I really am a good mom. My kids usually wear clean clothes. I take them on fun adventures. When we’re at home, we play, dance, read stories, and snuggle up. I’m almost never late to pick them up from school. I make sure they get enough healthy food in their bellies.
But, let’s be honest. No one is good at everything. And that last one: healthy food. It’s a struggle.
I admit it. I don’t like cooking or shopping for food.
And yet, for some reason that I still don’t quite understand, several times a day someone in my house comes to me and says, “I’m hungry! Is there anything to eat in the house?”
I’m told it’s pretty normal for growing children (and husbands) to expect to eat several times a day. So, I suppress the urge to say, in my best Napoleon Dynamite voice, “How the &*($ are you hungry again?! I just fed you yesterday. GAAAAH!”
I want my family to eat healthy, home-cooked meals. But, seriously, why does anyone think I want to be standing at the counter chopping vegetables all day. Who do I look like, Betty Crocker? (Side note: Did you know that Betty Crocker wasn’t a real woman? She was made up by a marketing exec back in the 1920s. She’s even less real than those photo-shopped supermodels on the covers of magazines. And I, for one, am not letting any of them make me feel inadequate, thank you very much.)
Anywhoo…ain’t nobody got time for that in my house.
As a longtime journalist who writes about health and fitness, I know how important healthful eating is. I’ve written the article more than a few times, and interviewed a bajillion experts on the topic. The doctors, nutritionists, and health coaches all say the same thing: The more you can eat your meals at home, the healthier they will be. They give some great tips. But here’s the thing: These experts decided to choose nutrition as their profession because they LIKE cooking, so their tips, while they work for them, are not quite as useful for someone like me who would rather be doing anything else.
Still, my family’s health IS my number one priority. So, I’ve learned to cut ALL the corners in order to save time and money getting food on the table.
5 Healthy Kitchen Hacks for Busy Moms
The following tips are not going to win me any culinary awards, but they save me tons of time and money, and allow me to put healthy food on the table on the regular with minimal effort. Win! Besides, Charleston has enough award-winning chefs already, right?
Plan, plan, plan. I am not a planner by nature. But when it comes to food, I know that if I don’t have at least a pretty good idea what I want to eat for the week, I will send my husband a desperate text at 4:54 p.m. on a Tuesday that says. “We have no food. PLEASE. Bring home Chipotle?” I know it’s sounds super obvious, but I have to make a grocery list every week with items I will need to make my meals for the week. (The next tips will make it seem like a less daunting task, I promise!)
Let someone else handle the grocery shopping. Once I make my list, that’s where the work stops for me. I’ve been in the grocery store with meltdowns over the scarcity of annoying giant shopping carts shaped like cars, and temper tantrums in the candy aisle enough to last me the rest of my life. I will go to the grocery store if I can run in for a quick thing or two. Otherwise, Walmart, Harris Teeter, and Shipt are all great options for letting someone ELSE handle the unpleasant task of collecting the things on my shopping list.
Use frozen veggies! I don’t chop onions or bell peppers. It’s not beneath me, but skipping this annoying step saves me at least ten minutes a meal and makes the thought of cooking (vs. going out to eat) so much more manageable. Two veggies seem to appear in like 75 percent of the meals I make (my children and I are vegetarian and that’s how we eat at home) so I was elated when I discovered that perfectly good bags of already chopped veggies are maybe even less expensive than the fresh version in the produce aisle.
Cook bigger portions of staples like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, roasted veggies and save them for later meals. Some people might call this eating leftovers. But if you’re smart about it, it won’t seem like you’re eating the same meal twice. That quinoa you had in a casserole at dinner last night could offer the perfect protein punch you need on your lunch time salad tomorrow. And that double batch of soup or chili? Put the leftovers in the freezer and heat them up next week when you’re in a pinch and tempted to order take out.
Keep the kitchen relatively clean. I know, I know. This isn’t exactly a hack. And if I weren’t writing this, I’d be rolling my eyes right along with you. But hear me out. You know how I said I don’t like to cook? Upon deeper reflection, I’ve learned that one of the reasons cooking seems like such a chore for me is because it has historically required me to put away a big pile of dirty dishes, wipe down counter tops, and dig through endless containers of Tupperware in my refrigerator as I look for ingredients. When I just make an attempt to keep the dishes put away, cooking is a much more pleasant experience for me. That means I’ll do it more and my family will be healthier. And that makes it well worth the effort.