For those of you who read my more personal Joy of Writing blog, this will be a repeat. But, for those of you who don’t, I thought I’d repost this here…
Okay, so I can’t say that I absolutely hate to cook. I really don’t. But, picture this scenario:
I have just wrapped up the “together” school times with each of my children and have moved to the next stage of my day, either writing or school planning/prep. I really enjoy teaching my children, writing, and planning, so my morning usually flies!
Suddenly, I look up and it’s noon - or after! I know I need to get lunch on the table by 12:30 because Doug and I both have a tight lunch window.
Thirty minutes, at the most. That’s what I have, start to finish, to get a meal on the table. There are plenty of things I can cook in thirty minutes, but suddenly I am paralyzed. I can’t come up with a single idea. Or, if I can, it’s something we don’t have the ingredients for. Or we had it yesterday. Or it’s another chicken dish, and our red-meat needing family has had chicken three days in a row and just can’t do it another day without throwing us all out of whack.
So, the minutes tick by and I’m thrown into a tizzy.
My amazing hubby works best in a situation like that. He starts grabbing ingredients from here and there and produces an amazing meal.
I, on the other hand, freeze up.
So, how do I combat this problem? Well, I have several tricks up my sleeve.
- Menu plan. That, really, is the best trick. Plan a month at a time, go grocery shopping for as many ingredients as we can possibly store for that length of time, and have the hard part done for me. Even on the days when I don’t want what’s planned, I at least have a plan. It’s much easier to change the plan than to not have one.
Unfortunately, I am not always diligent to menu plan. In fact, I don’t have a plan more frequently than I do. So, while planning is best - and is always my intention - I need a few more tricks.
- Buy meats in bulk and cook ahead. Meat is usually cheaper in bulk. It takes a little shifting of the grocery budget, but it can be done. When we return home after a bulk shopping trip, we subdivide the meat, freeze some as is in meal-size portions, and prepare the rest for specific meals.
Here are are few of our favorite preparations:
- Pre-brown ground beef with favorite seasonings for making quick spaghetti, tacos, or other such meals.
- Cut up chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and fry up some homemade chicken nuggets. About the same price as a bag of processed nuggets, and MUCH better.
- Flay some small chicken breasts, place a small piece of Swiss cheese and ham inside, fold it over, dip it in flour/egg wash/bread crumbs, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes (flip halfway through). Cool, wrap each breast in plastic wrap, seal in a freezer bag, and pull out, thaw, and reheat for a great chicken meal!
- Boil or crock pot a whole chicken. Debone and divide into 2-cup portions (standard recipe amount for most cut/pulled chicken meals) for freezer storage.
- Double cook as many meals as possible. Making a lasagna, spaghetti, pot pie filling, chicken & dumplin’s, soup, or any number of other meals.? I go ahead and make enough for two or three meals. I used to buy disposable pans to place in the freezer. Then I snagged enough glass baking dishes that I could freeze those instead. But, as my plastic storage containers started falling apart, I needed the glass baking dishes more and more for other things. That’s when we switched to just storing meals in freezer bags.
When we have an exceptionally busy day (or on a Sunday), we just snag a bag from the freezer, fill the crock pot with water, and let the meal defrost and reheat right there in the bag. Quick, easy, no-mess meal.
Do these tips always help? No, they don’t. Why? Because every last one of them requires at least a smidgen of planning ahead. And I don’t always do that well. But, when I do, it makes all the difference in the world!