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Nothing but Concerned 
 
Apr. 6, 2013 5:21 am 
Updated: Apr. 13, 2013 7:02 pm
I am a working mother. I am no different than many mammas out there so I know that my words are felt by many others. With a full-time career, I have found it very difficult to feed my children fully cooked traditional and nutritional meals that they deserve. There are many reasons why this is a challenge. For one, I am a teacher and therefore do not make the type of paychecks that could afford the precious organic products that my babies deserve. Secondly, I have no time to create homemade meals with all the nutritional value they require every night. I have spent my entire summers for the last couple of years developing plans to prepare myself for the upcoming year. I searched for easy to make recipes and prepared cheap menus that my family could afford on a weekly basis. I spend the beginning of each school year implementing these plans and putting them into action but by mid-year, all plans have disappeared and I am striving to just survive the rest of the school year alive. Between tutoring, coaching a DI team (Destination Imagination), baseball practices and games, and a gym membership (my desperate attempt for mommy time), I have lost my will to keep going on the cooking of a full course meal on a nightly basis. So my question here is this, how do you find the energy and time to just keep pushing yourself on and making the right foods that my boys need? There are so many products to watch for that are so bad for human consumption that it feels nearly impossible to avoid. These products have literally been linked to ADHD and other negative impairments that it seems like there is nothing more I can do. And, being a teacher, I know ADHD is being diagnosed more and more every year. My life feels like an obstacle course. How do I avoid bad products, create more time, and refill my energetic spirit, all while taking care of my children and working a full-time job with a full-time schedule? 
 
Comments
Apr. 6, 2013 10:09 am
I can feel your frustration. I raised 5 children, while working full time and ferrying them to all the different actives and sports. It isn't easy, but you can do it. I am fortunate because I love to cook so I never regarded meal planning or production as a chore. Have you taken advantage of the menu planner and shopping list features of AR? You might also consider cooking a large part of your weekly meals over the weekend and freezing them. Then just make your salad and fresh vegetable as you reheat the main dish. You can keep your food choices healthier by avoiding the processed "convenience" foods. It really comes down to prioritizing. Best wishes on your quest to find a balance.
 
Apr. 6, 2013 11:24 am
How old are your boys? Can they help out with meal prep? BSM has a great idea regarding using your weekends to cook and freeze meals. Also, Don't forget to utilize the ideas at places like Kraft kitchens and Campbell's websites. You don't have to use their products if you don't like them, but they are great idea generators! Do you have a crockpot? Learn to set it up in the morning for good meals in the evening. With your boys in charge of salads and fruits, you are free to make quick meals like pasta bakes. Fish is pretty quick to bake or broil. I have a range of quick meals that I haven't even written down, but I depend on them weekly. My wife lives away from us, and my girls are busy! Nothing wrong with having hoagies one night a week, and they are a complete meal! Good luck to you. If I find some quick, healthy recipes, I'll post links to them here!
 
Apr. 6, 2013 11:50 am
I read your blog this morning and have been mulling this over and over. It is sooo hard, isn't it? I don't know how old your boys are - the older they are the more they eat! BSM and Doc have offered some good advice. Fish done in hot oven can be one the table in a flash. I know it isn't always cheap but there is no waste! I buy the Cod loins at Costco or Sams - they defrost fast and cook fast too. Also, if you have a Costco membership they are offering more and more organic produce. Let me get you a couple of recipe ideas.
 
Apr. 6, 2013 11:52 am
http://allrecipes.com/personalrecipe/62892227/thai-pineapple-fried-rice/detail.aspx
 
Apr. 6, 2013 11:54 am
This comes together really fast. Pre-chop the veggies when you have time - I also have found that the rice is BETTER when it is pre-cooked and chilled. I store fresh ginger in the freezer so it is ready to go. The curry is optional for sure. Add a little meat and you have a complete meal.
 
Apr. 6, 2013 12:31 pm
All good advice these wonderful folks gave you.Good luck in your quest.
 
Apr. 6, 2013 1:25 pm
All advice above is very good! I worked full-time (in a school guidance office) while raising my 2 children who were very active in every sport/activity imagineable. I also coached softball and soccer. The crockpot was my saving grace - we ate many meals out of that pot! Funny story - my son (now almost 24 and on his own) always complained about the crockpot meals, but guess what he called me about on Wednesday for advice on how/what to buy? You guessed it! A crockpot! Seems he's missing those tasty meals that are ready when you walk in the door! His first meal cooked in his new crockpot---shredded beef for sandwiches.
 
