I don't get it? How do you find time to cook? - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-17-2008, 02:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a one year old daughter and a 9 year old daughter and I just don't seem to be able to get organized enough to cook proper dinners and we end up ordering in a lot and eating out a lot. I keep trying to meal plan and it always falls through. I grocery shop but usually waste some food. I wish I enjoyed cooking but I really dislike it. Any advice?
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Old 09-17-2008, 02:52 AM
 
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I'm a single mom and I work full-time, so I can appreciate your time crunch. What works for us is that I shop and cook on Sunday. I usually make 2 or 3 entrees (1 in the crockpot--a busy mom's best friend), and 2 or 3 veggie dishes. I keep rice and pasta on hand and a crisper drawer full of fruit. It takes me about 10 minutes to get a yummy and healthy dinner on the table.

I'd be too overwhelmed to try to plan and shop and cook for a month. Plus, weekly shopping helps you incorporate the sale items.

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Old 09-17-2008, 03:21 AM
 
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I have written down some of our favorite staple meals on index cards with the main ingredients listed on the back. Each week I get my cards and pick 7 meals and then flip them over and write out my list. I then have the list of meal choices on the fridge and I start thinking about it in the morning. If I can get things prepped before 3pm then it works out. If I procrastinate and try to get dinner ready in the evening I always fail. I have to be thinking about which dinner I am going to cook early in the day so I can work up to getting it done.

Obviously you can tell this is not a strong suit of mine and I have to really work on it. Luckly my dh will cook dinner if I don't get it done. I do wish I was better at it but having a system does help me accomplish it most of the time.

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Old 09-17-2008, 11:25 AM
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If I am feeling particularly tired and in pain, I make a supper of boxed macaroni & "cheez" and hot dogs. :

Normally, I have a repertoire of quick and simple meals that require less than 20 minutes in the kitchen.
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Old 09-17-2008, 11:35 AM
 
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I work outside the home full time and have a two year old so I too completely appreciate your situation. We eat out way too much and I too am struggling to get on track with healthy home cooked meals. I would love to meal plan but I just can't seem to do it--I get all excited and determined to do it...and then sit there staring at my blank menu with no ideas for what to make. And we throw out a lot of unused food due to spur of the moment takeout. :

What works for me since I seem to be constitutionally unable to really meal-plan: I prep as many ingredients as I can, whenever I have the extra time. For example if I'm chopping an onion, I chop as many as I can stand and freeze them for use later. Same with peppers. I find if I don't have to all the grunt work like chopping I'm more likely to cook dinner.

I buy two-packs of whole organic chickens weekly at Costco and roast them in the crockpot, then shred the meat and keep it in the fridge or freezer for tacos, enchiladas, casseroles, salads, etc. That way when I get home and open the fridge in despair (oh no what will we have for dinner??), there are some basics upon which to build a meal. I have a programmable rice cooker that I use constantly. In the morning I can throw in some brown rice or quinoa or whatever looks good and voila, when we get home we have a grain ready to eat.

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Old 09-17-2008, 12:46 PM
 
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Meal planning. I woh ft as well and its a lifesaver for me. All the weeknight meals are fast and simple and things I know we like. Weekends I spend a lot of time making waffles or pancakes for the freezer, salads for the week, more involved meals, prepping veggies.

I have a list of stuff we like and plan from that. I save new recipes to try on weekends when I have more time. And I got my 2 year old interested in cooking so he's always right beside me on a chair "helping"
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Old 09-18-2008, 01:49 PM
 
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I always want to do the meal planning/cook alot on the weekends thing, but I haven't managed it yet. I too, WOHM, and so does Mr Toona. Seems like we spend the whole weekend running around trying to do the maintenance stuff - laundry, grocery shopping, errand running, mowing the lawn, trying to keep up with dishes, and the occassional desperate attempt to sleep in.

I'm thinking Im' going to start using the crockpot as a way to double cook (cook for future while I'm cooking for that evening) on the weekends to have something prepared in advance. But we shall see how that one goes. heh.

