Easy meal plan for working mom?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by ScentofCedar, Aug 24, 2010.

  1. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    Our niece has a new baby and is working full time. Would you share recipes / meal plans / time management or housekeeping tips with me so I can share them with her, please? She is overwhelmed!

    She is looking for casseroles, for things she can cook on the weekend and reheat after work, that kind of thing.

    Thanks, everyone!

  2. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I was a single working mom and understand these stresses. It might not have been the best plan or approach in the world, but here's what I did: I planned three meals for the following week and bought groceries on Saturday- allowing that each meal had to serve us for two different evenings. Sat. evening I cooked whatever was the most time consuming meal (usually involved casseroles) and we ate it on Sat. and the leftovers on Monday. (Anything still remaining got frozen.) On Sunday I cooked another meal but it would be a little quicker- usually something on the grill- and include whatever produce needed being washed off so I could get all stuff clean for salads, fruit for the week, etc. We ate that meal on Sun. and leftovers on Tues. evenings. Wednesday I cooked something quick and easy- fried chops, canned vegies, baked potato, for example. If there were leftovers from that meal, we ate them either on Thursday or Friday. I also kept leftovers from big pots of chili or spagetti and such in the freezer to pull out and cans of soup and the better store bought frozen lasagna, etc., as back ups. I called this "wing it night". I tried, but couldn't always afford it, to have Friday night as a night for pizza to be delivered or a run thru captain d's. But more importantly- ALWAYS keep some "back up" food because there will be days when she comes home late or sick or exhausted and overwhelmed and if there is something like chicken noodle soup and sandwiches that can be fixed quickly and easily, it will save the additional stress and guilt which can lead to more emotional distress. I never considered that anything to feel guilty for. This approach allowed me to get back into the weekly work routine without having to worry about anything but heating dinner on Mondays and Tuesdays. I think some people felt I was skimping, but I thought this was healthier than constantly pulling chicken nuggets out of the freezer.

    And of course, if her husband or child can pick one of the meals that will be served two nights that week, the family will not moan and groan too much. :)

    I know some peopl spent a great deal of time on weekends prepping food to be cooked thru the week to avoid so many leftovers and that's good if she has time. I was single with a young child so I had to do yardwork, laundry, clean, etc, and simply didn't have that much time to devote to cooking. Plus, I did try to block out time just to spend with my child. I was told, and firmly believe, that when a mom works she can't be perfect at all of it and it's better to spread out your time to address what you can in each area (cooking, house cleaning, quality time, self time, etc) rather than get caught up into trying to be perfect in one area. Forget it- you won't get caught up. LOL!
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2010
  3. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    PS Grills, Crock pots and slow cookers are wonderful things!!

    If people only eat meals like roasts, spaghetti, their favorite chicken casserole, mexican food night, etc, every month or so, they usually don't mind having it again two days later so I tried to keep an extensive list of things to choose from and make as much of a variety as i could.

    I also found that instead of going to the local grocery then making additional trips to get other things I needed, one trip to wally world once a week could take care of all my shopping needs in 2 hours.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2010
  4. ctmom05

    ctmom05 Member

    One of my favorite places for recipe/menu ideas is Taste of Home(you could put together a little cookbook for her) . I heartily recommend doing some browsing over there for meal inspiration.

    With a new baby to care for, some of the other things will be a wee bit easier if she makes getting some rest a top priority for HER; even before housework .. .. .. which will always wait for you.
  5. barneysmom

    barneysmom Member

    Hi there,

    Great ideas posted above.

    Good crockpot site

    easy meal-planning site which doesn't overwhelm me

    Rescue meal if nothing else available -- french toast
    English muffins on hand in freezer for garlic bread -- sprinkle with olive oil and parmesan, broil until golden

    Time mgt -- lay out everything for dinner the night before (any cans, spices etc.)

    A rice cooker is my favorite appliance besides crock pot -- perfect rice every time, no stirring or scouring, can add chicken flavor or frozen veggies, can use basmati or jasmine for a treat

    broiled chicken, teriyaki sauce, served over rice, can even serve over raw spinach and rice -- it's good. Bag salad too.

    In freezer section of grocery -- meat or cheese ravioli -- just boil it up -- some of us like marinara, I like just olive oil and parmesan, bag salad and garlic bread using english muffins.

    What helps me is -- not to think about the menu too much. I get distracted and overwhelmed then. Just pick something and put it on the list. i also think chicken soup and sandwiches for some days is a great idea.

