Do working moms have less time to cook than stay-at-home moms?
I’m going to leave that up for debate – but the fact of the matter is, whether you’re rushing to get kids off to school or rushing to get yourself to work and everyone to daycare, mornings are hectic and harried for most American families.
Today’s Monday Mission is to fight against the busy-ness and find a way to get real food on the breakfast table.
I miss the days when I was a real SAHM and all the kids were home too, when they were really little!
Now we have one child who gets up at 6:45 and leaves at 7:20, another who gets up at 7:30 and leaves at 8:05, our preschooler who wakes up anywhere from 7:30-9:30, no kidding (I swear he’s a college student in disguise) and a baby who might get up anywhere from 6 to 8:30 or so.
If your head spun reading that, thank you.
Because it feels like everything should be spinning with that schedule!
By 8:30 or 9:00 , I sometimes realize that I’ve been up for 3 hours and have done little other than make breakfast (4 times), pack backpacks and get people off to school or dressed. Half the time I haven’t even found time to get my own teeth brushed!
If I was a work-outside-the-home mom, some things would have to change about that.
This post is part of a mini meal planning series, including so far:
- How to Get out of a Meal Planning Rut
- The Ultimate Meal Planning Guide to Eat Real Food Every Night
- How to Survive Dinner Time When Your Meal Plan Falls Apart
- The Busy Mom’s Guide to Getting Real Food on the Dinner Table
- and more to come!
I got an email recently from a reader struggling with breakfast as well:
My biggest challenge is getting food on the table every night, while I work three days a week, with 3 kids 5 and under, and my husband runs our farm and funeral home.
For instance….pertaining to breakfast — ‘cooking’ anything is not in the cards for me when I am theoretically putting dinner in a crockpot for after work and hubs is out of the house cutting hay or taking a funeral call. Cheerios is our staple, even for me most days
When the best way to get a real food dinner on the table is to do a crockpot meal, which I agree is an awesome idea, but the only way to make that happen is to usurp any possible breakfast prep, what’s a mom to do?
I guess either breakfast or dinner has to find another time of day to be prepped.
Simple solution – but difficult implementation!
I shared this reader’s question on Facebook and almost 100 KSers chimed in with tips – so here are the most practical “real food breakfast for working moms” tips out there (and we’ll do another post with dinner ideas).
How to Avoid Cheerio’s (when you only have 10 minutes for breakfast)
These tips from readers (and me too) can be divided into 3 major categories:
- Faster breakfasts to cook
- Prep in advance and reheat
- Homemade cold breakfast foods
Faster breakfasts to cook
- Oatmeal in the crockpot for breakfast (although you’d have to clean the crockpot quickly to get dinner in there!).
- Oatmeal can get overcooked overnight, so if you can get a crockpot with a delayed start – or plug it into one of those timers like for Christmas lights that will start it in the middle of the night.
- In the Kimball house, we make soaked oatmeal, which takes hardly any time at all to cook. You add the last half of the water upon waking, go to the bathroom or whatever, give it a stir, and while you’re getting coffee, water, or putting dinner in a crockpot, you stir a few more times and it’s done. Ten minutes cold to done, maybe?
- We also make a double batch, leave it on the counter overnight and add water and reheat the next morning. Fewer pots to wash!
- Make muffin tin omelets that a child can hold in their hands. Children will eat almost anything they can actually carry in their hand (it’s why they like McDonald’s so much) so up the ante with things they can eat on the go. (prep the night before so it’s just popping it in the oven)
- I make this easy drinking custard in the morning: 2 eggs, cream, vanilla, butter, sugar and boiling water, blitz, sprinkle cinnamon = voila (it’s like eggnog) & keeps kids full.
- Frittata is always a winner.
- Think outside the box…not breakfast foods. With egg and peanut allergies we look to grilled cheese for breakfast!
- I have a couple overnight breakfast casserole recipes that I prep the night before and refrigerate then put in the oven as I stumble out of bed and to the shower. By the time I’m dressed they’re ready.
