Your nursing baby is eating the healthiest food available. But are you? Finding time to put together home-made, nutritious meals can be a challenge when you are also meeting the intense needs of your nursing baby or toddler. Here are ten tools–most of which you already have–to help you cook delicious and healthy meals for your baby, your family, and yourself.
- Timer. Timers are everywhere: on watches, cell phones, appliances, and computers. Use them to remind you to check food for doneness–set it again if the food’s not yet ready. You can also set timers to remember important phone calls, to kids ready to go out, or remove clothes from the dryer. Also take advantage of appliances that turn off by themselves, like microwave ovens and electric kettles. Tip: If an appliance doesn’t have a built-in timer, plug it in to a wall timer for the same effect.
- Crock pot. Add your ingredients in the morning, turn on the crockpot, and forget about it until dinner. Soak beans the night before, then drain and rinse before adding. Add rice and pasta at the end (set the timer to remind you). Tip: Multiply your recipe until it fills the crockpot, and keep the extras in meal-sized quantities for another day.
- Sling. Holding your baby in a sling or backpack keeps your hands free for times your baby doesn’t want to be put down. Tip: Don’t keep your baby in a sling when standing in front of the stove.
- Freezer. Don’t just use it for leftovers or extra meals you’ve prepared. Keep meal components on hand like cooked beans, raw or sauteed onions and other vegetables. Tip: To store fresh herbs, wash and shake off the water. Freeze in one layer on a cookie tray, then move frozen herbs to a bag or container. Use in soups and stews.
- Refrigerator. Use your refrigerator to store leftovers, including cooking liquids, sauces, and dressings. Add these to soups, casseroles or patties for extra flavor. Make extra rice, potatoes or legumes that can be a basis for the next meal. Sort, wash and refrigerate fruits and vegetables shortly after shopping, so they will be on hand when you have a few minutes to pull a meal or snack together. Make a note of which ones need to be used up first, and move to the freezer what you can’t use quickly. Tip: Use your refrigerator for slow, safe and frugal defrosting (the frozen food gives your refrigerator a bit of a break).
- Food Processor. Use it to make dips, casseroles, soups and salads in little time. Plan your cooking tasks to avoid washing utensils in between use. Tip: Chop as much garlic as you need at once for various recipes, and divide it up. Then chop the onions, ending with the bean dip.
- Pen and paper (or whiteboard, Blackberry, etc.). Cooking requires advance planning, and babies have a way of distracting us from our plans. Keep track of your shopping list, menu plans, recipe ideas, and cooking schedule. Tip: Remembering to take soup out of the freezer at night will make your dinner hour go more smoothly the next day..
- Telephone. You don’t need to do everything yourself. Order groceries by phone, or ask a friend to pick something up at the store. Tip: Invite a friend to spend a couple of hours preparing meals in your kitchen while the kids play together, or take turns holding the babies and cooking.
- Flexibility. This isn’t something you can buy, but it’s a necessity when you have a small baby. Be prepared to stop what you are doing and put the food in the fridge until later. Depending on your parenting style and your baby’s age and personality, you may decide it’s worth it to finish a quick job while baby fusses. Tip: Instead of planning to do a chore at a specific time, wait until your baby is calm or asleep, or your toddler is playing happily.
- Older Children. Kids aren’t tools, of course, but they are a big help if you have them. Look for tasks that even toddlers and preschoolers can learn, like mixing, wiping the table or counting items. They may surprise you–I taught my 3-year-old to crack eggs. Tip: Explain to kids, even babies, what you are doing and gradually give them more responsibility in the kitchen.
Whatever tools you use, communicate with your partner and children about changes you’d like to make in your cooking and eating habits.
What cooking tools do you find most useful as you nurture your growing children?
Hannah Katsman, mother of six and a breastfeeding counselor, is the author of two sites with active communities. At CookingManager.Com, she helps home cooks save time and money in the kitchen, and wrote a series on Feeding Babies Frugally. A Mother in Israel is about breastfeeding, parenting, and life in Israel, where Hannah has lived for nearly twenty years.
Photo credit:John Dunster
This is also my first week offering a linky of my own! Foodie Fridays at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! is now going to be called Vegetarian Foodie Fridays (so as to not confuse anyone about what kinds of recipes and food related posts they can link here.)
If your recipe or food post is vegetarian or vegan friendly you are welcome to link up. Please no meat ingredients. While I respect everyone’s choice to eat meat, I would like to keep this blog meat free. Thanks for understanding.. If anyone is interested in how and why I became a vegetarian or why I’m raising vegetarian children, please click on the links.