    HTH some
  6. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I use a lot of interchangeable recipes, so substitutions are easy depending on what I have in the fridge. I usually keep staples around (some sort of meat or chicken, a collection of vegetables, lettuce for salads), so I can quickly throw things together.
    I do all food prep (wash and chop veg, put frozen meat in the fridge to thaw for a meal a few days later, etc.) on weekends, so that I can just quickly assemble meals on the fly during the week.

    With regard to baby care, I:
    - Keep a small changing station (diapers, wipes, cream, plastic bags, changing mat) in each room where I spend time with the babies. That way I don't have to lug them up to the change table every time. I collect soiled diapers in the plastic bags and transfer them to the recycling bin next time I pass by it.
    - assemble any breakfast items that don't need refrigeration the night before. They're out on the counter ready for me when I get up.
    - keep at least three full days' worth of baby utensils and dishes around, so that I'm not caught short if I didn't get the dishes done the night before. That way I can still have clean utensils for the babies first thing.
    - figure out a logical work triangle, and make sure that everything is where my hands will be looking for it. Be sure to put everything back in its place, so that I'm not hunting around for something critical when I need it (e.g. changing table has wipes refills and extra cream right there, so that I don't have to try to manage an undiapered baby while looking for a spare wipe).

    That's all I can think of right now.


    P.S. It's good to see you Barbara. It's been a while.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I was just going to post a thread today asking for help with about 8 or so simple 4 ingredient or less meals that can be prepared without a whole lot of time standing. I am becoming more and more unable to prepare proper dinners and it is becoming a bone of contention in the house. Problem for me is standing or chopping.
  8. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    can of Hormel corned beef
    can of cream of mushroom soup
    1/2 can milk
    8oz noodles, cooked
    shredded cheese or bread crumbs (optional) to top

    Boil the noodles and dran, dump it in a casserol dish with the rest of the ingredients, mix together, bake 350 for 30 min.

    Add some mashed (even instant) taters, and a can of green veggies.

    I have a meatloaf recipe, too, that I'll get. It's (A) really good, and (B) really easy, and (C) a favorite as a leftover in this house....and its just as easy to make 3 as it is 1, and stick the otherr 2 in the freezer for later.
  9. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Time management, for me, begins with having adequate space and supplies.

    Our kitchen is our gathering place and thus, becomes the most cluttered the fastest. At least once a week, I pull out the trash bin and methodically go through any and all papers stacked around. I bought a standing file and sort all mail and papers into the files and go through that semi-monthly. This keeps my counters somewhat clear and my papers mostly organized.

    Before food shopping, create a loose meal plan for the week with food staples that can be interchanged between recipes, such as sauces, stews, soups and/or chilis. Always have on hand no-salt canned veggies, especially those wonderful petite diced tomatoes. If I have those on hand, I can whip up a simple tasty meal in minutes. When my girls were little, some staple items included canned veggies, fruits, and things like dry milk and stocks for soups, etc.

    Buy her a Betty Crocker cookbook & The Joy of Cooking....my two favorite cook books and I have LOTS of them, believe me. I actually need a new BC cook book, as the pages in mine are so well worn it's falling apart. I never used them and one day I was bored and started browsing through and wow, I was impressed at the ease of use and description and options available. I always tweak the recipes to my liking and love them!

    Some easy meals I've thrown together:

    One can of petite diced tomatoes with juices and basil & garlic seasoning in it, simmer with fresh garlic, light onions, few capers and some black greek olives. Toss with penne, a dollop of ricotta and sprinkle some parm on there - YUM. A real family pleaser. I serve it with salad and ital bread, if on hand. Otherwise, it's filling on its own. *If you want meat, I sometimes will add cooked italian sausage cut up and one more can of the tomatoes without the juices.

    Sautee some onions till soft in olive oil/butter. Cut some chicken cutlets into chunks, roll in a bowl with flour and your favorite seasonings (I use adobo and italian), add to pan with a small amount of chicken broth. Optional: In a small bowl, mix milk and flour to make a thicker sauce in the pan, or just add more broth for something thinner. Before the chicken is cooked, I add some sort of veggie, either brocolli, string beans, snap peas, or squash...whatever. Serve over rice.

    In the morning before work, I will throw a pork loin roast into the crock and two regular sized cans of chicken broth, then add water to just cover meat. Add in some big chunks of onion and one or two cloves of garlic and 1/2 sliced jalapeno/chile pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4/5. You can set up the fixins for some really great burritos/tacos, such as lettuce, sour cream, black olives, tomatoes, cheese, & salsa - either the night before or right then or before serving. Just before serviing, place the meat with a little juice under the broiler and let the top crisp. Serve with warm tortillas - very yummy and easy. And there are usually leftovers for another meal.