Apr. 6, 2013 3:06 pm
Trying to find a couple good recipes for you. Here's one that was good, but my kids had never had goat cheese before. You could try substituting ricotta for the goat cheese: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/goat-cheese-and-arugula-over-penne/detail.aspx
 
Apr. 6, 2013 3:08 pm
This Monk fish recipe was tasty and fast! http://allrecipes.com/recipe/mock-lobster/detail.aspx
 
Apr. 6, 2013 3:19 pm
Home made soups are really good dishes to make and the kids can help cut vegies if they are old enough. If you by a good, organic chicken stock, or even good old Swanson's, you can have a nice corn chowder in about an hour and even less if you use canned potatoes!
 
Apr. 7, 2013 6:52 am
If possible, do an experiment and try to avoid yellow #5 & #6, see if that reduces the ADHD symptoms in your boys.
 
Apr. 7, 2013 7:47 am
I am a teacher as well, but didn't start until my youngest was in kindergarten. I guess I had time when I didn't work full-time to get used to cooking good meals. We had simple, basic things and I'd cook ahead on the weekends to have more time on weeknights. Just as with teaching, you have to plan ahead and make sure you have the needed ingredients on hand. Extra trips to the store aren't feasible to squeeze into an already busy schedule. Frozen vegetables are sometimes easier than chopping up/prepping fresh and still offer good nutrition. And you know what? An occasional hot dog at the ballpark or takeout pizza won't hurt a thing. My kids are grown and healthy and cook regularly for themselves. Just last night my daughter sent me a photo of lentil soup she'd "invented" after having it at a restaurant earlier in the week. And off topic, what do you teach?
 
Apr. 7, 2013 11:28 am
We make simple meals that are inexpensive, based around chicken legs or thighs, pork chops, pasta and rice and beans. Lots of fresh veggies like broccoli or spinach make up our sides. Everyone is full and happy and nothing takes too long to cook. Mid-week is too tight for difficult meals. Basic and traditional is our key.
 
Apr. 7, 2013 3:22 pm
I am in the exact same stage of life as you- I have 6 kiddos still home and come July 5 of them will be teens. They are all in multiple activities too, so i get it!! sometimes i am only home 15 minutes!! then i go to bed. we keep bagel sandwich ingredients on hand at all time (bagels, lunchmeat, lowfat cream cheese) we do soup in the crockpot, and make breakfast for dinner often. I also have a very full fruit bowl and veggies and hummus in the fridge. Some nights we eat lighter meals and some nights i have more time and make something more involved
 
Call Me Alice 
Apr. 7, 2013 6:05 pm
I agree with all above about having a weekend day be cooking day. One other thing that has been an enormous boon to me during Tax Season (I am an accountant) is my chest freezer. You can find very inexpensive ones on Craigslist. Then, spend the summer stuffing it with food that freezes and reheats easily. When you make a meal, make double the amount and freeze the extra. Make twice as much soup, two lasagnas. This will require more trays and dishes as well, but those can be found at garage sales. Buy chicken breasts in giant club packs and freeze them in pairs. Teach your kids to like beans and brown rice. They are very cheap and very healthy. Wraps: allrecipes.com/recipe/make-ahead-lunch-wraps/detail.aspx
These are filling, healthy, and delicious. They are also quick to make. Be sure to have a LOT of extra tortillas on hand, as everyone seems to get a different number from this recipe. They are perfect defrosted in the fridge overnight, then heated and crisped in the toaster oven. Finally, changing where you shop might help. I have an Aldi nearby, and it is surprising how many of their packaged foods have no artificial ingredients. They have also started carrying organic foods recently.
 
donnam 
Apr. 8, 2013 5:52 am
I raised four kids, and, at one point, I was raising two as a single mother with a limited (almost poverty level) income. I literally created meals around what was on sale at the grocery store. I was also a big time user of a slow cooker (AKA Crockpot). I was so exhausted by the time I came home that the last thing I wanted to do was cook. There's nothing better than walking in the door and smelling dinner! Another thing I did was prepare the meals on the weekend (usually Sunday). Preparing ahead of time for the week made everything a lot easier for me, but it was literally all day cooking. I would also do things like make two meals out of one chicken. I'd cook the chicken meat for one thing. Then, I'd boil the bones until the rest of the meat fell off, add cut up carrots, potatoes, a bit of rice - CHICKEN SOUP! It kept everyone fed without breaking the bank. As far as the organic, that wasn't such a popular thing back then, but, the way I see it, it's not THAT much more to buy organic, and if you can stretch your dollar by finding organic items on sale, then you'll have it made.
 
Paula 
Apr. 8, 2013 8:37 am
Everyone has given you great advice. My suggestion is to have a rotation menu. You choose - rotate every week, two weeks, or even monthly (whichever your palates will tolerate:). Make the list and then you know which meals you will be cooking. You can add variety in the summer and perhaps change up the rotation then.
 
