If you have little babies and toddlers, then you must know what a struggle it is to manage a baby with cooking every single day. Here are some cooking hacks that I use to save time in the kitchen.
I love 30 minute meals and improvising to create meals that will literally cook while I sleep! But… I wasn’t always this efficient.
I have had four children in six years. It is not easy to live as an expat with little to no family around who can help you. If you are sick, pregnant or postpartum, you are just on your own. It doesn’t matter if your husband is helpful or not, because the truth is how much can he do while juggling his office and less sleep with the new baby in the house… right?
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In the past 10 years, I have had to teach myself through trial and error. Unfortunately, that is how most moms learn to become better mothers. We know where our shoe pinches and it is only we who can solve our own problems.
If you are a young mom with little children, you will relate that we often have to juggle sleep time with chores. We don’t get enough sleep. If we don’t get time to cook then there isn’t any food. Sometimes, the baby or toddler will just not let us cook. Then again, even when they do, we may draw a blank as to what to cook in that half hour or less that we get. We may not have the required ingredients when we pick a menu too.
How to keep a baby and a toddler busy while cooking
One of the most common problems mothers have when a new baby is added, or they have a toddler at home is understanding how to manage the little one with cooking. Here are a few tips I’d like to share but first let me stress the importance of having a routine for your baby or toddler. Click here to see a sample toddler routine.
Here are some ways to manage a baby while cooking:
- Invest in a good highchair for the baby. I cannot tell you how thankful I was to have a highchair that transitioned from baby to toddler. I have always believed in having my baby close to me so whenever they were awake, I would sit them in their high chair and make sure they ere consent watching me. Some finger foods or toys on the table in front of them plus my constant chatter always entertained them.
- Keep the conversation going. Talking to your child is the best way to let them know that you are near by. I see many mothers who don’t know how to talk to their children. Just describe everything you are dig to them. They may be small and not have much vocabulary but they are listening and learning. Also, your voice is so soothing to them. I loved my babies and toddlers at their age. I sang, danced and did funny stuff like banging and tapping nothings – basically put on a show. My kids loved to see mom cook. (I secretly feel thats why they enjoy cooking with me now!)
- Have a safety gate. If you have a toddler, you need a safety gate for them and you! It is the best way to ensure they’re near you and still not too near.
- Buy engaging toys. One thing I find is that age appropriate toys for babies really do help in making our life easier. Of course, they will want something more than their toys, basically our stuff to play with but having toys is good too. Make sure you are rotating the toys.
- Make your kitchen baby proof. It is very important that all the things your child can touch are child proofed. Add knob protection, locks and shields to kitchen appliances but also remember to remove the harmful stuff from drawers at their level. Just put plastic or light weight child safe stuff in those low cabinets and drawers.
Now that you know how to keep baby busy, here is how to cook faster.
How to Save Time in the Kitchen- 15 Simple Kitchen Hacks
I’d like to share some hacks that I have used.
(I am Indian so in this post you will find lots of ways to save time in Indian Kitchen too!)
1. Choose a convenient time to cook
You don’t HAVE to cook three times a day. Most new moms don’t know this. I wish someone had told me earlier on that I had the freedom to choose when to cook!
8pm is when you are free to make lunch..? So be it. Cook the next days lunch the night before when your hubby is home to watch the kids. I have made breakfast and lunch for next day at 10 pm every night for years. It was just what worked for our family.
May be you are free to make dinner at 10am… Perfect! do it. Don’t wait till the last minute. Quickly whip a one pot dish to steam in the rice cooker or bake in the oven while you do the dishes or may be even take a shower while the little on is sleeping.
Another way to spend less time in the kitchen is to cook once or twice! It is not necessary that you have three meals and three snacks made from scratch all day long. You can quickly make dinner and lunch together. And have ready to assemble meals for breakfast.
Examples of simple recipes and snacks: See this post which has many recipes that are simple enough for even children to cook by themselves.
2. Use gadgets and appliances.
Appliances make our life easier and save time. Period. There is no arguing that.
Rice cooker, slow cooker, roti maker, sandwich grill, pressure cooker, Insta Pot, a food processor, a good blender, microwave oven and juicer. They don’t save just time, but are real life savers for moms with little children, you know.
When I was postpartum with 4th child, my eldest was in 1st grade. It was very difficult to get up at 5am in the morning and make his school lunch or breakfast. I would make pancake or waffle batter the night before and place in the fridge. The next morning, my husband just had to pour it on the appliance while I got our son ready.
