For most of my life, I took breakfast for granted. Heck, I took eating for granted—until I had a baby. He taught me that even a food writer could lose her kitchen footing in the relentless deluge of spit-up (his) and tears (mine).
But eventually I figured out enough clever work-arounds to fill a cookbook. For the book, I assembled a group of more than 100 new moms, who tested my recipes to make sure they worked amid real-life challenges. For a chapter devoted to the needs of WOHMs (work-outside-the-home moms), I asked the testers how they managed their early-morning sustenance. Many reported sharing duties with their partners, but the ones who handled the bulk of it had the most to say.
Turns out, nobody knows better how to fit in a good breakfast than a woman who’s forced to shower, dress, and put on makeup while also nursing and changing an infant—and still make it to work on time. Here are 6 smart ideas for anyone — with kids or no — to get a good breakfast in less time on busy mornings.
- Mass-Produce: Hard-boil your eggs by the dozen, peel, and keep ‘em front & center in the fridge. Grab two and a piece of fruit, maybe a hunk of bread, and you’ve bought yourself a few hunger-free hours. (Because they’re a nice mix of protein and fat, hard-boiled eggs make a filling, easy snack, too.)
- Take Spuds on the Run: You’d be surprised how tasty—and filling—a naked baked potato can be (sweet potatoes, even more so). I learned this trick during my hard-bodied, pre-kid days, when I’d spend my early mornings building muscle instead of feeding a hungry baby. I’d bake a half-dozen at a time, then pack a potato and two eggs in my gym bag to munch between shower and office.
- Drink It: “I’m not much of a breakfast eater, but my fastest breakfast is one I think of as a genius cop-out,” said Heather B., one of the moms who helped with the book. “I drink my coffee with a lot of skim milk, and I add a packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast. It’s almost like a mocha.” I like to drink my breakfast, too, in green smoothie form.
- Defrost It: When you do have time to make a honking big breakfast, double your recipe and freeze the extras individually. Try it with pancakes, waffles, French toast, muffins and sliced quickbreads, even mini-frittatas baked in muffin tins. Transfer a portion to the fridge before you go to bed, or defrost in the microwave in the AM.
- Supercharge It: Speaking of pancakes, if you want to be able to eat them on the go, build extra flavor into the batter—then you won’t need syrup, or a fork. When we’re running late, I roll up a pair of Apple-Cinnamon Whole Wheat Pancakes (yes, at room temp) to munch while walking my kid to the school bus.
- Cook While You Sleep: Simmer steel-cut oats overnight in the slow cooker, and breakfast practically makes itself. No slow cooker? No problem. “A big pan of steel-cut oats made on Sunday lasts us through the week,” said Alexandra S., another mom-tester. “When I’m assembling lunches, I put some in a container with brown sugar and eat it when I get to work.”
Obviously, moms don’t have a monopoly on good planning. What’s your favorite workday breakfast?
Debbie Koenig is a food writer and the author of Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, and Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents (Morrow, 2012). Find her at her blog, Parents Need to Eat Too, or @debbieharry on Twitter.
(Images: Debbie Koenig)