The kitchen can be an intimidating place for me. If it’s not about baking cookies, breads, granola bars, etc., it’s just not fun. I can cook. That’s not a problem. If I have a recipe in front of me, I rarely have a problem creating something palatable. And, I’ve learned enough from my mom and hubby that I can sometimes even prepare meals without recipes. But, there is one major thing that paralyzes me: figuring out what to fix. And frequently when I finally come up with something that sounds good, I find I’m lacking a key ingredient to fix it. With the grocery store 15 minutes away, there’s no way to run out and grab that ingredient quickly and make our noon meal at any decent time, especially considering we need to be doing certain school tasks while I’m working on dinner.
The solution for me is two-fold.
1) Plan ahead. Make a list of meals, post them in slots on the calendar, and post the calendar on the fridge. I also list it in my school planner. That way it’s in front of me all the time. I know exactly how much effort needs to be put into the meal, and I don’t spend all my prep time staring into the pantry with a glazed look on my face.
2) Cook ahead. Even if I know what I’m supposed to prepare, I don’t have a lot of time in the mornings to make a meal. I do all of my teaching in the mornings, except for a little one-on-one time with the girls after lunch. I essentially have thirty minutes before lunch to devote to being in the kitchen once the breakfast dishes are cleaned up. That would automatically exclude some of my kids’ favorite meals like quiche, pot pie, parmesan chicken cordon blue, and peachy chicken. So, I will cook ahead. Right now I have enough meat sauce in the deep freezer, subdivided into meal-size portions, to make six to eight meals of lasagna and spaghetti. I have four meals worth of peachy chicken, and five or six of parmesan cordon blue. I have three and a half dozen balls of frozen pie dough ready to thaw and roll out for quiche or pot pie. And, next time I make a pot pie filling, I’ll at least double it so I can freeze a bag or two of that as well.
When I take the time to do this, it makes a HUGE difference in our week. When I don’t, well, our meals are just not pretty. Or healthy, for that matter.
If this sounds helpful to you, do you need some recipes and tips for planning ahead? I recommend 30 Meals in One Day. About a year ago I posted about our first experience with the program on my family blog. Here’s part one and part two. We don’t typically follow the plan to a “T”, but some of our favorite recipes (such as the peachy chicken and parmesan cordon blue) come from that book, and I learned so many freezer tips as well.