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Old 09-19-2008, 12:41 AM
 
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I have to be organized or it just doesn't work for me. My days are very busy too, I have a 10 month old and a two year old. I also watch a almost 2 year old, a two year old and a three year old from 7 to 5 every day and a 5 and 6 year old before and after school. I plan my meals out two weeks in advance. I make a lot of the same stuff over and over again. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen on the weekends prepping stuff while dh plays with our two. I have to plan the whole day out too nut just what we are eating, that way I have my cooking time planned in. It has taken me a while to get where I am, baby steps. Good luck!
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Old 09-19-2008, 01:25 AM
 
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I started small, and built up to cooking and enjoying cooking... It started in college with spaghetti and lasagna and tacos and american chili. And otherwise eating out a TON. And then when I became a SAHM it kind of blossomed and I realized that I LIKED cooking. But mostly, for me, its about cooking food that *I* like - thinking of stuff that I like to eat, that I order out at restaruants and then trying to re-create it at home. Trying to make it as good (or better) than in the restaruant. And mostly I've succeded - I now cook traditional mexican food like my mom/grandma, italian, indian, stir fry's, lots of stuff with beans and what not... but mostly just cook what I like. So just, cook what YOU like. Not what your DH or your kids like. What YOU like. Honestly, they'll eat it
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Old 09-26-2008, 10:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llamalluv View Post
Normally, I have a repertoire of quick and simple meals that require less than 20 minutes in the kitchen.
Oooh, can you provide a list, please? :
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Old 09-28-2008, 08:56 AM
 
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Originally Posted by rosie29 View Post
Oooh, can you provide a list, please? :
yes, please do!

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Old 09-29-2008, 01:27 AM
 
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The crock pot is your best friend. This is a great site with lots of good ideas! I use it to meal plan, frequently.
Otherwise, I write down menus for 10 days at a time, and shop specifically for that. You can google weekly menus or something similar, or cruise this forum. It's all in the planning--give yourself an hour and you won't regret it. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
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Old 09-29-2008, 01:35 AM
 
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I meal plan before I grocery shop. I know what is for dinner tomorrow already and the meat is thawing in the fridge. I plan for dinner to be ready at about the same time every day and tend to all the possible distractions that I can before I start cooking. I make it a point to cook every night because if we ordered in or went out for dinner all the time we would not have enough food money to last the entire month.
My favorite recipes are Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals. She uses good ingredients and most of the meals are fabulous and kid-friendly. I plan a crockpot meal once a week to give myself a bit of a break from real cooking and my husband will cook dinner once a week. It's really not so bad once you get in the habit of it.
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Old 09-29-2008, 01:54 AM
 
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We use the crock pot a lot. And I mean a *lot*. We will go and buy 2 weeks to a month worth of recipes (which really isn't that much since we tend to get 2 dinners out of each recipe). Then we chop up all the veggies we'll need to cook with, freeze them if needed (otherwise some of the stuff will go bad before it's used), then cook 2-3 meals at a time w/multiple crockpots going, and freeze everything. That way it's all ready to go and all I have to do in the morning is pull out a bag and throw it in (w/out the bag of course LOL).
Or sometimes we won't precook, but at least everything that's needed (beans, produce, etc) is ready for the crock pot and I just have to add seasoning, water, etc.
It's also soooo much cheaper this way.
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Old 09-29-2008, 02:09 AM
 
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on mondays during dd's nap, I plan out a week's worth of dinners, so I know what I'm cooking each night. I do this by going through anything that we have in the fridge that needs to be used up soon and then looking up recipes online that use those things. Then when she wakes up we go shopping for all the ingredients needed for the week.
I try to prep things as much as possible throughout the day, and then Dh watches dd while I take 30-60 minutes to cook dinner every night. We just started this a few weeks ago, and it seems to be working very well. We're having healthy, homemade dinners and saving money. And I'm actually really enjoying cooking now. It's a nice break from dd while dh gets to spend some time with her.

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Old 09-29-2008, 02:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rosie29 View Post
Oooh, can you provide a list, please? :
Sure. Most of these rely heavily on convenience foods, and could be really terrible for you if that's all you ate (high in sodium, fat, etc).

Ground beef stroganoff -

1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 packet brown gravy mix
1 cup water
Sour cream (or plain yogurt)
Noodles or rice, cooked

Brown meat with mushrooms and onions. Drain.

Mix in soup, gravy mix, and water. Cook until thickened (about 5 minutes).

Serve over noodles or rice, and top with sour cream.



Tuna Noodle Casserole
1 can tuna, drained
1 can cream of celery soup (or mushroom)
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
4 cups cooked egg noodles
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded
1 cup frozen peas (or mixed peas and carrots)
1/4 c bread crumbs
2 T parmesean

Butter casserole dish. Spread noodles in evenly. In separate bowl, mix tuna, soup, sour cream, cheese, and peas. Pour evenly over noodles. Top with bread crumbs and permesean. Bake for 25 minutes (or until crumbs brown and casserole "bubbles").


Cheesy tuna mac

1 box macaroni and cheese, prepared
1 can tuna, drained
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 c cheddar, shredded

Prepare mac & cheese to package directions. Add remaining ingredients. Heat through until cheese melts.


