Food Preparation Tips For Busy Families

With busy households, it’s hard to find time to cook at home and eat right. While I was home with the kids, one of my goals was to eat healthy. Not only to save money and lose weight, but also to encourage healthy eating for our little ones.

I like fresh food, and eating a variety of dishes. But who has the time and energy to cook every day! So I came up with some shortcuts and time-saving tips to use in the kitchen that are good for our families and our budget! Originally published on Ottawa Mommy Club website, including some marinade recipes. Check out the entire post here:


  • Throw a bunch of chicken bones into a pot of salted boiling water to make chicken stock. Pour the cooked stock into ice cube trays and freeze. When recipes call for broth, it’s easy throw in a few cubes.
  • Use salad dressing as a quick cooking sauce. Check out some recipes at

Get Organized

  • Make breakfast the night before. Some ideas are: instant stovetop oatmeal, boiled eggs, and scrambled eggs.
  • Pack your lunch and kids’ lunches the night before.
  • Set aside a few hours on the weekend to cook for the week (or for 3 days worth of meals).
    • Shop for ingredients on Friday.
    • Do the chopping and food preparations on Saturday.
    • Cook it up on Sunday.
  • Defrost something from the freezer in the middle of the week.
  • Invest in a deep freezer!
  • Treat yourself to takeout towards the end of the week to help you make it into the weekend.

Quick Dishes

  • Make easy Indian-style basmati rice on the stove or rice cooker by adding frozen peas, a dash of turmeric, cumin seeds and chicken broth.
  • Use a rice cooker for cooking pasta. Add less water than listed on package directions. Recently I tried out a quick and easy tomato penne pasta recipe with dry pasta, water, spaghetti sauce, oregano and grated cheese.
  • If your rice cooker has a steamer, steam veggies on top while the rice is cooking and you’ll have a side dish ready for dinner.
  • Try out crockpot recipes. Throw in a bunch of ingredients in the morning before leaving for the day. When you get home, dinner will be ready.

Simple Marinades

When you buy meat, poultry or fish for freezing, divide it up into meal-sized portions. Or try marinating it before freezing. Mix it with your favourite marinade, put it in Ziploc bags and label it. When you are ready to defrost it for cooking, the meat will marinate and tenderize while it defrosts. This saves you a step when it comes time to cook.

a)     Stirfry or Pasta: Marinate chicken breast pieces or beef strips (I buy shawama-cut pieces from the local butcher) with garlic, ginger, and your favourite dry rub or seasoning mix. Separate meat or poultry into 1 pound portions and put each in Ziploc bags. Label and freeze. Great for stirfries, pastas, casseroles, anything!

b)     Rotisserie: You could do the same for chicken thighs or legs. Marinate and freeze with St. Hubert or Swiss Chalet seasoning mix from the grocery store and you have a restaurant‐style meal at home. When it comes time to cook, take out the chicken, defrost, throw it in the oven / toaster oven / BBQ and let it cook while you do something else.

c)     Jerk: This is Mr. Mama’s favourite marinade. With chicken pieces, mix the following ingredients for a citrusy taste: orange juice, lemon, lime, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger, olive oil, worchester sauce, brown sugar, and soy sauce.

d)      Tandoori: My favourite marinade is tandoori chicken. In a bowl, mix the following ingredients (Note: measurements are approximate):

  • 4-6 chicken legs or thighs
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp each of garlic & ginger paste.
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tbsp of tandoori masala (I used Shaan)
  • 2 tsp Paprika for colour
  • 1 tsp garam masala (or ¼ tsp each of cinnamon, clove and cardamom powders)

Variation: Instead of lemon juice, use yoghurt. Using the two together will cause the mixture to curdle.

Once you’ve mixed the chicken and marinade, divide the chicken into two Ziploc bags. Label and freeze.

There you have it, some ideas from our kitchen to yours!


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About the author

Ambereen is mom to two cute twins Mister and Missy, now with a third baby on the way! She’s Canadian eh, and lives in Canada’s capital with her husband, Mr. Mama. Between travelling and a busy social life, she works full-time in the public sector in IT policy. She enjoys writing short stories interjected with subtle humour about life adventures, sharing recipes, and coming up with fun yet simple activities to do with the kids. After a short hiatus where life got in the way of writing, she is back blogging at 2Cute – Adventures in Twin Parenting. She is looking forward to sharing her experiences here about life with twins + 1. And yes, it’s only one this time!

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