    About once every other week, I go through my veggie drawer and pull everything out and just sautee or grill up all the veggies using some soy sauce for flavoring. I make a big pot of rice and just serve the veggies over the rice with some soy or duck sauce. YUM. I love this - my H not so much. difficult child says it's her favorite. I usually keep a can of water chestnuts on hand for this dish and use all sorts of veggies - any kind will work really.

    Sometimes, when I get back from grocery shopping, if I'm feeling ultra organized, I will not only break up the meats into meal sized ziplocs, but I will sometimes throw in a marinade or some kind of seasoning rub so when I want to use it, it's ready for the grill or to add to a dish. Also, when I shop, I will buy the italian bread even if I am not going to use it right away and break it into two pieces, wrap tightly and freeze. Pop it into the oven in foil and it softens right up. I have found that ciabatta bread works best.

    Sometimes I will make a double sized meal and freezone one half, such as ziti or lasagna or chili, etc.
  10. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Big fan of the slow cooker, also big fan of recipes that can be made in large amounts and freeze easily for quick reheating.

    lasagna/taco/taco salad

    I prepare this all at once ... lasagna day one and leftovers day 2, rest of meat mixture in freezer for several dinners of tacos and taco salad

    Brown LOTS of brown beef in oversized pot. Drain well.

    In crock pot, layer lasagna noodles (break some to fit into corners), meat, pasta sauce, veggies if wanted (mushrooms, lightly sauteed onions etc), cheese (by preference, I put a layer of cottage cheese, ricotta sometimes, and cheddar) and continue to layer until crock pot full with room left over to avoid bubbling over.

    I usually make this later in the evening when kids are gone to bed. I turn the crock pot to lowest setting possible and just let it go until I'm home the next day and then turn off and allow to rest while preparing for dinner time. It stays hot a long time.

    When finished preparing lasagna, add either prepackaged taco seasoning packages and adequate amount of water stated on package and simmer until thickened. Cool and package in freezer containers. Easy enough to pull out on future evenings and make traditional tacos in shells. I also make taco salad, simple with chopped lettuce and tomatos in a bowl, break up some tostitos chips and mix. Top with cheese and sour cream/salsa. Sometimes I add olives etc in with the salad.

    When feeling ambitious I'll do this on a weekend, using even more ground beef. Once lasagna is made I seperate the remaining meat, putting half into another large pot. Add in ingredients for pasta sauce to one and do the taco mix in another. Freezing the sauce for future nights. Or I'll turn it into a chilli etc. Its very easy if you have an actual day kicking around home on a weekend to end up making a ton of stuff based off just ground beef and end up with tons of easy meal makings in the freezer.

    If she only has the freezer on the top of a fridge, she can put each portion into a large freezer bag, remove air, put flat on cookie sheet or tray and place in freezer. Once frozen, the packages will all lay flat and save tons of freezer space by stacking them right up. Plus she can write on the bag with a marker saying what it is and when she made it.

    Easy chicken casserole

    Takes just a couple minutes to prepare and cooks fairly quickly

    In casserole dish place boneless skinless chicken breasts (doesn't work with bones/skin). Place a slice of strong white cheese (I prefer a strong swiss) on top of each easy child of chicken. Pour 1-2 cans of condensed soup (cream of chicken works good, or a mix of one can each cream chicken and cream of brocolli or celery). The soup is to create a gravy/sauce type thing so needs to properly cover chicken and then some. Top with a box or two of stove top stuffing (mixing the seasoning packets in with dried bread ahead of time). Melt some butter in microwave in bowl, drizzle over stuffing. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, check and remove when juice runs clear from chicken.
  11. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Oh, H&R's pork loin reminded me...

    I am not a huge fan of "home parties" or the bull-o-rama that goes with them, but...my daughter in law-to-be asked me to attend a pampered chef party with her, and they fixed a pork loin in the micorwave at it. I watched it go from raw to served in 10 minutes. They nuked it in a stoneware casserole dish with a lid, and it didn't taste like chewy microwave meat at all. I bought an offbrand version of that stoneware cooker and it works just as well. I throw some BBQ rub on the loin, nuke it, slice it, and serve it with BBQ sauce, but the possibilities are endless.
  12. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    Thanks, thanks, thanks, klmno. This is great!

  13. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    You guys are wonderful. I am going to print this out and send it to her. And you know? So many of these ideas sound so tasty that I am going to be trying them myself!

    Again guys, thanks so much.