Sometimes I just cook chicken breasts in the crockpot all day with salsa, or stewed tomatoes, or even just some seasoning and a little water (i.e. lemon pepper) and then nuke a vegetable (squash, green beans, etc), reheat some rice or butter bread, and call it supper. :yawning:
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Old 09-29-2008, 05:14 PM
 
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Honestly? We meal plan once a week and we make v. v. simple things. Unless my DH has an urge and the time to cook something complicated (he's a chef at heart), one of us will make something easy that has a lot of leftovers we can eat for lunch and then dinner the next day. And we keep things around that can be made even more simply in an exhaustion emergency.

So this past week, DH threw a ham in the oven with some little potatoes and canned green beans on the stove. We ate that for two suppers and then had ham and cheese sandwiches for a week, plus we used the ham bone in the crock pot for split pea soup (just had to chop an onion for that) which lasted a few days with toast. We also made breakfast casserole with some of the ham (refrigerator biscuits in the bottom of a casserole dish, egg/cheese/veggie/meat poured over, bake) and that was breakfast for most of the week, with cereal or oatmeal or refrigerator cinnamon rolls as other options. To break up the ham monotony, lol, we had bean burritos which were just tortillas heated in the microwave, black beans heated on the stove and toppings (salsa, sour cream, and cheese). Oh, this time Dh did make rice and threw in some salsa and a can of corn but they'd be good anyway. OTOH, when he had to work late, I made : DS lunch of spaghetti-o's with canned peas in them, and a supper of crescent rolls filled with ham/cheese and cream cheese/jam. (what can I say, I'm a child of the 70's
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Old 09-29-2008, 05:24 PM
 
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Old 09-29-2008, 06:53 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaEli View Post
The crock pot is your best friend. This is a great site with lots of good ideas! I use it to meal plan, frequently.
Otherwise, I write down menus for 10 days at a time, and shop specifically for that. You can google weekly menus or something similar, or cruise this forum. It's all in the planning--give yourself an hour and you won't regret it. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
Whoa, this is a cool site. Thanks for posting!!!

Thanks for starting this thread, OP. I'm just coming out of the same kind of funk you were in. I hope some of these suggestions have helped you. I know they'll help me!

Marilyn, wife to DH 09/02 and mama to my boys, DS1 11/06 and DS2 02/09, and a new one on the way in 06/12!

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Old 09-29-2008, 07:12 PM
 
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For us, meal planning is essential. I sit down once a week and plan our meals for the week. This is also when I create a grocery list. A lot of times I'll cook dinner when the baby is napping (which can be anywhere from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.) so I can cook dinner without distraction. Then I'll just warm it in the oven when my husband comes home. I try to start early and prepare the meal throughout the day - for example, 11:00 am I might start chopping veggies, and then later I'll prep the meat when my son is eating happily in his high chair in the kitchen later in the day...I just find meal preparation with young children a lot less stressful that way! Crock-pots are also great, and making extra portions of meals when you have the free time and freezing them is also another great option.

Bradley Teacher, Doula, Wife To DH (6 yrs), Mama to DS (9/07), DS (4/09), and due in February of 2011
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Old 09-29-2008, 08:19 PM
 
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I have 8 children, ages 16 and under. We can NOT afford to eat out very often. In other words, I have to cook dinner.

I agree with a lot of what has been posted. Meal planning is essential, and the crock pot is your best friend. It's also good to prep as much as possible when you bring the groceries home from the supermarket.

My very favourite trick, though, is one that kathirynne (yes, our very own MDC organizational and frugality guru) taught me. (kathirynne is a single mumma of 4, who works 45 hours a week, has two high school athletes, and is active in her church. She is organized to the nth degree. Ummmm, yeah, she's pretty much my hero. )

Anyway, kathirynne cooks tomorrow's dinner tonight. In other words, between coming home from work at 5:30 and sitting down to the table with her children at 6:30, she preps the next night's dinner as much as possible. This could mean anything from making biscuits or rolls to tearing lettuce leaves and mixing salad dressing. It could also mean getting a head-start on a multi-step recipe.