Alisha 
Apr. 8, 2013 10:16 am
CROCK POT!!! I am also a teacher with two children (three if you count my husband!) and am enrolled full time in a degree program - I can totally understand your lack of time. My crock pot is my favorite thing in my kitchen. I love being able to just toss a bunch of stuff in before I go to work and have dinner ready when I get home. It also has the added benefit of being so friendly to the cheap cuts of meat like chuck steaks that require long slow cooking to be tender. To save money, you could also try joining one of those farm coops that deliver fresh veggies and such to you weekly - cut, slice, and/or dice and freeze to make them last longer and they are usually much cheaper than what you get at the grocery store.
 
J. Dub 
Apr. 10, 2013 8:51 am
Instead of looking at the big picture, take 10 minutes on the weekend (or whenever you can find it during the week) to plan your meals for the coming week. Focus on one week at a time. I buy chicken, ground beef or turkey, and ground sausage when it's on sale and cook it during the weekend. Then I'll freeze it or leave it in the fridge if I'll use it in the next couple days. The chicken is super easy. Just put it in a casserole dish (leave it unseasoned) and stick it in the oven. Set the timer and you're done. You can use this meat for tacos, soups, in casseroles, or with pasta or rice. Can you grow some of your own vegetables? That would save you money and you can't beat the convenience.
 
Apr. 10, 2013 9:26 am
Another thought - I ditched my gym membership to help me save some money and started doing all my workouts (4-5 times a week outside). I even go during the winter (layered clothing works wonders). Working out outside is a great stress reliever for me. If it's raining, then I'll do an excercise video inside. Hope these ideas help!
 
Apr. 10, 2013 12:59 pm
Consider this approach: http://allrecipes.com/weblink/63487778/freezer-friendly-make-ahead-meals/detail.aspx
 
Apr. 10, 2013 1:21 pm
Shop weekly for what's on sale.
 
Apr. 11, 2013 4:19 am
I'm a working mom of three, and it is a challenge making healthy meals that my kids like. I try to buy what's on sale and keep my freezer stocked with a good variety of meats & veggies, and then base my menus from there. I try to make a big enough meal on a night I don't have to work late or have sports going on and then on that busy night we just have leftovers. And I definitely don't think there's anything wrong with take-out or easy convenience food on those busy nights. Besides, my kids love the occassional hot dog or fishstick night! And I definitely wouldn't survive without all the wonderful cooks here on AR! They are lifesavers! When in doubt of what to do for dinner AR has always been there for me :) Oh, and one of my kids' favorite dinners is what I call "Salad Bar Night" when I set out an arrangement of veggies, meats, cheese, pasta, beans, whatever you like in your salad, and they prepare their own. Big hit at my house! Hang in there and good luck!
 
Apr. 11, 2013 10:15 am
Yes, Godzilla is right, if you click on the buzz, there are a lot of home cooks there to help with questions on everything!
 
Apr. 11, 2013 10:16 am
Old format it's the Recipe Buzz and I think the new format is just the buzz.
 
Apr. 11, 2013 2:43 pm
*Applause* Just by the mere fact that you care enough to ask the question means you're on the right track. Do the best you can and don't beat yourself up. Incorporate as much local grown products as you can. I find what helps is if I have prepared rice, chicken, and some frozen veggies...I can make that faster than going through the drive through. On the weekend I'll roast a couple of fryers or grill chicken breasts with 3 different marinades at one time. One night we'll have chicken with rice/veggies, the next night pita sandwiches, the next night burritos, enchiladas, tacos. Or just a throw together casserole. I find when you use good ingredients, you don't need much to make them taste good.
 
Apr. 11, 2013 6:32 pm
Many great ideas here. Fast food includes eggs peanut butter grilled cheese sandwiches with ham lentils that have been cooked and left in the fridge fruit smoothies (When I haven't had time to shop for fresh fruits/veg I'll often make fruit smoothies) Buy a large container for freezing bananas. Peel them at the perfect ripeness, break in half, into container and freeze. Recipe 1 banana 1 cup frozen mandarin orange segments/or frozen starwberries/or frozen peach halves 6oz plain yoghurt (approx) 1 tsp vanilla 2 tbsp dry shredded coconut 1 cup orange juice Serves 2 or 3 The freezer is your friend. Blender is your friend. The crockpot is great. Lentils are wonderful too. I often make a double batch, freeze half. Leave the other half in a ceramic bowl, in the fridge. (covered with a plate, saves plastic wrap/environment/money) These will last three or four days. You can shred cheddar and melt them into a quesadilla, you can put them on mashed potatoes, or plain steamed rice, add them to mac-n-cheese. Use your imagination. It is amazing that my children aren't sick of lentils yet. Their school lunches often involve lentil cheese quesadillas, yoghurt, and/or fruit. Cucumbers and/or baby carrots. Doesn't sound very creative, but they love it, it is cheap, and the recipe for lentils and spinach includes onion/garlic. The recipe for lentils and spinach is here on this site. I cut down the amount of salt, added preservative free bouillion cubes, (2) and put in a half cup of fresh spinach. This lentil recipe works well with beluga lentils, red split lentils, and the ordinary greenish-brown lentils. I I apologize for raving on like this, but it isn't often that a healthy recipe will be requested by friends and family. Many a time I've thanked The Lord for this healthy and easy meal solution. God Bless
 
