Family Meal Ideas - for Working Moms???

Updated on May 19, 2010
S.V. asks from Austin, TX
16 answers

For those moms who work outside of home, how are you able to put a *healthy* meal on the table for you and your family? I am a 1st time mom of a 1 year old and working full-time. I want to try to minimize our "eating out" for a variety of reasons, e.g. nutritional value, high calories, cost.... Please share any ideas/practices. Thank you so much in advance.

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answers from Longview on

As a working mom with the same problem, I understand. I have found crock pot meals to be wonderful. I put it together in the morning before I leave and it is ready when I get home. There are several good cookbooks just for crock pots. Also, there are several recipes out there that take less than 20 minutes to prepare and 20 - 30 to cook. A great website for recipes is

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answers from Houston on

I have started making a goulash in a healthy fashion lately and my family loves it. I use a pound of ground meat browned. I add salt to taste, chili powder, cumin, and paprika. I then add 2 6oz cans of V8, and 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, add 1 heaping cup of multigrain or wheat elbow mac. Boil for at least 10 minutes or until water is absorbed.

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answers from Houston on

I have had such a hard time with this. I am not a cook by instinct & I can never seem to think of what sounds good ahead of time. Thus, I decided to research meal options. The time (& expense) of the make it yourself station places didn't work for me (have a hard enough time getting to the gym or a Dr's appointment without the kids!). I wasn't very good at planning ahead and would make umpteen trips to the grocery store (with toddler & baby protesting) each week. A friend recommended e-mealz and it has really helped with my sanity.

I really recommend that you check out

It is $5 a month to belong and you get to choose which type of meal plan you want. They leave up 2 weeks at a time. I have found it SO helpful as I get a grocery list, recipes, & ideas all at once. We have liked everything we have tried so far, and we don't make the recipes that we know won't suite our tastes. Sometimes I will make substitutions to make a recipe healthier, or I will make a different side. But it has simplified everything for me. Also, I have yet to repeat a meal and have been using it for a few months now.

I have printed out extra copies of each week & am collecting them in a binder with the hopes that I will be able to cancel my subscription after a few more months and put in place my own cycle of meals.

Hope this helps! Good luck!

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answers from Detroit on

i haven't read everyone's responses. i have recently started following the meal plans from this site:

they do have a subscription service but i don't see why you need to pay when they have the menus available at no charge. i think the only difference is the subscription gives you pictures and nutritional data - not worth the money to me. so far everything i have made has been good. also another thing i like about it is that it gives you tips to help for the next meal. for instance, it says get extra chicken this week, cook it up and freeze for a meal later this week or next week. use the leftover pork roast for one of the meals later in the week.

i also found these other sites that have free weekly menus:

i chose the menus 4 moms because of the reason i listed above but also because the food sounded more like what i normally make and EASY.

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answers from Austin on

I agree with the other moms that planning ahead is essential. We plan out our meals on Saturday and hit the Farmers Market first (which is fun for the kiddos) and then head to the grocery store.

For every meal we cook, I make sure there is enough for leftovers. So we only cook about three meals a week and make each one stretch into two meals. Sometimes you can add extra spices or other small vegetables to add some additional taste on day 2.

I also found that finding the right easy meals can be overwhelming. We developed a core set of recipes and rotate about 25 different meals. They are familiar to me and easy to cook. We try a new recipe about once every two weeks and if its easy enough/tastes good - it gets added to the rotation.

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answers from Austin on

We grill a lot.. I purchased a gas grill and it changed our lives..

I purchase whatever HEB has on sale like chicken breast for $1.00 a lb and grill lots of it and freeze lots of it.. Then when hamburger is on sale, I buy about 3 pounds and grill hamburger patties and I make meat balls and freeze most of it.. Sausages, grill and later we can make sausage wraps.. I even grill Italian sausages for pasta.. Did you know you can grill frozen pizzas? They taste like the ones you get at fancy restaurants..

I purchase fresh veggies and cut them up and keep them in ziplocks, that way we can eat them raw, add them to pasta, or stir fry, I many times I add a little olive oil and butter in and aluminum foil package and throw in the veggies seal it up and grill it..

The crock pot is great for chili, pulled pork, beans.. You have to prep the meat by browning it.. When HEB has pork roast really cheap, I buy a big one , cut it in half, salt and pepper the outside.. then freeze half and then cook the other in the crock pot..

Get a recipe book for crock pot cooking..