I was a little skeptical at first, but I tried it, and IT WORKS! Dinner is no longer a hassle. :

Maybe, if we ask reallllly nicely, kathirynne will post on this thread and tell us exactly how she does it?
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Old 09-29-2008, 09:25 PM
 
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I always have the same things on-hand. A variety of cooked beans (I put 2 bags in my pressure cooker, once it's at pressure I turn off the burner and they cook w/o me worrying about them... I often do this when I get home from work/start dinner, then rinse them and put into tupperware for later), easy vegtables (for us that carrots, celery, squash/eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers and salad mix), tortillas, salsa, cheese, pasta and vinagrette. Any night I'm not up to cooking I combine stuff together in a pan and it become either burritos or pasta. Some weeks we have "variations" of the standards every night. Sat was burritos with squash/eggplant/black beans, Sunday was pasta with tomatoes and basil (from the one plant I haven't killed). On my days off (like today) I will try to make something more interesting, I will make 8-10 servings and put leftovers in fridge for lunches. Most night dinner includes a salad made from a mix + cherry tomatoes+ baby carrots.

Oh and dh keeps a stash of ground beef in 1 lb vacuum sealed bags in the freezer. If he feels the need for meat he will brown up a bag and add it to whatever we're eating.
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Old 09-29-2008, 11:33 PM
 
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This is a great thread.

My meals are very simple:

grain: brown rice or quinoa in rice cooker or baked sweet potato (DH is gluten intolerant)

veg: some kindof cooked veg. steamed, seasoned with salt, olive oil, lightly, etc.

salad

meat, chicken thighs, sauteed, burgers, fish popped in the oven, pork tenderloin, etc.

I usually try and put the grain in the rice cooker during or right after DS's nap, or when I get a free minute. I try and get DS involved in washing the veg. if I can. Today I made chard, I put a bathmat on the floor and put a dishpan with a little water in it on it and he sat and washed it to death while I put on the chicken. If DH comes home in the middle of it, he will watch DS while I finish. Getting it actually on the table, serving the plates can be the hardest part because by that point DS is pulling on my leg hollering for me. I let him peel carrots, wash greenbeans, potatoes, tonight I put a stool at the sink and gave him a dishpan of soapy water to play in, anything to distract him and let him be a part of so I can just get it done.

DH started working with a nutritionist recently, and they recommended smaller portions of meat (we used to be veg, but I can't keep it up nursing or pg) so I halved our meat portions down to what is recommended, 3-4 oz. It cut our food bill WAY down, and is healthier too...

Wife to Bear - Mom to DS 7, gifted with SPD and DD 2, a Joybunny!
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:33 AM
 
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I've invested in meal planning cookbooks. I use Cooking for the Rushed but a long time ago I heard about Saving Dinner which is an american author. My books have 5 meals for the week and also include grocery lists (this is really the key that I love about them).
I just bought a new book and the some of recipes make enough for two meals and so I can usually get a full week of meals.

I just take out my book, pick which recipe I want to make and take out the meat or whatever I need...
Anyway, these books have made eating so much more intesting (as we are eating things we would not have tried before) and made me a better cook - not my strong suit!!

Good luck!!
Shanta
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:51 AM
 
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For some reason DH and I have dinner ready in 30 minutes or less most nights without the help of Rachel Ray, meal planning or crock pots. If you think about it, most of the time your food is cooked from start to finish while you wait when you're at a restaurant. Want a yummy steak? It takes about 20 minutes to cook a 9 oz steak (enough for two, serving size is 4 oz) and in that time you can cook fresh green beans and some sort of grain/carbohydrate. It's the same for a chicken breast. If it comes out of the water, it's even easier, and quicker. We tend to over-complicate our meals, and really simpler is better and faster.
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Old 09-30-2008, 12:05 PM
 
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I must admit, we rarely eat out or even eat prepared foods from the grocery store. In fact, at this time of the year, I buy most items fresh at one of three farmer's markets I may frequent along the course of a week. I always keep a protein thawing in the bottom drawer for "2 days from now". At present, I have a whole chicken for chicken & biscuits tonight and steak for steak & mashed sweet potatoes tomorrow. I meal plan while I'm picking up whatever is fresh this week. I just have an idea of how many leafy/starchy/legume veg to pick up, how much protein, etc. and then I snag whatever looks gorgeous and fits the budget.

I love my rice cooker. It's like a toaster. Buy one. It works for other grains, although the wild rice really gunks up the works (black residue). I'll pop a grain in the rice cooker, chop up some veg and protein, stir fry or grill those, toss the whole mix together with a sauce and serve. One bowl meal! This also works with pasta (although boiling water for pasta takes a smidge more attention than a rice cooker).

My favorite recipes are printed and sitting beneath the window in a recipe stand. I can rifle through and find what I need. Another good one is buying How To Cook Without a Book. It goes through standard techniques that you can build upon. It also provides a list of pantry & fridge staples to have on hand so that you can make most anything.

