Busy, workday mornings mean chaos in the kitchen. There’re multiple lunch & snack boxes to be packed for three people – my toddler son, my husband and I. And breakfast is sacrosanct too. As a family we really believe in home cooked meals and this continued even after I joined full time work.
The one thing that makes it all happen is PREP or if you are fancy (or watch MasterChef Australia), mise en place. 😉 Food ingredients are washed, chopped and stored the night before. In the morning the contents are ready to go into the pan and cook into fresh, healthy meals for all of us. This ensures that all the cooking – breakfast and lunch boxes is done in under an hour. In fact, we also get time for a sit-down family breakfast every morning.
I am amazed at the amount of success days we have seen on workday mornings. Cooking breakfast and packed lunches in the morning before work was my biggest apprehension. However I think our family (because the work is shared between us, and cooking is not just my domain) is acing this game.
One of the biggest factors which have supported us in this endeavour have been food storage boxes from Tupperware India. Now I have grown up using Tupperware products. It has been the mainstay of our lunch boxes right through school and work.
So when I knew I would be prepping and cooking food on workday mornings, I knew I should look at Tupperware for my storage solutions.
There’s really no rocket science to making workday mornings work for you. It takes some planning and preparation. We started with a master list of food items and meals. On Sunday we choose the menu for the week and ensure that the pantry is stocked up accordingly.
Succeeding on workday mornings
Now begins the meal prep. I have categorized my meal prep into the types of items I will be cooking.
Our breakfasts are usually served hot. We like the Indian breakfasts like poha, upma, dosas. A good fall back option is always eggs. Yes there are some days when we just don’t have it in us to cook and we rely on cornflakes or oats. But on most days we find it is easy to prep for a hot breakfast by prepping the night before.
Packed lunch prep
Vegetable sabji/ curry (accompaniments)
My toddler son now goes to daycare because I am in full time employment. This means that he needs a school snack, a complete lunch and an evening snack too. He could have just eaten food that is provided by the daycare for the other children. But since he is dairy allergic we prefer to have things under our control.
A fresh vegetable curry is a must for my son’s afternoon lunch at school. He has this with roti or chapati which I pack at dinner time when my hired cook comes in to cook dinner for us. He loves french beans, cluster beans, cauliflower, broccoli dry curries.
My office has a superlative canteen facility and it would be a crime to not eat there, so good is the food. However now that I cook in the morning anyway I find it easier to pack a lunch box for myself too. This reassures me that the food I eat while I am in the office is healthy and will be good for me.
Packed lunch prep: rice & dals (lentils)
BabyT prefers Indian home food over pasta or noodles etc. The latter are fun snacks for him and never fit his bill of lunch or dinner. So while most parents would advise me to rejoice, it also means I have to ensure there is chapati/ roti (Indian breads,) rice and dal (lentils) at every main meal.
My son also has a nap at school and when he wakes is ravenously hungry. I send him some almond or soya milk for his wake up cuppa. But a dry snack is also added to his bag to keep him content till pick up time.
Well begun is half done
To help me cook all these different and varied items on workday mornings, I make sure I am prepped and set up the night before. In the morning both my husband and I work in tandem to either take care of our toddler son or work in the kitchen.
Here’s what the workday eve looks like in our house.
Wash, chop & store
The most effort intensive of chores in the morning are the breakfast and vegetable curry accompaniment for our lunch boxes.
As I mentioned earlier breakfasts are served hot and most often consist of Indian items such as poha, upma, dosas, egg bhurji etc.
I prep by doing things like roasting the rava the night before and storing it in a container. This doesn’t even need refrigeration and can be left outside on the kitchen counter (covered of course.)
You can also go a step ahead and cook the vegetables and then mix the roasted rava to this mix and then store it. In the morning all you have to do is add hot water to this mix and cook it.