I keep hot sauce, BBQ sauce, and marinades handy.
Instant freeze dried refried beans.
You can make sloppy joes (I shred zucchini into the ground meat while it cooks, the family has never figures it out)..
I keep corn and flour tortillas and burger buns in the freezer.

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answers from Phoenix on

One of our favorites is sausage, bell pepper, onion, potato bake. Coarsely chop a lean turkey kielbasa (Jeanio O has good ones), medium yellow onion, whatever baking potatoes you prefer (no need to peel, just clean) and a red and green bell pepper. Toss with EVOO, pepper and garlic salt and put in a 13x9 pan at 400 for 40 minutes covered with foil. If the potatoes are fork tender, take off the foil, mix the food and cook for and additional 10-15 minutes to brown.
Really easy and pretty good for you. The best part is we use the leftovers 2 nights later fried with scrambled or fried eggs for a cheap, easy breakfast for dinner. I'm a SAHM but I make this whenever my husband is going to be gone because the prep takes 15 minutes and that is all the work it takes.
You can also cook a large amount of ground beef with taco seasoning and use it for tacos one night, beef and bean burritos another or taco salad. It freezes well too so you don't bore the family. Good luck!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I have an almost 3 year old and a 2 month old. It is not easy always. Plus my husband works till 10:45 at night so it is just me. What i do is on the weekend i decide what im going to make during the week, and get what i need when i go grocery shopping. I usually cook mon, tue, wed, sat and sun. Thursdays and friday are either eat on the run or pizza nights. I dont know what your work scheduale is, but i get home around 5. My 3 year old puts a movie in to watch for a bit and the 2 month old is either in her swing or in a her little chair thing in the kitchen with me. I get dinner started so that it cooking or in the oven then i give the baby a bottle and then finish dinner. We are usually eating by 5:30 or 5:45 and done with dinner and dished by 6. then we have the next hour or so to play, etc. It is tough but it does help to know what im making each night, and you can find so many quick, easy, and cheap receipes online.

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answers from Houston on

I am a single mom with a 13 year old, very active daughter. I have found Dream Dinners to be my saving grace! I am not sure where you live, but you can go to and see if there is one near you.



answers from Houston on

I don't know where you eat out. It is difficult to stop eating out if your food doesn't compare to what your getting when you go out to eat. Honestly, it will take a while to learn to make food so you can cook with ease. Start with a few recipes then once you have them down it takes less time to cook. Switch things up from frozen to fresh : fresh veggies, frozen veggies with different mixes and sauces, frozen lasagna. 3lb Butterball **The more you do it the faster you get at cooking.



answers from Hartford on

My biggest friend has become ground turkey. It's cheaper then ground beef and much healthier. I use it at least 3 nights a week. Any of the quick meals you would use hamburger with taste great with turkey. A family favorite in our house is "taco" night. I brown up the turkey with spices and garlic, then add a can of crushed tomatoes, and a can of black beans. Serve it on a whole wheat wrap with some lettuce. Yummy!



answers from Houston on

The best thing is to PLAN AHEAD. If you plan what you are having and have it all ready it makes it much easier.

I have also gotten together with my girl friends and we made 4 casseroles. (Sort of the same idea someone else suggested but probably not NEARLY as expensive. ) Each person brought the material for the casserole everyone would make that she brought to the table, so to speak, and at the end of the evening we had 4 casseroles to take home. I made chicken pot pies and ended up with 4 extras in the freezer to keep as well. It was SO nice to be able to pull the casseroles out and eat them at leisure, especially since I'm pregnant. The total cost for me for 3 casseroles from friends, and 8 chicken pot pies was about $40 - can't beat that!

As you plan your meals make sure to make extra "dinners" and freeze them. I made lasagna a couple of months ago and ended up making another whole dinner. Be sure to portion them in sizes that will get consumed by your family. For example we are a family of 3 and if I don't want as much leftovers I will made a 8 x 8 pan of lasagna to freeze. It's not much more difficult to make a little extra and freeze it for later.

If you are looking to make casseroles invest in some good "Glad" pans. They look disposable but are actually plastic of some kind and great for the freezer and can be re-heated in the oven. Myself and 2 friends used the metal tin pans and while they are recyclable they do not have as much life in them.