- Katie agrees! Here’s an awesome example of a simple grain-free casserole that has been a favorite for brunch potlucks for me – pizza quiche is just one of the many flavors we make, but the rest are in The Healthy Breakfast Book. Seems like I should offer a coupon on that in this post….hmmmm…keep reading to see if I’ll do it!
- I leave pre-mixed dry ingredients for muffins on the counter with the wet ingredients pre-mixed in the fridge. I then program my oven to pre-heat to 400 degrees in such a way that it will be ready when I get up. While the coffee is brewing I mix the wet and the dry, pour into a greased (the night before) 9×13 pan and throw it into the preheated oven. Square muffins with 5 minutes of morning hand’s on time.
- I’ve cooked both oatmeal and eggs in my rice cooker. I prep as much as I can the evening before. Then I press the button and it cooks while I get the kids up. Chia and flax seeds on the oatmeal , eggs served with fruit or toast.
- Always cook twice as much meat as you need for any recipe, put the extra meat in the freezer. DON’T use it the same week. (Katie says – homemade sausage made from any ground meat can pop out of the freezer and directly in to the pan for scrambled eggs, if you have 5-10 minutes to cook. If you don’t even have that, you can still cook extra meat at dinner time and put some into those egg muffins and bake while you’re eating dinner.)
- Figuring out the time delay feature on my oven has been great. Baked oatmeal only needs to be mixed together the night before then it’s ready to eat as soon as you wake up.
- Freeze muffin batter (right in the paper liners) and bake from frozen in the morning if you don’t love thawed-out muffins.
- Toast with peanut or almond butter and banana (maybe homemade sourdough bread toasted, says Katie)
- Eggs, avocados and red bell peppers with sprouted grain toast (if not gluten-intolerant).
Prep in Advance and Reheat
- The key is to make multiple meals on the weekends – While fixing eggs I will wrap burritos and keep them for breakfast too, and the kids reheat.
- My kids eat a lot of muffins, waffles, or pancakes that I make ahead of time and freeze. Triple batches!
- These freeze great and are perfect for fall! Pumpkin pancakes that can be made with whole wheat, gluten-free, sourdough, almond flour, coconut flour…anything goes!
- Oatmeal muffins that are mashed banana, egg, oats, milk and some dried fruit. It is like portable oatmeal. (Probably can be eaten cold, too – our baked oatmeal is awesome cold and I bet it would go in muffin tins no problem!)
- Another reader said: “A pan of baked oatmeal with fruit and nuts and cinnamon had been great for me, half in the fridge and half in the freezer and you’ve got breakfast for days!” and quite a few others echoed the sentiment!
- I freeze breakfast tacos and breakfast sandwiches made on English muffins in bulk each month. You can also freeze the cooked eggs baked in muffin tins with cheese & bacon bits.
- Like this from another reader: Pre cooked “egg cups”. I fill a muffin pan with sautéed veggies, whisk up some eggs and pour those over the top and sprinkle with cheese. Healthy and quick to reheat.
- Putting bacon on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper and baking it at 400 for about 15-20 minutes saves a lot of time, and it gets perfect! I sometimes make a tray of bacon and refrigerate it and in the morning, I just throw it in the oven for a few minutes to warm it up while I’m getting bowls, etc. out.
- I make a double batch of pancakes and another of waffles every other weekend for school-day breakfasts. We like our waffles with pb, which makes them stick longer. I’ve found that if I use several cast-iron waffle makers in a hot oven, it cuts my cooking time for those significantly. Otherwise, I’m standing in front of the waffle maker for what feels like hours. You can also get silicon waffle molds, which look kinda cool.
- Either one day for Dinner or one morning on my off day i cook homemade biscuits, and will cook enough bacon, sausage and such and make the biscuits, individually wrap them and put in the freezer, the kids grab whichever they want and reheats it.
