Here’s how a typical Tuesday night used to look in my house. I would get off of work and we’d all congregate in the kitchen around 6:30 with our tummy’s rumbling. I’d typically have one kid trying to pull ice cream out of the freezer for his “dinner”, I’d have another kid pretending to faint from hunger (despite the fact he’d eaten a hearty snack just a couple hours ago), and I’d have the third kid trying to tell me why we should eat sugary cereal for dinner. I didn’t have a plan and everything seemed to take too long to cook (anything longer than 10 minutes is too long at this particular moment). Sometimes I’d throw a frozen pizza in the oven and call it good. If I was feeling particularly motivated, I’d pop a bag of steamable broccoli in the microwave so they could have something green to go along with the pizza.
I knew something had to change, so I started experimenting with make ahead meals and got hooked. I still don’t have time for more than 10 minutes on a typical Tuesday evening to make dinner, but the dinners are infinitely better now because I’ve planned ahead. I’ve also learned some new recipes (sometimes out of desperation) for making a ten minute dinner even when I haven’t planned ahead. We still have the occasional frozen pizza, but it’s more of a rare occurrence at this point than the norm.
What I’ve learned so far has been through a LOT of trial and error, and I’m still learning more every day. But I know that there are other moms like me out there who are facing similar struggles and I’m hoping something in this blog will inspire and help them to save time cooking so they can spend more time with their kids, help them spend less on food, and help them ensure they feel good about what their family is eating.
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How to tell if you’re a busy vegetarian mom?
There are a lot of definitions of vegetarianism. My intent is to not define this for you – how you define it is your choice. What I can share is that all the recipes on this blog will not have any meat in them including red meat, chicken, fish, pork, etc. My recipes will sometimes be vegan (no animal products at all), but sometimes will include things like eggs, milk, butter, etc. I will mark the recipes so it’s easy to tell if it’s vegetarian or vegan. Side note: I personally have nut allergy, so won’t be including any recipes that have nuts in them in here. However, I know that like each person, each nut allergy is also very individual, so please read the recipes carefully if you have allergies.
In my family, I am vegetarian and my husband and kids are not. However, they eat mostly vegetarian meals simply because I’m the one who does most of the cooking. Whether there is just one person in your family who is vegetarian or the whole family is vegetarian, this site can help.
As far as the busy mom thing, unless you’ve got full time, live in maids, nannys, tutors, and chefs, if you have kids, you are probably a busy mom. Kids just have a way of making life busy. This blog is for you.
How to get started
- What do you need to get started?
- To get started, pick one healthy vegetarian side dish that you know your kids will eat, and figure out how to make it quick and easy for you to make. For me, it was frozen broccoli where to cook it only involved microwaving for five minutes and then dumping in a bowl. And my kids would eat it every time. Over time, you’ll add more recipes and tricks to getting healthy meals on the table while preserving your sanity, but it’s a journey. Just like you are a better mom now than when your first baby was born, because you’ve had time to grow and practice being a mom. Pick one thing, practice it, and then when you’re ready, pick the next thing. One step at a time.
Common Questions/FAQ About Feeding Your Family Healthy Vegetarian Food
- Do I have to spend hours and hours on the weekend meal prepping?
- Short answer is no, you don’t. I’ve met some women who devote hours every weekend to prepping meals for the workweek. And it works for them. But I’ve also met women who do no meal prep and have found other ways to make their weeknight dinners come together quickly. You need to find the balance for what works for you. I will recommend though, if you are going to spend the time to make a recipe, consider doubling it and freezing the second portion. Most things freeze well and it doesn’t take you much extra time to make double of something. (PS – the secret to freezing food without getting freezer burn is make sure there is no air touching the food, so squeeze all the air out of the ziplock bag before freezing)
- How do I plan ahead for what to feed my family?
- There are many different levels of planning for family meals. You could plan each meal for a specific day, write it on the fridge, and follow it strictly. You could create routines, such as Taco Tuesday or Lasagna Thursday to keep it simple and remove the question of “what’s for dinner?”. You could also compile a list of the 5-10 things your family likes to eat for dinner, put it on the fridge, and each night just pick the one that feels right. There are many different ways to plan, but if you are just starting out, I would recommend making a list of the three dinners you eat the most, and then make sure you always have ingredients on hand for those three meals as your “go to” dinner options when you need something simple. For me, I always have spaghetti and pasta sauce on hand.
- Will this be expensive and need a lot of specialty ingredients?
- You will likely save money with these recipes. They are significantly cheaper than eating out, and most vegetarian proteins are less expensive than meats. I shop at my local grocery store (which happens to be Kroger) and almost all for the ingredients are found there. As a busy mom myself, every dollar counts, so I don’t spend money on $20 bottles of specialty oils or $10 for specific specialty vegetables from higher end stores.
- What’s the easiest thing to cook for dinner as a vegetarian mom?
- The short answer is the easiest thing is the thing you’ve already cooked a million times. The first time you make anything will be a little harder, because you’re learning as you go. But after you figure out your kid loves a particular recipe, you’ll start making it more often and it will be come extremely easy. One of my favorite easy, no prep ahead of time meals is oven grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Comfort food whipped up quickly thanks to cooking the sandwiches in the oven instead of on the stovetop.
- How do I plan a meal if everyone in my family has different dietary restrictions?
- You have a couple options here. One option is to plan to the most restrictive diet, and then everyone eats the same thing. Another option (which tends to happen in my house), is prepare a customizable meal. For example, maybe we are eating a salad as our side dish tonight. If I know that my husband loves olives on his salad, but my oldest kid can’t stand olives, I will serve the salad without them but also put out a bowl where my husband can add his own olives to the salad.
- What if my kids don’t like what I cook for dinner?
- I have yet to meet a kid who will voluntarily eat whatever you serve him 100% of the time. How you handle this is a personal choice and you need to do what works well for your family. I can provide you with some options though that I’ve either used or seen used successfully in the past. One option is to make a desert ahead of time, place it in the middle of the table, and say when they finish what’s on their plate they can have some. The visual appeal usually works wonders. My favorite dessert to use for this is apple slices mixed with lime juice and a sprinkling of sugar. The kids LOVE it. I’ve also given them choices whenever possible. If our meal contains three things (maybe salad, veggie side, and veggie main dish), I will let them choose any two that they want put onto their plate. All are healthy and it gives the kid some control.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Thriving as a Busy Vegetarian Mom
- Start small and take the journey one step at a time, one recipe at a time.
- What tips do you have for other moms on how to live a healthy vegetarian life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.