Email me if you want more details.


answers from Rochester on

I love the idea of crock pots, and we have a few meals we make with them, but I do not use mine often. It is partly going to depend on your schedules and food preferences. I like casseroles with a common base, either egg noodles, rice, or macaroni. You cook up the main part, mix everything, and bake it for a half an hour or so until hot. Sometimes just having everything handy is as easy as spending a little more time putting it away after shopping. I have also lowered our standards--we do not have seven hot, full meals each week. Sometimes dinner is everything scrambled in with eggs (take a few minutes to rinse some spinach, toss in some cheese, cut up a tomato, then scramble it all). We also have had sandwiches for dinner or other typical lunch or breakfast meals that are simple and quick, saving the "big" meals for weekends.

We buy ground beef in bulk (95% lean) and I freeze it in bags, some shaped already for burgers (I like the big burgers and we load them up), some frozen flat in a serving size for a casserole, etc. It is easy to thaw what we need (my husband works evenings and sometimes come home and really wants a burger--so much faster to thaw and it is already formed). I separate chicken breasts in meal portions and freeze. I am getting better at putting a meal's worth of leftovers right into the freezer.

Some of my favorite casserole dishes include Hot Chicken Salad (from my MIL). It is rice-based with cream soups, curry, hard boiled egg, almonds, etc. LOVE it! Great for leftovers! I also make a macaroni casserole by mixing elbow macaroni (cooked) with tomato soup, sour cream, lots of shredded cheddar, some kind of vegetable (green beans, steamed brocoli, etc.), and browned beef (you can mix in Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, some onion, etc. with the beef). Bake it in a casserole dish--easy and yummy family meal.

Planning a menu is a great idea. We don't like to strictly commit one night to a meal, so we will come up with five or six meals we want each week and plan to make them and then see what we feel like sometimes. My husband works several nights a week so I'm alone with the boys and we usually eat leftovers those nights. Unfortunately, I have had many dinners of popcorn after work while the kids had PB&J. :)

You could also bump your meal time back a tiny bit and make a right after work snack time--I am usually starving right after and had to try not to eat junk for dinner. I also sometimes mix something up the night before that I just have to bake for dinner, so I would have no excuse.

Leftovers are also great for bringing to work--I hate making a separate lunch but never mind heating up something from earlier in the week. It is a good way to save something if it is not enough for a family meal.


answers from Austin on

Here are some tips and some more info also at the link below:

* Let your child be a part of a healthy food conversation. Discuss the week’s menus and the specific ingredients. Read cookbooks and magazines – or just look at the interesting pictures.

* Engage your child while at the food store and give them choices. For example, “Let’s pick a fruit to pack in your lunches. Would you like to bring strawberries or apples?”
* Add a little sous chef to your dinner preparations. Ask your children to bring two lemons to you or put them in charge of stirring cold items. This may delay dinner, but consider the reward – quality time!
* It is normal for toddlers and young children to be picky eaters. They may refuse food based on its texture or color – do not fret, keep trying!



answers from Houston on

There is a great website called . The author is a nutritionist and she has cookbooks, as well as weekly menus plus shopping lists and recipes. I think that this a fabulous resource for anyone who is trying to get healthy meals on the table every night. I have one of her cookbooks and lots of menus that I have downloaded (for a fee) that are all delicious and healthy. My family enjoys them very much and most of the recipes are all very easy.
Hope this helps you!
Blessings to you and yours,


answers from Fresno on

I work full time and travel a lot, but we do sit down and eat as a family and I am concerned with the food being healthy. My solution was Dream Dinners. You sign up online and choose which recipes you want to make (they post all of the caloric content on their website, which is nice). Then you pick a time when you can go put your meals together. You show up at the Dream Dinners store and they have all the ingredients prepped for you. This even includes the correct size measuring spoons in each container - no kidding! It's great. So you assemble your dinners (there are instructions at each station that clearly say what to do, so even for those of us who hate cooking, it's reallllly easy!). Then, take the dinners home, put them in the freezer, and you've got dinners for a month, including a little instruction label with each dinner! What I do is, each night before I go to bed, I figure out what we're having the next night for dinner, put that meal in the fridge to thaw. When I get home from work, the meal is thawed out and ready to cook. Most meals take about 20 minutes to prepare (some more, some less, but none are labor-intensive). They are very tasty, and actually I've discovered our grocery bill has gone down about $200/month, and we almost never eat out anymore, so that saves more money. I no longer buy things at the grocery store that go to waste.

If you do not have a Dream Dinners near you, you can also look up Super Suppers, Dinner My Way, and there are a few others. I have never tried the other ones, but Dream Dinners has really saved us as a family. I can't say enough good things about it.

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