This guest blog, ‘Meal Prep for Busy Moms’ was written by Zakiya, a self taught home cook and a mother to 3 boys from Blend of Spice.
Many of you have been asking me how I meal prep and get things done so quickly. I’m a busy mom to 3 growing boys. My house at dinner time (or the hour before) is a mad house. Usually it’s the time of day where everyone is throwing a fit or losing their mind. I just have to plan ahead for those unexpected tantrums. Some examples of those tantrums (which may render true for others reading this blog) include throwing a fit because I won’t allow a snack. Or, my personal favourite, a child claiming they may not survive if they don’t eat something right there and then.
Here are a few things I do to make my kitchen prep time short during the busy weekdays.
#1. Garlic/Ginger Paste
This is my everything! Garlic and ginger are a staple in all my dishes and it really cuts the time of peeling, chopping and cleanup while making any dish. Add it to marinades, curries, and salad dressings. It’s a great staple to have on hand and I explain how I make it here with an extra special ingredient for health benefits.
#2. Fried Onions
Fried onions are another staple to any South Asian dish and for delicious flavor packed curries or rice dishes. Slice up 7 to 8 large onions thinly with a mandolin or food processor slicer attachment and fry them on medium heat until golden brown. Drain in a single layer on a sheet tray lined with paper towel. Let them completely cool and then store in a resealable bag (in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or freezer for 6 months). The oil helps preserve the freshness and you don’t have to worry about wasting time during the week frying onions for each individual dish, let alone stinking up the whole house.
#3. Pre-marinade/ Cook Meats
This is a big one. I like to plan ahead for the week so I know what I will be making. Pre-cutting and marinating meats on a Sunday before the week starts is a great way to save time during the week. Sundays are also our garbage day where I am, so I’m able to get rid of any unwanted waste and can make sure things are cleaned and sanitized for the week.
I like to marinate meat in ways that both the adults and children will enjoy. I also try to marinate items that make great leftovers in sandwiches or salads for the next day. Some of my staple marinades are:
Fajitas and Taco Meat
Whether I pre-marinate meat and store it in the freezer in resealable bags, or pre-cook meats for the week and store them in airtight containers, I feel peace of mind knowing I can quickly whip up dinner with this preparation.
This is a pretty simple item but makes such a difference to have on hand. Whether it be for lunch or dinner, salads are always great to have ready so it’s just a quick toss. It’s also something great to put out for the kids to snack on while you’re still getting the rest of dinner on the table.
My go to salad is the big Costco Sweet Kale Salad Kit. It’s the perfect size to last us the week and I add extra toppings like cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions that go well with it. I don’t always use the dressing provided or I dilute it with some lemon juice and have it in a separate bottle ready to drizzle as we eat. Depending on the day I’ll also throw in extra fruits like mango, apples and oranges along with extra nuts like walnuts.
A quick shake in the container with the dressing (or a pop in the oven to roast), and topped with your pre-cooked meat and you have a quick filling meal on the go!
These are my son’s favorite. Anytime I pull out the blender he asks me if I’m making a smoothie. It’s a go to breakfast item for our family and great way to get your kids to take in nutritional foods they may not eat in solid form. On busy days I go as far as getting my dry ingredients ready in the blender and chopping up my fruits and veggies into individual bags and freezing them so it’s just a quick dump and blend.
Here are my 4 top smoothie recipes approved by my boys:
Another great way to enjoy your smoothie is in a bowl. Smoothie bowls have been all the rave and kids love them too (they think it’s ice cream). Here’s an Acai bowl I made using frozen Acai berries, almond butter, milk, coconut and honey. Top with your choice of toppings and enjoy!
#6. Overnight Oats
Lastly, my final tip for meal prep for busy moms is overnight oats.
Oatmeal is a great breakfast item but when you’re on the go in the morning or have a million and one things on your mind, the last thing you want to do is spend half your morning in the kitchen. Overnight oats are a great breakfast item or even as a sweet treat for those with a sweet tooth.
I like keeping my pantry stocked with all types of toppings that work great in these overnight oats (and smoothies). Nut butters, vanilla, seeds, granolas, good fats and dry fruits are all great topping options that are not only nutritional, but also delicious and filling.
My main base to the overnight oats is the same. The toppings and fruit are interchangeable to create a variety of flavours for you to enjoy.
⅓ cup Old Fashioned Oats
Add your oats, cinnamon, seeds and a splash of milk and give it a mix. Add the rest of the milk and mix until well combined. Top with fruit and toppings of choice. Store in airtight containers in the fridge. Mix in the morning and enjoy.
If you like other fruits like bananas or apples, add them fresh in the morning to avoid them from turning brown.
Here are a few fruit combinations I enjoy:
Banana Foster: caramelized bananas and pecans
Peaches & Cream: sliced peaches with an added splash of cream and walnuts
Piña Colada: coconut milk, pineapples, coconut flakes
Tropical: coconut milk, mangoes, kiwi, coconut flakes, sliced almonds
As a result of these 6 meal prep ideas, my household is a little less chaotic during dinner time. These tips help me get through the week and make my life easier. Therefore, I hope you try some (if not all) of the tips and feel less stress as meal times approach.
If you were inspired by any of my tips, tag me on instagram @blendofspice. I love to see my tips in action.