Are you up to your ears with home cooking and home schooling, while also trying to work remotely? Juggling professional and personal demands—especially when your family is confined together in close quarters—would be a challenge for any parent, but it is possible to stay on top of your daily list and feed your family three delicious and nutritious meals a day (plus snacks!) without feeling frazzled 24/7. We've put together this helpful guide to support you in getting everything done to your standards, while staying (relatively) sane.
Create a Schedule for Yourself and Kids
When your family is stuck at home together, it can help to create a weekly schedule that maps out how each family member's time will be spent. Start by listing all of the important weekday tasks that need to be accomplished. While you'll probably identify office work and schoolwork as top priorities, remember also to set aside time for meal prep, sitting down together for meals, laundry, cleaning, working out, keeping up with email and social media, and so on.
Create a calendar that includes every task—plus who should be doing what—and post it somewhere central at home. While your family may not stick to the schedule perfectly, you will likely find having it in place helps life seem more orderly, and leaves you less frazzled.
Keep a Well-Stocked Kitchen
Stock your fridge, freezer, cupboards, and spice rack with ingredients that make it easier to throw together well-balanced meals without spending hours prepping. Doing so can make the difference between lackluster meals and winning ones. Consult our master list of the essential pantry staples every kitchen needs.
While you're at it, stock up on food storage containers, which allow you to store prepped food safely in the fridge or freezer. Airtight freezer bags, microwave-safe dishes with lids, and BPA-free plastic storage containers are all handy items.
Organize Your Kitchen for Efficiency
You'll also want to organize your fridge and pantry in a way that makes it easy for you to find and grab what you need on the fly. As a general guide:
- Group like with like by creating separates shelves or zones for baking ingredients, canned goods, grains, and so on.
- Store spices close to the stove and keep cutting boards and knives on or near the counter you'll use most often for food prep.
- When putting food away after a grocery shop, place the new items toward the back of fridge or pantry shelves, bringing older items to the back, to encourage using them up in order of soonest expiry date.
Plan Your Week's Menus
Plan your family's meals (and snacks) for the week to guide your cooking and grocery shopping. This will not only save you money, reduce food waste, and help you deliver nutritious meals, but can eliminate the stress of standing in your kitchen, trying to come up with ideas for what to make for dinner while your family hollers for food. Here are some helpful tips for planning your weekly menu:
- When brainstorming what to cook, stick to what you're good at and what your kids like. Think simple, nutritious versions of family favorites. You can also stretch your food dollar with recipes that make the most of pantry ingredients.
- If your kids are picky eaters, invite them to weigh in on your menus to cut down on meltdowns at mealtimes. You might also consider including some fuss-free breakfast for dinner options, which are fun for kids and easy on home cooks.
- If you have access to them, use time-saving appliances, such as an Instant Pot or a slow cooker that you load up with ingredients in the morning for family dinners that cook by themselves and are ready to enjoy at dinner time.
- You can also make life easier with meals that require minimal washing up. Try our popular recipes for delicious sheet pan dinners, dump dinners, pasta casseroles, and one-dish meals.
Once you've got a plan for the week, post it on the fridge door, so your family can look forward to the week's menus. (It can also serve as a helpful reminder when you need to defrost something).
Create a Snack Station for Kids
Minimize interruptions to your workday at home by setting up a snack station for kids, so they can help themselves when between-meal cravings strike. Set this up on a low shelf of the fridge or pantry so kids can reach it. The items you offer may differ based on the ages of your kids, but you can get some great ideas for every age group in our guide to healthy snacks for kids.
Establish House Rules
When kids will be staying home all day, it's worthwhile to establish some house rules around food. You may want to set limits on snacking between meals and when (or if) junk foods are allowed. Some parents don't mind making last minute substitutions at mealtimes, while others expect children to eat what's on their plates or choose a piece of fruit instead. Come up with your own guidelines to share with your family.
Ask Kids to Pitch In
There's nothing wrong with asking your kids to help out in the kitchen. Involving children in food preparation actually teaches them about food and nutrition and introduces practical kitchen skills they can use for a lifetime. Delegate duties when you can, based on kids' ages and abilities. Also consider how weekend baking and cooking projects might supplement children's other learning at home.
Not sure what your kids can handle in the kitchen? Learn about baking projects you can do with kids of every age.
Enjoy Family Meal Times
Really savor family meal times. This is not only important when you're juggling work and schoolwork. Making time to sit down together at the table teaches kids to pay attention to their food, socialize at the table, and take their time eating—all things that are good for their well being.
Remember to Be Kind to Yourself
Juggling working from home, cooking for kids, and keeping them on track with schoolwork demands a lot from parents. Give yourself a break and don't hold yourself to an impossible standard of perfection. Commend yourself for what you're able to do and when things go sideways, try to take it in stride and figure out what you could do differently next time. When you have a good day (or even a bad one), reward yourself—whether that means a homemade latte, a hot bath, or some time alone if you can swing it. You deserve it!