only way my kids get proper meals on the days I work.

numptymark1 Fri 28-Sep-12 23:05:21

I batch cook

I also buy bags of stir fry veg and will do salmon and stir fried veg very quickly

slow cooker if I'm feeling particularly organised (so once in a blue moon)

omlettes are a fantastic quick meal -I load them with chicken/ham/veggies

and it realise it won't kill anyone if you have soup & sandwich for your evening meal occasionally

missymoomoomee Fri 28-Sep-12 23:06:53

Slow cooker. Bung your casserole/soup/stew stuff in before work and its ready for you coming home. Yummy.

Flojo1979 Fri 28-Sep-12 23:08:33

Slow cooker, I prepare it the night before or first thing in the morning if I forgot the night before

StetsonsAreCool Fri 28-Sep-12 23:09:48

I'll watch with interest as I'm in a similar position - 3 months ago I went back to work full time, further from home and we don't get home until 6pm.

DD is 2.4 too.

I keep the freezer stocked with bags of frozen veg from the freezer section, so we've always got veg we can just chuck on the boil - cooks in minutes.

Monday nights we normally have meat leftover from Sunday roast, with boiled potatoes and some quick veggies. A mini roast almost.

I also try a cook a double batch of spag bol at the weekend for us to reheat one night.

I have emergency microwave rice on standby for one night too, to put with fishfingers or similar.

And I do a pasta bake sometimes: While pasta is boiling, make sauce consisting of onion/garlic/mixed herbs/tin of sweetcorn/handful of mushrooms and can of chicken soup. Sometimes I throw in a couple of chicken breasts if I've got any defrosted. That all comes together at the same time, chuck it in the oven for 15mins with cheese grated on top. Whole thing takes about half an hour.

And another one that goes down well is green vegetable pasta: Green beans, mange tout, broccolli, courgette, onion. Stir fry, boil pasta, mix together with some creme fraiche or philadelphia. Takes about 20 mins including chopping.

All my cooking usually happens with DD hanging off my leg asking for grapes (as you do). Even though she's fed all day, she still likes to eat with us when we all get home, so I have to do us all a quick tea before she goes to bed.

Always looking out for new suggestions! My easy repertoire is small, and it gets boring.

colditz Fri 28-Sep-12 23:17:39

Roast a chicken on a Sunday.night, pull all the meat off it and portion it into daily freezer bags. Do the same with mashed potato. Buy mixed frozen veg.

Then, on busy days, put her 'portion' onto a plate, nuke it, and serve with instant gravy or cheese sauce.

SecrectFarleysNibbler Fri 28-Sep-12 23:51:56

I get Chef to whip up something gourmet while Nanny preps the children and then feeds them while I rest in a hot bath with a glass of chilled Champagne. I check Chefs menu plans every Sunday night to ensure they are of the required quality and authorise the Harrods order.............sorry Gals - slipped off to fantasy land there for a mo......batch cook spag bol, chille (mild), shep pie ect. get it out in the morning to defrost for evening. Slow cooker is a lifesaver too.

Just off to check those lottery tickets......

whatinthewhatnow Sat 29-Sep-12 00:07:06

batch cook. I always have some spag bol,home made tomato and veg sauce, home made pizza dough in the freezer (that's all a bit italian, isn't it!).

I also do fishfingers sometimes, or jacket potato in the microwave with cheese and beans.

It's bloody knackering, isn't it?

defineme Sat 29-Sep-12 00:11:10

We have a lot of:
omlettes with whatever veg or salad;
Wholemeal pasta/pesto/nuts/veg/cheese;
chicken wraps-just fry chicken strips (coat with flour/egg/sesame seeds if like) and put wholemeal wraps /salad/cheese/chilli sauce/whatever out to have with them;
slowcook chicken/white wine/stock/veg or beef/red wine/veg/stock serve with quick cook rice or crusty bread or cous cous;
microwave jacket pots in morning then blast in oven when you get in, serve with cheese/baked beans/veg/tuna;
batch cook and freeze bolg (or chilli)sauce to have with pasta/baked pots and cheese;
batch cook shepherds pie too-I microwave them first and then blast in oven;

Could you shove something in the oven before you go swimming and so on? A traybake (we like chicken thighs/sausage/veg/pots) works well ona low heat when we're out for an hour.
Also do remember there's nothing inherently nutritious about hot food-we had smoked mackeral with salad and wholemeal bread yesterday-perfectly fine.

tigerdriverII Sat 29-Sep-12 00:14:57

Batch cook. Freezer. Emergency takeaways and ready meals. Same as anyone who works really.

dixiechick1975 Sat 29-Sep-12 00:40:14

Batch cook.

At weekend I tend to make something for the freezer - chiili, bolognaise, lasagne or cottage pie. It is as easy to make 3 meals worth as one. One for the fridge and a couple for the freezer.

If you do a different meal each weekend you build up a variety.

I freeze them in pyrex rectangular dishes.

Night before I get one out of freezer, put in fridge to defrost. Come home and cook in oven or microwave. Cook pasta/rice to accompany - sometimes salad.

I try to make the meals as stand alone as possible eg I put carrots and peas in the cottage pie to save having to do extra veg with it.

I have a list on the fridge of what meals I have - cross them out as I use them.

I cook from scratch the nights we are in earlier.

BackforGood Sat 29-Sep-12 00:42:39

Slow cooker is your friend.
That said, the majority of meals we eat in the week would cook in half an hour or under.
Don't beat yourself up about buying some things that do come out the fridge, onto an oven tray and into the oven without work though - you have to look at the whole diet over a week or month, and not fret about those nights when you just don't have the energy.
The other thing I find helps me a lot, is planning what we are having on each night, after I've done my shop.... I used to hate that feeling of getting in and then having to start thinking about what I might cook, etc., it's much easier when we know.