By the way - I'm very big on eat leftovers for dinner and mommy will find time between post-dinner and bed to prep food for tomorrow. Most things I make taste great the next day. My husband and I take leftovers for lunch most days of the week.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:54 AM
 
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I am a personal chef, and here's what I do: start doubling meals and freezing them. Start with easy stuff--chili, spaghetti sauce, whatever you can handle. If you're making a casserole one day, double the ingredients, layer one (in a foil pan if you don't have enough dishes!) and freeze, or better yet, divide one recipe into 2 8x8 or 9x9 pans--you'll have plenty for fresh casserole twice if you have a family of four with younger children. Freeze soups and sauces flat in Ziplock freezer bags to maximize freezer space, or invest in a small deep freezer (even 7 cu. feet will help).

Don't use your freezer meals unless you have to get dinner on the table quickly. At first, you'll only have a few things, but with time, you'll build up an impressive frozen pantry of meals ready to go that only need thawing.

Learn how to make two (or more) dishes at once. Start something in your Crock Pot on Saturday, then put a meatloaf in the oven, then prepare the dinner you're going to have that night on the stove. Voila! Three meals for the week in ONE afternoon. You can freeze whatever's in the CrockPot and thaw it out Thursday for quick dinner.

Good luck ladies--the art of cooking is lost in this country, which is why I run a successful business!

Editing to reply to mom2reitmans: most food in restaurants is NOT cooked start to finish while you wait. Nearly everything is in some stage of prep, be it already washed and chopped veggies/salads, long-simmered sauces, pre-sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes sitting on a steam table, pre-baked potatoes/bread sitting in a warmer. Even pastas are par-cooked, drained, and given a hot bath to rejuvinate per plate. Only the finishing touches, the things that cannot be completed without an order (like grilling your steak to med-rare or however you like it) are done after you order. I agree that simpler is better, but it's kind of a misleading analogy and sets the average non-chef up for failure at home.
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Old 10-01-2008, 12:57 PM
 
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I don't know if anyone has posted this, but I am a big fan of making a large amount of meat, steaks, chicken whatever and having them so that I can easily use then in meals. My favorite is baking a family pack of chicken breasts in italian dressing and baking them at 350F for 30 minutes. I then cool them and put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them. When they are frozen I pop them into a freezer bag and then can easily use them for cooking in meals that require very little prep, stir fry, chicken ceasar salad, pizza made on store bought dough. It works great.

I also got a great idea on here-marinate before you freeze, put any meat in the a marinade and place in freezer bags, as they thaw they marinate. What a great idea for steaks, etc... works fabulous. My store always has wonderful sales on huge packs of steaks, so I break them up and do this. It makes grilling so simple.

I'm a prep ahead type of girl, I cut extra veggies, make extra steaks, whatever...I like planned overs.

Robin ****** on Food Network, is a really smart woman-I take a lot of ideas from her.

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Old 10-02-2008, 01:17 AM
 
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I've actually stopped meal planning for a while. I go back and forth with this. Meal planning stops working for me after a while. I guess I just get into a rut. For now, I'm just keeping the fridge, freezer, and pantry totally stocked and figuring out sometime during the day what I'll be cooking for dinner. It's working out much better for us.

As far as having time to cook goes, I get my older two to play some fun game with the little one while I cook. Usually they drag out all our Tupperware, pots, and pans and play "chef" right under my feet. If the little one is wanting attention, I put him on the countertop right beside me and let him play with something cool that he normally doesn't get, like measuring cups and raw rice. I'm getting him a little kitchen for Christmas, and I'm going to put it in our kitchen so that he can cook with me.

Oh, and I never ever ever make anything that requires more than 30 minutes of actually standing in the kitchen. Normally I only have to stand there and actually cook for 20-25 minutes. If I try a new recipe and it ends up taking more than 30 minutes of hands-on time, I never make it again. I just can't spend that much time in the kitchen right now, with my kids being as young as they are.
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Old 10-02-2008, 03:23 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elecampane View Post
I buy two-packs of whole organic chickens weekly at Costco and roast them in the crockpot, then shred the meat and keep it in the fridge or freezer for tacos, enchiladas, casseroles, salads, etc. That way when I get home and open the fridge in despair (oh no what will we have for dinner??), there are some basics upon which to build a meal. I have a programmable rice cooker that I use constantly. In the morning I can throw in some brown rice or quinoa or whatever looks good and voila, when we get home we have a grain ready to eat.
Crock pot novice here, how do you roast a chicken in the crock pot? How does the rice cooker work? Sorry if these are absolutely stupid questions!

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