On weekends, I start the rice cooker for a Khichdi (lentil rice) or a porridge the night before so that I can sleep in the next day.
Slow cookers and crock pots are my favorite appliances. They have saved us from eating out numerous times just because I had so thoughtfully started a casserole just before leaving home! It is a great help when you have guests over too. You can even make desserts in slow cookers.
3. Write a list of all the dishes that you can cook.
This is genius. Trust me. With our mom brains, we forget what we can cook with the limited ingredients at hand. So one of the best way to counteract that is have a running list of all the stuff that you can cook.
Recipe 8/100 -Sindhi Biryani . Years ago, when I was newly married, I thought I should be a good wife and learn to cook desi food. ? So I asked all my friends and family for recipes and then wrote them all out in Microsoft OneNote. . Now… a recipe book like that is treasure you know… I didn’t want to lose it. So I printed a copy and then just so that nobody delete the file, I password protected it. . Only to forget the password! ? The papers that I had printed I put them in a folder and so conveniently misplaced them too… . Almost 10 years later… I found them again while decluttering last week. Yay! ? . I made this recipe today… first time making Sindhi Biryani. It is different than our Hyderabadi biryani as in it has potatoes, tomatoes and prunes. Also it is sweet with the sugar and Kewra essence added. . —> slide for recipe. Enjoy! . I’d love for you to send me your family’s favorite recipes to try. ❤❤ ? #jeddahmom #100recipesin2018
The general idea is to have a list (make a book even!) of you staple diet. For example, think chicken. What are the different things you can cook with chicken? Like chicken casserole, chicken pulao, chicken with vegetables, chicken curry, potato chicken pasta, chicken corn soup… anything and everything chicken. Make a list of it. You don’t have to write the recipes. Just having that list will help you decide when you are pressed for time. I call it my mind dump technique to meal plan.
4. Have a basic meal plan that will work week after week.
Meal planning is not hard. I know we all think that to save time in the kitchen it requires hours of meal planning and is complicated but… it is not. I have a very basic one that saves me time and energy. You can copy mine from this post about meal planning for busy moms. Then couple it with the list that you made above and you are all set to decide what the menu is for the day within seconds!
5. Use ready to use stuff.
Use canned corn, peas, mushrooms, beans, etc. It saves time and you have stuff ready. Of course, be sure to look at the ingredients and search for healthier options.
6. Prepare before hand.
Like taking out the chicken for thawing for next day. It takes just 5-10 minutes to start a rice cooker in the morning for lunch or dinner. Do it when you remember because trust me, You Will Forget!
7. Use stick up notes so you DON’T forget.
We moms, we have so many tabs open in our brain. We are constantly thinking and solving problems mentally. How do you remember that great idea?
I stick a note as soon as I remember. My husband laughs at me for sticking pink slips around the house but what can I do?! You know mommy-brains right…?
What kind of notes do I write?
Tiny reminders like ’10am – clean sink’ or ‘Rice for Koshry’ on the fridge. It is just a simple note but it takes the stress out. Every time I see the clean sink note, I remember that that is my appointment to keep. Next day when I open the fridge I remember to use up that rice asap.
You can use this tip for general things or be specific.
8. Batch cooking and cooking in bulk.
One of the best ways to spend less time in the kitchen is to cook all at once. Just get it done with and get out of there!
When you make a meal, double or triple it in quantity. There are two things you can do with more food – either have it for the next meal (as it is or with a quick no prep side dish) or freeze it for a meal later that week.
Let me give you an example: I have a recipe for Mutton Mince that with a little modification I can use with my pasta dishes too. When I make mince, I make it four times how much I need. One part is for the day I cooked. The second goes into my pasta or lasagna; the third part is for Taco sandwiches for school and office and the remaining (if we have left overs) is great for rice or filling in samosa.
Let me give you an example of how to save time while cooking Indian food. If you are making a dish which requires a certain type of masala. Double or triple the amount and freeze it. For example, I use the same masala for my egg curry, kofta curry and Qorma (both chicken and mutton) so when I make masala, I make it so much that it will last me a month. I just spread it in an ice cube tray and pop it out once it is frozen. I place these cubes in zipper bags.
Ditto for tomato or other chutneys and sauces. You can make salsa and freeze in this manner too. I freeze caramelised onions for Biryani too.