    Trinity, thanks for the welcome back. I check into the site every so often to see how everyone is doing, but seldom post. It's so nice to be remembered! :)

    Janet, I am sorry to hear that it is becoming more and more difficult for you. Know that I am thinking of you and yours.

  14. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    One of my favorite, easy chicken casserole recipes:

    one package boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
    1 can can of cream of mushroom soup
    1-8oz container of sour cream (I actually use a little over half of a 16 oz container)
    1 stick of butter/margarine, melted
    1 sleeve of Ritz crackers

    Place the cut-up chicken in a 2-quart casserole dish, Combine the soup and sour cream, and pour over the chicken and stir together.
    Crush the Ritz crackers (I put them in a ziploc bag and smash the heck out of em), then toss in a bowl with the melted butter, and spread on top of chicken mixture.
    Bake uncovered at 375 for 30 mins.

    Very Yummy :)
  15. mog

    mog Member

    My daughter makes chicken nugget casserole--it tastes like chicken Parmesan

    You take your favorite brand of chicken nuggets--we prefer tyson --then use a can of you favorite traditional spaghetti sauce and either medium cheddar or mozzarella cheese. Layer them in a microwaveable dish and cook in microwave. She usually does three layers. Depending on the size of the pan will of course depend on cooking time. not frozen 9 min. if frozen 18 min She serves it with bag salad and uses whole wheat toast puts butter and lightly sprinkles garlic salt. She has been making it for the family since she was about 15. I taught all kids easy recipes so they can help out too so if your running late when they get older they can at least get started.

    I also keep a can of re fried beans--store bought tortillas---grated cheddar cheese and store bought salsa. I take out a pound of hamburger in the morning --fry it and put an easy burrito together in no time
  16. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I haven't read the other responses, so forgive me if I repeat something someone has said.

    She needs to check into flylady.com . It is an amazing site to help you with housework in an effective, efficient way. For other cleaning tips have her get almost any book by Don Aslet (last name may be spelled wrong but is pronounced the way I wrote it). He has written a LOT of books about cleaning houses and runs a cleaning service that is incredibly successful. He recommends using professional tools to get the job done well and fast.

    She should also check out recipezaar.com - esp searching for OAMC recipes. OAMC stands for once a month cooking and are recipes that are easy to do, and make enough that she can freeze at least one meal worth and serve one meal worth. I have found recipezaar.com to be a very comprehensive recipe site with about any recipe I ever have looked for.

    If she only has the freezer that is on her refrigerator she needs to find a way to have another freezer. It will allow her to buy meat in bulk on sale, as well as cheese and frozen veggies. She will also be able to freeze entire meals, making it much easier to plan her menus and time. Craigslist, freecycle and garage sales are great ways to find cheap freezers. If it doesn't have a lock it needs to be in a room she can lock so the baby cannot get into when he is older.

    husband bought a freezer for me for the first Christmas after we got married. I insisted on an upright instead of a chest freezer. I could just see me trying to get something from the bottom of the freezer and falling in and getting stuck in there with my legs sticking out!!! Talk about trying to avoid something strange - we actually got it in October before Wiz was born. The salesman had the oddest look when I said that until he finally had to bust out laughing! His manager came over to reprimand him and he couldn't stop laughing either when I told him why the first guy was laughing! Apparently they needed a good laugh (I was hugely preggo at that point, looking like I was one of those dancing hippos in tutus that are in Fantasia!) bc we got a really great deal on the freezer - an upright, of course! (it is ok to pass this on to her, everybody needs a good laugh once in a while! I am just 5' tall and was almost as big around as I was tall, so it made a really odd picture in the mind when I told them that!)
  17. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Flylady is a awesome recommendation, they have so many useful tips and the recipes are awesome!

    I'm a big fan of turkey too, not just for holidays. Seems pricey to buy a whole turkey but the amount of meat makes it more affordable than beef, chicken and pork alot of the time.

    I make it sometimes on a weekend when I've got time to deal with it and the meals prepped from the leftovers. On a Saturday I'll cook a traditional but simple dinner. Roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatos, carrots and turnip.

    After dinner, I boil the bones in a huge stock pot. My cousin taught me a trick that works too, she puts the bones back in the roast pan, pours water in to near the top, replaces lid and puts in oven on low (125) until the morning to really extract the flavor. After draining the broth and making sure no bones are left, I separate the broth into 2 pots.

    One pot makes chicken stew and one pot makes chicken soup.

