We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Your advice on meals with kids (11/6)

In my earlier post about Halloween candy, my dear friend Annie (whom I’ve known for a shockingly long 20 years! oy!) asked a question about meals with two kids:

While we’re discussing eating – what do those of you with 2 working parents do about making dinner? Ms. Four – does your housekeeper cook every night? Now that we have 2 little ones, I find preparing dinner after getting home from work to be almost impossible. I read that I should prepare meals on the weekend, so yesterday I made 3 meals, but it really was a drag! Ideas?

First, the truth: yes, our housekeeper cooks most nights. When she doesn’t (as in the last two nights as she’s been sick), we usually pull together leftovers; order in from just about any restaurant because they all deliver here; or eat our expat-y club. This is partly why life is so easy for us here.

But, I know a lot of working moms who are married to working dads read my blog. So, what are your best strategies for getting healthy meals on the table at night?


6 November 2008 - Posted by | family, food, our life in egypt


  1. I have to admit that despite having two working parents who spent insane hours at the office we always sat down and ate dinner at the kitchen table as a family. Sadly, my father didn’t believe in ordering out and we lazy children didn’t believe in helping out. I still don’t know how they did it.

    Comment by Typ0 | 6 November 2008

  2. With Leo so young we still manage to sit down and eat every meal together (although I wonder how that will change as he grows and becomes involved in activities). Every weekend, before grocery shopping, we plan out our meals for the week, and base our shopping on that. We look for healthy quick things (lots of Cooking Light and Rachael Ray recipes) and usually get two nights+ worth of meals out of each recipe. That means we only have to cook 2-3 times a week, and we aim to do at least one of those on the weekend. Sometimes we factor in a frozen pizza or getting dinner out, if we’re going to be late.

    Comment by Kirstin | 6 November 2008

  3. I have a meal plan I stick to with almost a religious fervor.

    Each week, we have:

    a soup
    a pasta dinner
    an egg dish
    a bean dish
    and some sort of meatless fast food (veggie burgers, or maybe wheat ball sandwiches).

    The soup is good for two meals. I make 20-30 different soups each year, so there isn’t lot of repetition. I include salad or fresh fruit with every meal too, and with soup, there is usually a bread option.

    Pasta can be as quick as jarred sauce, or a more elaborate primavera, but it’s still on the table in less than 30.

    Eggs as a dinner meal are super-fast and easy. If I have extra time, I bake them as a quiche, if not, we have huevos rancheros, or scrambled and toast. With fruit, or a salad–it’s a 15-20 minute meal.

    We eat lots of bean dishes, I make a chickpea curry in less than 20 minutes–most of the ingredients are canned so it’s speedy. In the time that it takes to chop an onion, the water is on for the grain (usually quinoa, sometimes rice or cous cous).

    On Friday or Saturday nights, we usually have “fast food” which usually (ironically) takes a bit longer to prepare. I keep bags of frozen fries on hand, but if we have the time, I’ll make sweet potato fries and aioli. We also carmelize onions for the burgers, etc. but again, this could be a much quicker endeavor.

    That takes care of 6 nights of the week, on the 7th, I try to make something a bit more elaborate (or we’ll dine out/get a pizza,

    The menu is lightened for warmer weather–simpler soups, more salads for dinner, but in general, this menus has worked well for me for years. I’m not sugggesting that you adopt my menu, but to create your own that works for you and stick with it. I think that for me, the hardest thing was figuring out what to make at the end of the long day. The meal plan takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the equation.

    Comment by paige | 6 November 2008

  4. Well, I am lucky that Mike is the chef in our family. I have tried to force him into a 5-minute rule (5 minutes of preparation only). But he likes to cook gourmet so we had to compromise and we now have a 20-minute rule. Meaning he has until the rice/pasta finishes cooking to prepare what to put on it.

    We eat a lot of pasta with sauce (maybe with chicken in the sauce to add variety). And we have a lot of stir fry wit rice. And crock pot dinners that cook while we’re at work.

    We order out maybe once or twice a week. We used to do that a lot more but we were spending too much money that way so we cut back.

    For sure if I lived in the US we would be getting pre-cut veggies and stocking frozen pizza in the fridge. But alas all that stuff in the US that makes your life easier is not available here…

    Comment by cindyJ | 6 November 2008

  5. We were a 2 working parent family pretty much forever (pre-egypt..where I have enough time on my hands to get into trouble). My plan was to keep the pantry stocked with staples… and a whole lotta 10-15 minute meals. During that cooking time, I would drink a glass of wine…. youngest child would stand on a chair beside me and tell me about her day.

    Usually I would give the child a handful of almonds or some raw veg to chew on while she was waiting…

    When I had the time (usually Sunday afternoons) I would put on a whole chicken soup… there were 2 meals from that alone.

    It is never an easy job…there were many times we had brotzeit – that is the German evening meal… coldcuts – cheese – tomatoes… maybe a few condiments.

    (Apparently our ‘angry young Egyptian’ left that message on every expat blog in Egypt that mentioned the election…. such a special boy 😉

    Comment by Lynda | 6 November 2008

  6. Thanks for asking this! As a recently-returned-to-work mother (who works the night shift while dad works the day shift), I have been trying to figure out how to keep us nutritionally and economically fed (alas, eating as a family is not usually an option right now). These are some great ideas! I also try to get a couple meals out of each time I cook, and I meal plan for the next week before I grocery shop. I try to do a lot of one-dish meals that include vegetables and make sure to have fruit around the house, because I find those harder to get in for us (it’s so much easier to grab starch quickly, and we’re good on dairy because we drink milk all the time). For you quick-cooking veterans, how did you stock up on fast recipes?

    Comment by Libby | 7 November 2008

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