When you have an at-home daycare, preparing meals for so many children at once can feel like your biggest challenge. In general, it’s best to stick with foods you know the kids will like. You don’t want to have to make separate foods to please all the picky palettes in the crowd. Use these bulk cooking tips to make things go more smoothly and make sure you don’t have too much time and food wasted.
When you have a lot of little ones around, it’s easy to find your attention divided. Whenever possible, you’ll find it’s best to prep the foods when the kids aren’t around. For example, it’s easy to use fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks or side dishes. As soon as you bring them home from the grocery store, take the time to wash them and cut things up if necessary, then place them in containers in the refrigerator. When it’s time to eat, you simply need to bring out the containers and put things onto the plate. When you get meals ready, make sure you have a few hands on deck to help with the kids while you prep food. You don’t want to be straddling two jobs at once.
When making sandwiches, tacos, or other types of meal that might require small modifications for each child, set things up like an assembly line, and work your way down. If it’s peanut butter sandwich day, lay all of the plates in a line, then take your jar of peanut butter down the line and put it on one slice of bread. Follow up with the jar of jelly, then go back and put the pieces of the bread together and cut them as you like. This can save you a lot of time and make prepping easier.
The less actual cooking you have to do, the easier your job is. Try sticking with choices you can easily cook in one pot. For example, most kids like macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, or soup. When you have a crowd-favorite like one of these, you just need to throw it in the pan and heat it up. Serve with a healthy side dish of fresh fruits and vegetables and you’ll have an easy and balanced meal. If you can, use restaurant grade appliances like a bigger stove, outdoor refrigerator, or Frymaster for cooking and storing food specifically for the daycare. Companies like K & D Factory Service Inc can repair or supply replacement parts saving the life of your personal appliances.
Commercial frozen meals are often loaded with salt, but you can make your own healthy frozen meals for your daycare. Think about foods that will freeze well, such as casseroles, chili, and burritos, and double up your recipes next time you make them, freezing the extras. It won’t take you a lot of extra time to make the extra servings, but you’ll save time in the long run.
Most kids like things simple, so you don’t have to go crazy planning meals for your daycare. Focus on what the kids like, and include some healthy foods to go with them. Always try to keep meals balanced with fruits, grains, vegetables, dairy and protein.