    Here's simple version, she can add whatever she likes to each:

    Chicken stew:
    Add some leftover turkey to broth, bring to boil. Add cut up potatos, onions, carrots, frozen green beans, corn and peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper etc ( I throw in a couple of bay leaves and pull them out when I come across them serving). Simmer for several hours. Cool and freeze (I divide for 2 meals to feed family of 4). When thawed, bring to boil on stove and immediatly thicken with method of choice (cornstarch, commercial thickener, etc). I try to not over heat when reserving from freezer.

    Homemade Chicken/Tomato vegetable Soup:
    Add leftover turkey, bring to a boil. Add carrots, turnip, peas, corn, green/yellow beans, (whatever veggies are preferred). Add a large size can of diced tomatos (with juice). Simmer for a while and then add in rice or pasta according to preference, cool until noodles or rice are nearly done (they will further cook in hot pot). Cool and freeze (again I divide into 2 for family of 4).

    I tend to do this all when I'm making a HUGE turkey, simply because the cost for the amount of meals one gets is outstanding. I make sure I have enough turkey left over to have dinner the next day. I make more mashed potatos than we can possibly eat along with the turkey. I don't put too much butter or milk, leaving them thick for dinner. Before storing to fridge, I add mayo, salt, pepper, fine chopped onions and green onions, a bit of finely chopped pickles and sometimes a little bit of ranch dressing. Stir well and this makes a delicious potato salad to eat the next night with turkey sandwiches. The leftover carrots (I cook more than needed) go into a freezer bag to thaw and reheat in microwave anohter night when I don't have time to cook veggies. Same with turnips.

    I find that annoying veggies like carrots and turnips that take longer cooking and need to be peeled and chopped etc are really great to do ahead. Pretty much anytime I make either veggie I cook for a few dinners ahead. (If I'm going to mash the turnip for dinner, I remove what we'll eat and freeze the rest in chunks and then mash if wanted when I thaw leftovers).

    This all sounds time consuming but really, it isn't at all. Cooking extra veggies ensures fresh veggies ready to go for several meals, the potato salad usually lasts for dinner the next night plus lunch for a day or two after. The stew and chicken use alot of the same things so chopping and whatnot is done at same time and both pots can be cooking at same time. They don't require babysitting, so it isn't alot of work to simply throw it all together.
  18. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Pizza Pasta Casserole

    Use ingredient amounts by guess-timate based on how much you want to make at once, this is how I make it for the 4 of us (and we have leftovers)

    Cook 1 bag elbow macaroni until not quite cooked (will finish cooking in oven). Drain and put into casserole dish (I use a dutch oven myself). Mix in 1 large can diced tomatos, the add in any combination of add ins you like:
    pepperoni slices
    chopped sausage pieces
    peppers (green, red, yellow, hot, etc)

    Mix in some shredded mozzarella cheese. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake in 325 oven for 30-45 minutes.

    Time and money saving tip: when family size bricks of cheese come on sale I stock up. I often get them less than half regular price. I shred them all immediatly and freeze them in small freezer size portions for homemade pizza, tacos, this pizza casserole, regular mac and cheese etc. Cheese doesn't thaw well solid, and I don't like it thawed on a fresh salad or anything. But it works terrific for oven dishes and I never run out as I stay well stocked from sale to sale. I also watch out every time I'm at the grocery store for when the deli puts pepperoni slices on sale. They are a good price normally but on sale you can save a bundle. I repackage for freezer with enough for this casserole, or for pizzas or homemade submarine sandwiches.

    When italian sausage comes on sale I buy alot as well. I keep some whole in freezer but I also cook some the day I buy them. I then cool them and cut them into bite size pieces and put into freezer bags. They are a easy addition to a pasta sauce or the above casserole or even into a pot of chilli. The kids like it on pizza, I don't. I never want to make some just for on their pizza but its so easy to pop some out of the freezer for them. Same with bacon, I buy it on sale and when I'm making some for a meal anyhow, I cook more than needed, cool, crumble, and freeze in bags. Great for pizza toppings, salads, etc.
  19. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    I sent this link to our niece. She was so appreciative! There is just something about hearing from other moms about how they managed everything. Very encouraging.

    Thanks so much, everyone!

  20. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I'm a little late...but my two suggestions really help me. I make a weekly menu and put it on the refrigerator door.
    I don't necessarily follow the schedule but I know that I have the contents for seven meals so I don't have to worry about running to the store. Secondly I always brown two pounds of ground beef at one time. I divide it into freezerbags so tacos, spagetti sauce, casseroles etc. are a snap...just defrost in the microwave and you're almost there for meal prep. When I have free time and am motivated ;) I prepare my main course the day or night before and then all I have to do is heat and serve. Of course, I love the crockpot too. DDD