It is only 7 am on Tuesday and you are already feeling overwhelmed! Your long list of things to do include dropping the kids off at school, picking up the dry cleaning, meeting with your web designer, taking care of your customers, developing a new product, picking the kids back up from school, taking Jonny to soccer practice and Missy to ballet, and then, somehow manage to feed your family a healthy meal. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing this! Now, it’s 11 pm, you finally have some time to yourself, and you realize you have not had a decent meal all day! You picked a little off of your kid’s breakfast plate and finished up what was left of your husband’s dinner, but that’s hardly a balanced meal. The hunger pains start to kick in and the next thing you know you are raiding the cabinets and consuming anything you can find, from crackers to ice cream. This scenario is all too familiar to me. I see it all of the time with my moms who are trying to balance a family and a career. They do not have time to cook, so they end up picking up fast food on their way home. Or, they have been out all day, running around, and forgot to stop for lunch. Here are some tips to stay organized and hopefully prevent you from missing a healthy meal and becoming a slave to fast food or whatever junk food happens to be in your house at the moment.
1. Plot out your week ahead of time. I am sure you have heard this before, but it is worth repeating. You need to know ahead of time when you will have time to cook and when you will need to pick up food. Schedule meals like you would appointments, or get a meal planning calendar. My favorite comes from momagenda.com. You can plot out your family’s activities for the week, and then plan your meals around them. This will allow you to see when you need to pick up food on your way home from soccer practice, what nights you need to reheat leftovers, and what nights you actually have time to cook.
2. Find a free day (Sunday’s work best for most people) and prep ahead of time. You can make multiple meals at once, then freeze them. Cook up some ground turkey and use it all week for pasta sauces, burgers and tacos. Bake a dozen chicken breasts and shred them into soups, stews, tacos, salads or to top a baked sweet potato. Slice up a bunch of sweet potatoes, spray them with olive oil and bake for 20 minute at 425 degrees. You can sprinkle with a little sea salt, then portion them out into individual baggies for a healthy, tasty snack on the go.
3. Wash and do most of the prep work as you unpack the groceries. I wash fruits as soon as I take them out of the bag, and put them in a fruit bowl on the counter. Then I know I always have fresh fruit that is ready to grab as I’m walking out the door. If you’re anything like me, the idea of taking the extra time in the morning to wash that apple will actually prevent me from taking it as a healthy, “on-the-go” snack. Wash and cut up veggies right away and store them in Tupperware. Portion out chicken or fish into individual freezer bags with marinade. Put nuts into snack baggies or purchase the individual portion packs. Taking these little extra steps will guarantee you have a fridge full of grab and go options, and will actually save you time in the long run.
4. Pack a cooler with food for the day to keep in the car – grab a sandwich or a snack in between meetings, errands or appointments. Some of those coolers can keep food cool for up to 12 hours! Add some ice, a large bottle of water, some fruit, a pack of nuts, a hard boiled egg or string cheese, maybe a tupperware of some leftovers, or even a salad! Just don’t eat while you’re driving! Before you hop out to pick up the dry cleaning, reach in and grab that hardboiled egg and maybe a handful of grapes. After your 12:00 meeting, scarf down half a sandwich before you drive off to meet your customer. Finish the other half and maybe a few cucumber slices when you’re done. Snack on some nuts while you’re waiting for your kids to come out of school or while you’re watching them at soccer practice. The key to being a Balanced Mom is to take advantage of stolen moments.
5. Leftovers are your friends! Make a big batch of quinoa or brown rice – have it for lunch or as a hot breakfast cereal. Add leftover salmon to a salad or chicken in a sandwich. Crumble leftover turkey meatloaf over pasta.
6. Steamer Bags! The easiest way to cook vegetables. Yes, fresh is better or steamed in a pot, but this magazine is called Balanced Mom not Super Mom! Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing the best you can. You can purchase frozen vegetables already in steamer bags, or purchase special bags to put fresh vegetables in.
7. Find grocery stores with salad bars. One of the easiest things to do for dinner is to stop in on your way home from work, make a salad and grab a roasted chicken or some cooked salmon to have as an entree.
8. Eat when your kids eat! For you moms who always skip breakfast: While you’re pouring cereal for the kids, spread some almond butter on a slice of toast, or microwave some of that oatmeal you prepared on Sunday (and froze in those individual baggies). At the very least, have a hard-boiled egg or some yogurt while you’re putting on your make-up.
9. Unpack that Crock pot your in-laws gave you as a wedding gift. Remember, “Set it and Forget it!”
10. If you must do fast food, pick places that have healthy options such as salads, turkey burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches. Even Wendy’s now serves sweet potatoes.