Zmomdo 
Apr. 12, 2013 11:52 am
Wow, I felt exactly like that until about 1 year ago. then I gave myself more time to become the perfect mother. I started small, taking baby steps. I planned only 3 "home cooked" meals a week. For late soccer/football/gymnastics practice nights, we often had breakfast for dinner, the kids actually liked that. I moved kids off chicken nuggets and onto frozen meatballs. Just as easy, but healthier (check the ingredients!). I also started buying whole, pre roasted chickens at the deli. I typically use them for at least 2 meals a week: first night, warm from the store with frozen fresh veggies (peas and corn are easiest! )2 nights later,chicken taco night. When I make rice, I make enough for 2 meals. To reheat, I dump into a sauce pan, just cover with boiling water and drain. Keep chicken thighs, thin pork chops, frozen meatballs, tilapia, rice, spaghetti, canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and lemon on hand at all times. With these simple ingredients, healthier meals are a breeze! Good luck!
 
Edob 
Apr. 13, 2013 12:06 am
Yes, I agree with Zmomdo, frozen meatballs (giant Costco bag) is great : use them in spaghetti, subs, covered with a savory glaze, even crumbled on pizza! We also like to get their sliced roast beef and sandwich rolls for French dips, add supermarket au jus and sweet potato fries and you have a cheap but filling dinner in 10 minutes! I always try to have basics on hand: shredded cheese, frozen garlic bread, frozen veggies, protein enriched pasta, canned chili, taco shells...usually I can come up with a decent dinner in some combination. And yes! Use a crockpot! They are really good for making shredded beef and chicken as well as stews. Definitely search the site for great recipes. There is something very comforting about knowing that dinner will be ready and hot when you walk in the door. I often put in all the ingredients in the crock and refrigerate it overnight so I just have to start it in the morning. (But let the crock sit on the counter for about a half hour before starting it so that it doesn't crack.) Oh, and think of what can be used for leftovers: meat can go into paninis, taco fixins can be turned into salads, those tiny amounts of frozen veggies left in the package go into soups... We have a great community here! Thanks everyone for the new ideas!!
 
Apr. 13, 2013 8:48 am
I'm not currently a working parent but was and understand your frustration and concern. I hope the following is helpful. 1. Find 10 or so affordable main dishes that everyone likes, and rotate with sandwich night and pizza night. (Make individual pizzas on pita bread.) 2. Keep the fruits and veggies simple, meaning that you don't always have to make a tossed salad or a fruit salad if you are rushed. Serve a dish of grape tomatoes or a fruit along with the main dish. 3. Have planned overs, meaning, for example, have pork loin roast one night and pork fried rice the next. 4. And I don't mean this in a negative manner at all, just trying to help, but I have sometimes found myself (okay, MANY TIMES) spending way too much time planning and/or getting stuck on planning. But then I have also had the deer-in-the-headlights feeling at 5:00 PM when it's time to start dinner. I guess what I'm trying to say is keep the planning in perspective and don't beat yourself up when the plans don't work out to the letter.
 
Apr. 13, 2013 3:08 pm
We had a chef's salad many a busy weeknight when our son was growing up. He came to love them and I never had to worry about leftovers...you can put just about any kind of meat and cheese on salad greens and add whatever's on hand. A quick garlic bread or heated rolls round out a pretty good supper in no time. Good way to get some veggies in, too :-)
 
boonie 
Apr. 13, 2013 7:02 pm
When planning build in frozen nights or fend for yourself quickies. A pitfall of planning too much fresh stuff is life gets in the way and it is easy to end up throwing stuff away.Shopping day is usually build a salad at the grocery store salad bar for dinner. Don't put their dressing on (dressing weighs a lot and you can hold it longer without)and everyone has their own custom dinner.
 
 
 
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tleizear

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