You can use this trick for chicken and other foods that you regularly use. I have a recipe that I use to make chicken strips in bulk. I make 10 different recipes out of these chicken strips.
The picture below shows how I make Shami kababs. These I store in zipper bags once frozen. These kababs can be quickly fried or grilled and used in burritoes, sandwiches, with rice, as burgers or just as on their own for a side dish. I always have these in my freezer.
9. Don’t get your groceries all on the same day.
I say this because it is the best way to avoid stress. Preferably get every other week. When I get my vegetables, I don’t get my meats that day. Because through the week, I will be cutting and emptying my fridge to fill my freezer. The next week, I get my meat but not chicken. I will be processing the meat to make bulk recipes. (Like the kababs I made above. Those were made the day I got 4-6kgs of mince.) When I get chicken, I only work on processing the chicken that week.
Examples: half cooked Chicken Kababs. It takes me less than 20 minutes to quickly run these kababs through the food processor. I will freeze them on baking sheets and then put them in freezer bags. They are perfect for school lunches and for side dishes.
10. Always try to move the vegetables from fridge to the freezer if they can be frozen.
I have found that as I am busy with kids, green veggies tend to spoil if I don’t cook quickly. So as soon as I get greens, I will quickly try to cut them and move to freezer in the coming week.
I cut up french beans and put in freezer. The cauliflower needs steaming. The Bitter gourd needs steaming. The spinach too. Okra freezes well. I also freeze cut up tomatoes and grated carrots and capsicum. If we get cabbage then I will steam it too.
It saves me time and energy when I am cookingin a hurry. Simply wash under running water in a colander, saute onion in the pressure cooker, add spices and veggie… a few whistles and you are done.
Can I help you with Meal Planning?
Do you miss seeing what gets pushed to the back of the fridge... or what is in your pantry until it is too late?
Here is how you can use up what you already have to make delicious meals without spending so much time thinking about it!
GRAB THIS FREE MENU PLANNING BUNDLE!
11. Have 10 minutes every day for dish washing.
The dishes is every woman’s problem. I confess mine too. So what I do is set out time for it every day. Set a timer for 10 minutes and stop washing the minute it rings. Trust me, it works. And use hot water. It is so soothing!
12. Every night make it a task to clean the counter.
We have a 10 minutes routine every night where my family pitches in to help me. Most nights, they don’t but I still come in to do a few things.
When you come in to put left overs away, put in the appliances, the dishes in the sink and spices away. It takes less than 10 minutes and you wake up to a cleaner kitchen.
13. Always freeze the leftovers, unless it is rice.
Make a list of leftovers you have and stick on the fridge door so you remember to finish it the next day. Try new recipes to include your leftovers.
Here is a post about how to use leftovers for making school lunches.
If you have rice, try this Chicken Falafel recipe that tastes just like Chicken nuggets!
14. Don’t be afraid to experiment with food.
When we were newly married, my husband and I made a pledge to try new foods as often as we can. Everything can be eaten at least once, you know. You can decide whether to never eat it again or to include it in your menu after that first taste.
This rule has helped us try new foods with the children. We have also seen how new foods mean an end to picky eating.
Psst: This year, if you have been following me on Instagram, you will know that I am being over ambitious 😀 I am trying 100 new recipes in 2018. Stay tuned to read about it…
15. When you have had a brand new addition to the family… plan.
The first few months when you have a new baby or a mobile toddler can be very busy. It gets difficult to cook lunch and dinner. I found that I could somehow get breakfast on the table but lunch and dinner was so difficult until my husband came home. So I resorted to cook lunch at dinner time.
I would cook the next days lunch AFTER dinner that night. It was a life saver. My husband would play would the kids or even just be working with the baby in a rocker in front him while I quickly cooked the food and put it in the fridge at bedtime.
You know that life has changed. Only you know what your pain is so spend a few minutes to think up ways to work less and do more.
Bringing up children is not easy. Every mom struggles through this phase. If you are that mom, I want you to know that you are doing great job. Congratulations on getting this far on your motherhood journey. Your reading this post means that you are committed to being intentional in your motherhood. You are doing well mom. Hang in there. It is going to be okay. You have got this. <3
I hope these kitchen hacks for new moms help you to save time in the kitchen. I would love to hear how you are doing. Join my FACEBOOK PAGE FOR INTENTIONAL DELIBERATE MOMS. Feel free to connect with other moms just like you.
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