9 May 2018

Top 10 tips for busy Mum's!

From teaching cooking classes I know that for most parents, it isn’t an inability to cook, but a lack of time that stops people cooking and gets them reaching for the takeout menu or meal delivery boxes. As a working mum, I know how easy it is to slip into eating rubbish, spending a fortune on ready-made food or eating out just because it is suddenly 7pm, you’ve just got home and everyone is starving. I’m no angel, I know the lure of take out or toast when I’m tired.

I also know how sole destroying it is when you manage to cook something and it doesn’t work or your family turn their noses up at it. Know that it happens to the best of us and there’s not much you can do about a badly written recipe or a child who is in a difficult mood. But there are some things you can do. Here are my top 10 tips to help you get real food on the table while you balance all the other bits that need to be done and save money…

Meal planning

Planning what we’ll eat each week is the only way I manage to cook from scratch, stay healthy, avoid waste and save money. I share my weekly meal plans each week on my site and social media.
Sit down for half an hour once a week. Grab your list of what is in your freezer too (see below). Write out a menu plan for whoever you are cooking for, who’ll be in on what days, then.

One meal for the whole family

This may be a tricky one but if you can get out of the habit of making more than one lackluster meal a night – catering to whims and different eating times – you’ll save yourself so much energy. There are loads of recipes that work for when people need to eat in shifts. And children just need to learn to pick out what they don’t want. It is tough love but it helps everyone in the long run.

Shop once or twice a week not every day

The idea of tootling to the shops every day to buy whatever looks good that day sounds dreamy, but dashing around Tesco Metro with all the other frantic people on the way to pick up children after work isn’t that dream. Once you’ve planned your meals, make a list of what you need. Double check you don’t already have them then make a list by aisle at the shop or order online. Go once a week and stick to the list. The time you save at the shops can be spent cooking.

Embrace your freezer

Second to meal planning, embracing your freezer is the biggest tip. Get in the habit of cooking double or triple quantities of soups, stews, pasta sauces, curries and rice. Eat half that night and freeze the rest. Keep a notebook in the kitchen or a list on your phone with what is in your freezer, cross things off as you use them and use that list to help your meal plan the following week. Get my list of the essentials I keep in my freezer and how I use them from my site.

And your store cupboard

It may not be the most exciting dinner but if you have pasta, canned beans, canned tuna, olive oil, lemons and garlic you can make dinner in less than 15 minutes. Get a few store cupboard recipes under your belt and make sure you always have the ingredients and you’ll be sorted. It is always better and quicker to make a bowl of pasta than to call for a pizza.

Fridge forage at the weekend or the day before you do a food shop.

I like to leave the weekend a little looser and assume that we’ll eat up what is left in the fridge. I often come up with my best new recipes when I’m using up leftovers. My taco and noodle bowl recipes are great ways to use up random things.

Don’t try and make new recipes every night

Don’t try to make 6 new recipes a week. Life gets in the way. Pick 2-3 recipes you can make without a recipe with your eyes closed. Pick a couple of nights you’ll have leftovers or food from the freezer then try 1-2 new recipes a week if you want.


Most 7 year olds should be able to make scrambled egg and toast with a bit of supervision. Yes its slower and messier but use the weekends to get them used to helping in the kitchen. The sooner they learn, the sooner you can kick back and be cooked for.


If you’re a mum you already know how to do this. When you’re cooking, think about what other quick jobs you can get done while your kitchen is already messy, your oven is on and while you’re already in there. Maybe make a batch of houmus or pesto. Chop veggies for the next day’s dinner. Make a pasta sauce for the freezer. Roast meat for salads or tacos. Cook some rice and freeze it in individual containers.

Master the one pan

Sometimes its not the cooking but the clearing up that feels grim. I have loads of one pan recipes on my site – from tray bakes where everything is in the oven, to my one pan pasta where the raw pasta is cooked in the sauce.

Do something you love while you cook

Wine is the obvious one but what you listen to can make your time in the kitchen feel like you’re doing something for yourself.  Download the iplayer app and listen to Desert Island Discs – I’ve learned so much about business, parenting and life from listening to their back catalogue while I cook. Find podcasts that will make you laugh or will teach you something to help with work or your passions.

Written by Gemma @gemcwade


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