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A friend of mine was telling me that she had resorted to frozen dinners every night because she did not have time to cook. I thought about that, and decided that cooking and working outside the home were not mutually exclusive activities. After all, I put home cooked meals on the table just about every night without resorting to “dinner in a bag”.
It wasn’t always like that, though. There was a time when the manager of the local Domino’s Pizza would call with the specials for that day. (I’m not kidding. He did.)
So I learned how to cook and work. Here are my secrets:
Every two weeks I sit down and plan out the dinners for two weeks. This includes side dishes and notations for where I can find the recipe. I also make note of any prep work that needs to be done ahead of time, and if the meal requires special timing. (for my menu form, see the Menu Planning Sheet)
From this menu plan I make my grocery lists. This allows me to shop every two weeks, and eliminate running to the grocery store in between. (And if my husband decimates something I had a plan for, he has to go to the store to replace it.)
When I cook the meals depends on the schedule. I do most of my heavy-duty cooking on weekends, and I prepare enough for leftovers. If the weekend is busy, I may go for a shorter-cooking-time crockpot meal. If I have more time, I may choose to make a more involved meal.
I also look at what the schedule is like the rest of the week. Thursday are Girl Scouts, so we have to leave the house at 5. My goal for that night is to have something quick to prepare that can be reheated for my husband to eat later.
I rely heavily on a few small appliances. My slow cookersare used at least once a week. My rice cooker makes wonderful rice in as much time on the stove, but without the danger of boil-overs. My bread machine is used at least twice per week, once to make bread to go with soup, and once to prepare pizza dough.
I also rely on tools for food prep. For soups that have large quantities of veggies, I run them through the food processor. But I have an old-fashioned food slicer that I use for slicing items quickly (it’s actually faster than the food processor). For small amounts of chopping I rely on my Pampered Chef Food Chopper (it’s the only Pampered Chef thing I use regularly, and it’s held up amazingly well for over six years).
Tricks of the Trade
I find that the easiest way to make home-cooked meals happen is to make it simple. I don’t do fancy foods often, and most dishes I prepare rely on a small amount of ingredients with simple cooking methods. No twelve-pan meals for me!
I have a stash of stand-by recipes that are easy and fabulous. I love my crockpot burrito recipe, which can be assembled in 5 minutes with frozen chicken breasts and ingredients from the pantry. Cooked all day, and we have a no-fuss meal when we get home.
I also prepare things ahead of time. If I know I’m going to need chopped onions for the next three meals, I’ll chop them all at once. I prepare a huge tossed salad at the beginning of the week and it serves us for a few days.
Putting good food on the table doesn’t have to be difficult. Rely on appliances, do a little planning, and you will find it’s really not all that hard.
Photo by oskay