- I make breakfast casseroles, cut them into “fit in a snack size baggie” then freeze…microwave and roll in a paper towel or brown paper and run out the door…protein (egg and sausage), veggies (pepper, carrots onion, zucchini, etc), and carbs, (whole wheat bread cubes, or taties or sweet taties), herbs. (Could likely be reheated in a toaster oven too, and then everyone’s can be put in at once instead of that dance of putting someone’s in the mic, turning it over for another minute, putting the next one in while the first gets cold…)
- There’s also nothing wrong with dinner leftovers for breakfast.
- Another said it this way: “We eat dinner leftovers for breakfast. I make a huge batch of every dinner, send some with my husband for lunch, and my son and I eat it for breakfast. Unconventional, but it is typically protein-heavy and that’s what I’m going for for breakfast – that and quick.”
- Precook sausage patties and freeze them–we pop all this in the toaster oven and it is ready in no time!
- I cook a big batch of steel-cut organic oatmeal on the weekends and put it in the fridge for the week. Then we just scoop out what we need and warm it. It’s a fast easy breakfast for us. We just throw some fresh berries in it and we are set.
Homemade Cold Breakfast Foods
- Breakfast muffins. Make a batch or two a day when you have time. They can be frozen and taken out if the freezer as you need them.
- Homemade granola bars or quinoa bars
- Hard-boiled eggs (add toppings like diced peppers, green onion, or even thawed frozen peas and cut up the eggs in a “mash” – add a little homemade mayo or mustard if it seems too dry – and you’ve got veggies in your breakfast too!)
- I frequently poach eggs in an egg poaching pan on the weekend and store them in a mason jar for quick breakfasts. They are like hardboiled eggs, but better and no shell to peel off.
- Smoothies – make “smoothie bags” with just what you want in yours, all in ONE bag in the freezer: the greens, the frozen fruit, any supplements like probiotic powder or kelp powder for iodine, flax or chia seeds, etc. Everything but the liquid, then dump the whole bag in the blender with the water, milk or yogurt in the morning, blend, and done! Batch the smoothie bags so you have 5-10 of them instead of trying to take out 5 different bags of fruit, seeds, etc. every time you make a smoothie.
- Make a big batch and freeze the leftovers in a Squooshi pouch – then if kids have a day they have to run, put them in the fridge the night before to partially thaw, and the kids can have a muffin and a smoothie even with only 30 seconds to grab breakfast!
- On days like that, we settle for granola and milk. Kids love it, and my little boy likes to revisit in in a few hours when it’s squishy. (Here’s my homemade granola recipe, and there are other versions, including soaked and grain-free, in Healthy Snacks to Go.)
- Yogurt, either plain storebought or homemade. We love our homemade yogurt but you know – plain yogurt from the store is still packed with healthy probiotics!
- Feeding my babe (coconut milk) yogurt with hemp seeds in it right now..no prep (note from Katie: this works with any milk and chia seeds as well!)
- I’m going to try yogurt parfaits for next week: glass jar and layers of plain Greek yogurt and jam, some berries and they can top with granola.
- Fruit for breakfast
- My kids beg for a ‘Chocolate Monkey’ every morning. Immersion blender takes on almond milk, banana, chocolate protein powder (grass fed cow whey based and sweetened with Stevia), avocado oil (for skin and brain), cocoa powder, milled flax.
- Speaking of monkeys – our family’s easiest “go-to” cold breakfast (this is Katie talking) is Monkey Salad – some combo of bananas, coconut, cashews or other nuts, sometimes milk or raisins too. It’s all in The Healthy Breakfast Book right HERE. There are FIVE different meal plans for fit every need, tons of “how to get it done” tips, a whole section on prepping ahead, 2 sections on quick cold breakfast items, and even a “company’s coming” brunch primer. Some of our most-used recipes are in there!
Pin it for Reference!
Some readers were so helpful, they talked about the whole “system” of working and eating real food, and I have to highlight this one because the reader happens to be very special to me in real life, and I love her all the more for how hard she works to keep her family nourished!!!
