10 Kitchen Tips For Working Parents (With Easy Dinner Ideas)
If you are like most of us, your gut reaction to hearing about attaining a balance between work and life sounds more like “nay” than “yay!”
It’s that unattainable dream, the stuff of fairy tales. Add 2020–1, with Zoom, home, work, and school all melding – fugettaboutit!
What If It’s…Unbalanced?
With a shift in mindset and some simple tips, you CAN find the right balance.
If you are like me, you have been made to believe that work-life balance is defined as having a perfect home, clean and organized at all times, while also staying on top of your work responsibilities.
A perfect home never has anyone yelling in the morning, “I can’t find my shoe!” or “I can’t get dressed. All my socks have holes in them!”
A perfect home also has a fresh, nutritious dinner prepared and ready to be served right on time every day. Real dishes only, of course.
So, do I have a perfect home?
The truth is that I’m constantly racing the clock and losing. Time eludes me. It’s 5:30, everyone is hungry, and the pots are still empty.
Honestly, a perfect hot dinner, right on time, isn’t realistic.
What is practical?
A Mindset Shift: Know that “good enough” is perfect. Adjust your expectations and let go of unrealistic goals.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders, an expert on time management, puts it well: “Do less, be more.”
When I was newly married, I served a three-course meal on china. It was non-negotiable. I was balancing it all and making it work.
Yet, life progressed, responsibilities increased, and something had to give.
I simplified homemaking and the greatest adjustments happened in the kitchen. After all, clean laundry is still a must! I instituted simple habit-forming changes and haven’t looked back since.
My home isn’t perfect, but neither am I and that’s okay.
I’ll let you in on the secrets of the good-enough homemaker.
10 Ways to Manage Your Kitchen as a Busy Homemaker
Easy dinners, gourmet flavors.
1. Plan quick, easy dinners with minimal cleanup.
My go-to favorites are:
- baked fish, broiled chicken, or grilled pargiot served with potatoes, rice, roasted vegetables, salad, or pasta
- sheet-pan dinners
- sandwiches with soup from the freezer
2. Plan your menu a week in advance so all your ingredients are in your house. No need to run to the supermarket on the way home.
3. Lay a disposable tablecloth on your counter and kitchen table. On the table? Yes! Whether your children snack, color, or do homework while you prep, it will save you the time you would have spent scraping off unwanted sticky spills.
Yogurt is the worst by far.
There is no greater joy than simply wrapping up a tablecloth and…magic. Just like that, your table is clean and ready for dinner. The same holds for the countertops. Wrap, dump, and done!
4. Cook in bulk and freeze for another night. Included in this prep is breading extra cutlets for schnitzel. Package them well and freeze. Take out the following week and serve up some effortless fresh schnitzel.
5. Make ground meat mixtures in bulk. Divide based on the amount needed per meal and freeze. The mixture can be defrosted and used to make:
- meat pizza
6. Cook large pots of soup and freeze. Having soup in the freezer is the greatest solution for efficiently satisfying hungry souls on cold winter nights. Short on time? Take out some soup and heat it up with chicken or meat inside. Serve it with fresh bread or rolls and voila, dinner is done!
7. Become friends with your crockpot. Don’t forget to line it for easy cleanup. Things to make in the crockpot include:
- chicken and potatoes: onions, chicken, potatoes, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and BBQ sauce
- meat and potatoes: onions, garlic, meat of choice, potatoes, salt, pepper, and paprika
- shawarma: dark chicken cutlets, can of chickpeas, salt, pepper, cumin, shawarma seasoning, and paprika, served with hummus, pita, and Israeli salad
- pepper steak: Start with sliced onions, 2 peppers, garlic, mushrooms, can of baby corn, pepper steak, salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger powder, and red pepper flakes. Separately, mix 1/4 cup each of duck sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and soy sauce, then pour over the contents of the crockpot, and you’re done!
8. I will now undo everything you believed about the concept of mise en place – everything in its place. You know those cooking videos where the ingredients are on the counter all measured out and ready to go? Scratch that!
My go-to approach is to take out one ingredient at a time, measure what you need, and immediately put the rest of the package back. This is the quickest way to simultaneously cook and clean. Have your kitchen clean before your food makes it into the oven. It makes it seamless to move from preparing one dish to another, eliminating the need to clear counters in between.
Note: For certain recipes like a stir-fry, which is cooked quickly on high heat, mise en place is the way to go.
9. When making a salad, mix the dressing in the bottom of the serving bowl. Now there’s one less bowl to wash.
10. Wash your pots right away. It makes it easy to wash them (no dried, crusty food bits) and post-dinner cleanup will be a breeze.
Serving dinner late? Transfer all cooked food to disposable pans and wash out your pots now. Later, you can reheat the food in the oven. When you finally do serve that meal, you won’t be left scrubbing pots at midnight.
Work-life balance can exist. It’s up to you to find the right balance and see what works.
Disclaimer: Using these tips does not guarantee that your children will eat dinner. They will still turn up their noses in disgust and exclaim, “Ick, I don’t like it!” Some things never change.
Goldy is a copywriter who helps businesses reach more clients with strategy and writing web content. Check her out on LinkedIn to see how you can gain from her services.