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Six of My Best Time-Saver Tips for the Busy Cook

07/28/2015 12:04 EDT | Updated 07/28/2016 05:59 EDT
Shutterstock / Mert Toker

There are no breaks when you have to feed children with celiac disease and food allergies. Many people ask me how I manage to prepare enough good food that is delicious and safe for my kids. For one thing, I am constantly thinking about what they will have to eat. For another, there are no cutting corners. So while other moms in a pinch might order takeout, buy prepared foods or bring home their parents' leftovers, those options are not possible for those of us with kids with celiac and/or allergies. We have to be super creative, forward thinking and organized.

There is constant food prep for each child you have with celiac or allergies; three meals a day plus snacks seven days a week, 365 days a year. At first I was scrambling trying to figure out what to feed my kids until I learned to manage it all with these six simple time-saving ways to prepare meals and snacks. Today this is my gift to you!

1. Cook or bake in volume. If you are making Sheppard's Pie or Lasagna for supper, make enough for at least five or more extra single- sized portions for the freezer. Just when you are out of lunch ideas, it is a quick and fast meal to pull out of the freezer. You may want to include veggies inside the pie so that it is a well rounded meal making it unnecessary to make a side dish.

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Easy cutting: Lasagna can fall apart when cutting. Here is a trick. Freeze them overnight. Once frozen, you can use a large chef's knife to cut single portions. Wrap each piece in saran wrap. If there is meat inside, make sure you put it right back into the freezer before it thaws out.

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2. Freeze microwavable meals: Buy microwaveable containers that fit a good meal size for your kids. Make your own frozen dinners with veggies, a protein and a starch all in the one container. Some ideas: Chicken, rice and stir-fry veggies/meat, potatoes and veggies.

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3. Kid-friendly breakfast on the go: Did you know you can make pancakes and waffles in advance and freeze them? I make batches of three small pancakes (the portion my kids would eat in one sitting) and wrap them in saran. I make enough for weeks and place them in a zip lock bag. My kids take out pancakes or waffles for breakfast and just microwave them in seconds for a quick snack or breakfast. It's a great way to save on money too!

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4. Stock up on pantry staples.

Pasta: This is an easy pantry item and who doesn't like pasta! There are many gluten-free kinds these days to choose from and can be made with different sauces like olive pesto, tomato sauce, or meat sauce. When they are on sale, stock up!

Taco night: I always like to be prepared for taco night! I keep frozen ground meat on hand and a fridge and pantry filled with taco fixings; shells, salsa, olives etc.

5. Frozen pizzas: While it may be easy to make each time, once you're in it why not line up ½ dozen or more pizza crusts at a time, slap on your sauce, add the cheese and toppings and flash freeze them. Pull them out a few hours later and wrap each one individually. Ready to eat pizza.

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6. Individualize Desserts:

Bake a batch of brownies and cut them up in small pieces. Freeze it first to get a nice edge, wrap each one in saran wrap and pop into the freezer. Do the same with cake, cupcakes, pies, cookies, etc. From one recipe you can make many individual desserts. It's also handy for the unexpected. 2015-07-27-1438033742-7190911-browniestodiefor.JPG

On a last note, if this is possible for you to do I highly suggest that you buy an extra freezer. While this may sound extravagant, I don't know how I would manage any other way. I freeze mostly everything; soups, meals, pizzas, cupcakes, pies, bread, etc. Many people who have celiac or gluten intolerance buy frozen. So even if you don't fill it up with homemade meals, you will want to have on hand frozen store bought goods.

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