Sometimes it feels like I spend the bulk of my time in the kitchen – either cooking or cleaning up (the rest is spent in the laundry room! ) So, if there is a way to streamline my cooking duties, I am all for it. I actually love to cook -it’s everything that goes with it that I could live without! With a busy family, I don’t want to spend all of my time in the kitchen, so I’ve been working on ways to cut down on time spent there. Here are a few things I’m trying – PLEASE share your tips as well. As you will see, I’m only scratching the surface of all the possibilities.
Gulp – just the phrase ‘bulk cooking’ inspires terror 🙂 There are lot of sites out there with how-tos on cooking for a month in one day. I have yet to try a day of cooking, but I have dipped my toe in and done some cooking ahead. Here’s how:
Prepare part of the ingredients ahead of time. Both Kim and Tricia had mentioned cooking their meat all at once when they did their shopping. I finally gave it a try and I love it. They cook their ground beef in the crock-pot, drain, cool and bag it.
TIP – don’t forget to leave out meat for meatloaf, meatballs, etc. I bulk cooked all of mine one week and was dismayed when I went to get some for burgers! You can go ahead and shape those burgers & meatballs, though, before you freeze them.
I also usually buy the split breast chicken since it is cheap. I boil several of them in my big pasta pot with chopped carrots, celery, onion if I have it on hand to add a little flavor. Then I cut it up and bag it to freeze. You can use the stock to make something else like homemade chicken noodle soup.
This method is also handy for pre-chopping veggies and fruits.
Cook two meals at once: maybe cooking for a month or even a week is a little daunting. Try just two meals. The other night, I was making pork chops, wild rice, and asparagus for dinner (sounds fancy, but it’s super simple!) and I decided to go ahead and make the next night’s chicken pot pie. For recipes and how-to, check my personal site later this week. It was a happy thing! Two home-cooked meals, with minutes of prep and virtually nothing to clean up the second night! You could combine lots of things this way and cut your cooking time in half.
TIP only try this on evenings when your calendar is clear so you are not stressed trying to do too much in too short a time. Also, it’s easiest to use something like a casserole for the second night.
Double up on other things: Are you making dough for a pot pie crust? Double the recipe and freeze the rest for something else (like pie!) next week. Making soup? Double that and store in the freezer in gallon bags for a yummy lunch, or even better, to bless a new mom or sick friend when the occasion arises. Tricia has recently posted about all the goodies they are preparing in one day. Check it out here .
Don’t hog the kitchen!
Let your kids help. I know that most nights I feel like I am rushing and I don’t have time to slow down and let them help. But if you put in a little time on the front end to teach them how to help with prep, you and they will reap big rewards. Instruct them on how to peel potatoes, grate cheese, or tear lettuce for a salad. Mine sit happily at the bar and do these things while I’m doing the rest. Then I’m not spending time doing simple things and it really speeds up the whole process.
Another fun thing to do if you are cooking by a recipe is let them measure and get out all the neccesary ingredients. This works best with older ones, who can read and reach. I’ve always thought it was so nice how the cooking show hosts had all their things laid out for them. Well you and I can, too!
TIP – if you want to do this, make sure to start them early enough to finish, so you won’t have to rush them. That just takes all the fun out of it!
Get hubby in on the action – my husband would be the first to tell you that his cooking repertoire is not huge. He does grill, so I always enjoy a break from the stove when he fires that up. I also enjoy it when he sits at the bar and talks to me while I’m cooking. He will often make a salad or help with other sides. He also often helps bag the raw meat, which he started doing while I was pregnant, but thankfully hasn’t stopped. I love that man!
Swap with a friend – I’ve known ladies who have taken turns once or twice a week. One cooks enough for both families one night and the other cooks for both the next. I have never tried this, and probably wouldn’t now with eight mouths to feed – that wouldn’t seem fair to the other person 🙂 But I love the idea – especially if you are neighbors!
That’s what I have for now. Pick one or two and start making them a habit in your home. And like I said, add your two cents, no matter how small of a tip. It might be just the thing someone needs to help ’em out in the kitchen!
Next week is my favorite…presentation. You’ve done all that hard work – planning, purchasing and preparing – don’t just toss it on the table. Make it special! See how next week…