I also ensure that I healthify the upma or poha by adding lots of veggies to it. And that means washing, drying, chopping and storing the veggies the night before. I like using the reactangular Keep Tab bowls for this. Just my OCD that square and rectangular objects stack up well and so are better for storage in fridge shelves. Same goes for vegetables for the curry/ lunch accompaniments. I wash, dry and chop them to suit the curry I have on my menu plan and then store them in the box. Vegetables like potatoes, pumpkins or gourds also get flash cooked in the cooker and then cooled and stored in containers.
I don’t chop onions because I read somewhere you should not chop and store them in the fridge. However, I have an onion chopper and it makes the task so easy and fun that I wish I could chop onions all day long. No tears, ready in less than 1 minute. The onion chopper has got to be the most revolutionary invention in recent times. ?
My favourite breakfast dish to prep the night before, however are pancake mixes. I mix up various flours – wheat, nachni (ragi) or other millets, oats, flax seed powder and almond/ soya milk in the Tupperware Star Bowl. This bowl is then stored overnight in the fridge.
You can also add cocoa powder, sugar/ powdered organic jagegry or honey to the mix. We are a dairy free house, because my son is allergic to dairy, but you can also add regular cow’s milk instead of soy/ almond milk.
I don’t add egg to this pancake mix during the storage stage. If I want eggs then they are added in the morning. In the mornings when I wake up I take out the storage containers from the fridge and leave them on the work top. After a quick morning walk I am back in about 30 minutes to start cooking. Breakfast cooking and eating with the family is a less stressful and more fun this way.
Helping rice and lentils cook faster
Rice and lentils (dals) are a daily consumed item in our house. In fact they are cooked twice a day, for lunch and dinner. While cooking rice and dals are not tedious, it greatly helps to have them cook in a jiffy. And I achieve this by pre-soaking them.
Some dals like masoor and mung don’t need any soaking at all. They cook very well and fast. Usually lentils like tur dal, chana dal getting a soak thirty minutes to an hour before cooking time is good enough. But whole pulses like chick peas, kidney beans or black eyed peas require intensive soaking, most often overnight.
What I do therefore, is to soak the rice and dals the night before too. I make sure it’s the last thing I do before I close down for the night. But a good soak makes the rice and dal soft and they cook in almost half the time or less than they normally do. Having these two items on my list cooked and ready for packing is a big stress abated.
Ready to cook
Now when I say ready to cook, I don’t actually mean stuff that you get out of a packet and then cooking it. But much prep can be done in advance when time is a virtue, especially over the weekend.
Bhuna masala (onion tomato fried curry paste) can be cooked over the weekend and stored in batches. A good bhuna masala can in fact last you months.
Beetroot and Potatoes – regular or the sweet variety, can be boiled and stored in the fridge for the week. They come in very handy when there’s nothing else to cook or to make a quick snack such as a cutlet for evening snack. They need the addition of basic condiments like chat masala or coriander cumin powder and then patted into shape and shallow fried.
Some of you may ask why use plastic containers when it would be so much more sustainable to use steel or glass. Well, glass is out of the contention because we have a toddler around the house. Steel is feasible but fails to deliver when it comes to qualities like reheating food in the microwave or being leak proof.
Tupperware containers are 100% virgin plastic, which means they are first use plastic. Tupperware is for life. The quality of plastic is durable, making the products long lasting and reusable. Tupperware also offers a lifetime guarantee which means that you can ask for replacement of lids or jars if you feel they have become damaged over the course of use. When you are done with a product and no longer see use for it you can also return them to Tupperware, who recycle them.
Plastic usage needs to be reduced and that’s definitely true for single use plastic. However any product which offers you the option of reusing it over and over again is still a win.
Working full time has not changed the way we ensure we are eating healthy. Eating healthy has also meant us being more active and alert at work. With a little planning in advance our family tries to do our best to make sure that the food we eat everyday is wholesome, hearty and nutritious. That gives us so much more leeway to let our hair down at the weekends and indulge.