MamaMads Sun 30-Sep-12 12:44:02

I work full time too, but mealtimes are definitely challenging.

Steaming is brilliant and very healthy. Slow cooking is also helpful.

The best idea i had was to cook the night before and keep in the fridge. So we'd do things like pasta, meats and pies the night before and reheat the next day.

Stir fries are good, as are pastry tarts (puff pastry sheet with veg on the top) and we're huge fans of sausages in this house.

Also, for things like swimming, we make pizza dough before we leave and can make them once we get back in. The kids love them!

Loislane78 Sun 30-Sep-12 15:17:30

All great suggestions - any chance your DP (if you have one) could help...?

Seems likes a lot for you to do alone after a full day smile

gourd Sun 30-Sep-12 15:29:56

Mixture of batch cooking/freezing and easy meals; Combi/roasting a chicken in combi microwave to go with salad takes 30 minutes for 1.5kg chicken. have with 5 minute cous-cous or a nice crusty loaf/brad warmed in the oven. Use left over roast chicken for quick stir fry or a quick paella/risotto type rice dish (left over roast peppers, canned tomatoes and some frozen peas useful for that, but obviously only add the cooked stuff and peas at the end to warm through). I often make an omelette/fritata thing with lots of veg in, plus any type of cheese, bit of polish sausage or chorizo or whatever else you have in, cook raw veg, add balsamic if liked, or paprika, and your herbs, then pour eggs over, add cheese and cook quickly the under a hot grill to set... I use LO's nap-times for food prep/chopping veg, pre-cooking spuds for roasting etc and if I am cooking roasted potatoes one day I will prep a load more for going in a curry or mashing or whatever at the same time which does reduce the time spent on veg prep the next day. Even onions and peppers can be pre-chopped and put into plastic pots or bags till next day so I do that too at weekends to save time on the Monday. It is hard though and about once a fortnight we just have scrambled (microwaved) eggs on toast plus fruit for afters which to me isn't a proper meal but Lo likes it at least. She does eta a hot meal every day at CMs though, so even when we do have eggs on toast for tea, I know she's already eaten spag bol, curry, roast dinner or whatever I've packed for her that day.

FariesDoExist Sun 30-Sep-12 18:49:35

Well here's my list for the days that I work:

Chicken Stir fry, including loads of stir fry veg

fresh pasta , i.e takes two minutes to boil, with sauce or pesto

chicken fajitas/wraps with grated cheese

mini meatballs & cous cous (an alternative to rice - cous cous takes 5 mins)

salmon baked in foil, with veg, new potatoes or cous cous (again!)

stuff I've frozen - spag bol etc.

Noomininoo Sun 30-Sep-12 20:37:31

Thanks for all the suggestions. Definitely going to investigate slow cookers & it looks like I'll be doing a lot more cooking on weekends from now on.

Loislane78 I do have a DH but unfortunately he usually gets home later than me sad

scarlettsmummy2 Sun 30-Sep-12 20:40:39

Marks and spencers kids meals are good! My daughter loves their fish pie, cottage pie and meaty pasta. I use them on the couple of days a week I work.

scottishmummy Sun 30-Sep-12 20:48:51

no to ready made kids meals,it's easier freeze & cook your own
trick is batch cook,then freeze in portions
cook about once month then freeze.few hours at weekend you're set up for weeks

Piffpaffpoff Sun 30-Sep-12 20:56:43

Batch cooking here too. Take what i need out in the morning so its defrosted when we get home.Main things in freezer are

Chilli con carne - nuke in Micro, serve with uncle bens micro rice. 5 mins tops!
Spag bol - nuke in micro while cooking fresh spaghetti. 7 mins-ish
Veg pasta sauce - nuke in micro (do you see a theme emerging here....grin) and cook fresh pasta. Grate cheese on top.

Other things I do that are reasonably quick are
Chicken tonight Spanish one, with chicken (obvs!) and rice 25 mins
Frozen pizza 15 mins
Chicken risotto 25 mins
Tub of Fresh pasta sauce and pasta 8mins-ish

KeemaNaanAndCurryOn Sun 30-Sep-12 21:00:02

I have a list of quick meals that take about 15-20 mins to do at most and we also cook stews on the weekend for during the week.

e.g. Tuna and mushroom spaghetti.

Cook spaghetti
Fry some mushrooms.
Put tuna and creme fraiche into a pan and heat slowly
Put the mushrooms in
Stick some peas in
Bit of blackpepper or nutmeg.
Mix into the spaghetti - Takes 10 mins.

CollieEye Sun 30-Sep-12 21:05:53

I make something the kids call Tuna rice. Cold boiled rice stir fried with tuna, fried egg and lots of veg. I usually put onions, peppers, peas & sweetcorn in, whatever I have to hand. A tiny splash of soy & some sesame oil. My DS in particular shovels this in. It's a dish made of leftovers really & takes minutes to make.

I also give them tinned ravioli on occasion. Not terribly good for them, but it ok for a once in a while, and they love it.

littleducks Sun 30-Sep-12 21:06:20

I batch cook and freeze.
Or freeze meat in bags with marinade, pull out at breakfast time and meat marinades as it defrosts, I then cook it in george Forman grill.

Or if I'm feeling flush (or have working mothers guilt) buy waitrose 'cook' range ready prepped fish (kids will eat salmon topped with pesto, salmon with peppercorn crust, salmon goujons, cod mornay fish cakes).

I always think those supermarket sealed foil bags with fish and flavoured butter look quick and easy. Maybe somebody has tried those?

scottishmummy Sun 30-Sep-12 21:08:37

cook a few pot meals,lasts 4-6weeks
well worth the time
2 hours to make 4-6 week food.what's not to like

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