I work full- time & have 2 young kids. For me weekends are key. I do a ton of prep then – making Katie’s grain free apple flax muffins, overnight oats, hard boiled eggs or “egg muffins”. (Veggies, egg & cheese baked in muffin tins. Veggies for breakfast – heck yea!).
It saves us from Cheerios! I can make a week’s worth on Sunday or even freeze some.
When I cook dinners I make double or triple. (Like tons of grilled chicken) I slice or dice it & freeze it so I can throw it on pasta or salads when needed. It definitely takes time & planning, but I make it a priority since I know it’s important for our health & my sanity!! Good luck!!
Others had very nice specific advice for a 3-day-a-week working mom:
- Use the days you are off for meal prep for the days you work.
- Fun conversation from a handful of gals saying that by Thursday, they’re just dead – so they have breakfast for dinner. NO guilt about that at all!! And perhaps you could have time to make a double or triple batch of those pancakes, and then voila! Friday’s breakfast is ready!
- We have started a weekend meal planning/prep. I’m NOT a morning person and have to get 3 school aged kiddo’s out the door by 7:30! We use the muffin tin to make single serve omelettes, muffins made with protein powder, freeze pancakes that can fit in the toaster etc. We try to keep yogurt and granola around- but I’ve got an 11yo who is too “cool” to eat anything but frozen waffles for breakfast…
- I have 2 crock-pots. One is often used for dinner and the other is for overnight oatmeal. I also take advantage of “free” time to make freezer meals, both for dinners and breakfasts (sandwiches, burritos). It is a great activity to do with kids as it is a bonding time, a teaching time, and it gets something done that needs to be done.
- More crockpots, I have had all of mine going at once before (breakfast started the night before and lunch/dinner started in two crockpots before I left for work).
- Ok, so I’m hearing – buy more crockpots!
- Ok, so I’m hearing – buy more crockpots!
- I loved this one: “When my kids were little I was trying to get them ready for daycare and myself ready for work. cooking was not going to happen when they were awake! I ended up getting up and extra 15-30 minutes early, cooking something simple (eggs, toast, sliced fruit, oatmeal) and THEN waking them up. While they were at the table eating, I would prep for dinner and put it in the fridge to slide in the oven when I got home. Make breakfast simple. When the kids get older and can brush their own teeth and get themselves dressed THEN you get to be the Pinterest mom. Until then, you’re just surviving.”
- Working mother of 3 and gluten free! I menu plan all 3 meals each week. I make the kids help me and then they look forward to the meal we planned. For breakfast, I boil a dozen eggs in advance and we eat them until they are gone. I make a few dozen muffins at a time and freeze them. The kids like them with cream cheese or nut butter. Smoothie packs for the freezer are a hit too (ripe banana, pineapple and spinach are a gave). Just add milk of choice. Overnight oats are great too. Endless combos. We only eat cereal once a week or so
- When I was working outside the home, I used to put my crock pot dinner together the night before, after the kids went to bed and stick it in the fridge until morning. Simple, easy, and I wouldn’t forget an ingredient in the morning rush.
And others recommended Pillsbury crescent rolls (oops, wrong blog for that!!) or microwaving eggs (ewwww…and I’m not a huge fan of the mic if I can help it) and “What’s wrong with Cheerio’s?” The answer? Check out the end of this interesting call-to-action post for a condensed version of the story…
What About those Overnight Oats?
Quite a few readers recommended overnight oatmeal, which is basically raw oats soaked overnight in milk or yogurt, or one person said prep the raw oatmeal in jars and then pour hot milk over it in the morning and let it “steep” while you get ready.
For a traditional foodie, eating uncooked oats is a pretty big conundrum. I wrote about Overnight Oats in one of my monthly newsletters last year, and I reprinted the article online for you today: Are Overnight Oats Traditional? Are They Safe?
(That’s just the kind of exclusive content you get, by the way, when you’re on the KS monthly newsletter list – sign up now and get a free eBook!)
Disclosure: Squooshi is a current sponsor receiving their complimentary mention for the month.