Prep Ahead!

So last time I posted I was talking about cooking from scratch and how much I enjoyed it.  I also mentioned that I know it takes a greater committment to do this, but I have a few things that make it easier, more enjoyable for me.  Some of these may be common sense things to everyone, but maybe they will help someone spark a new idea.  And if I am lucky a few of you will share some tips that I haven't thought of before.

TIP #1 - The freezer is your friend!!!!
Anything that you can do ahead of time and keep in the freezer, ready to pull out and add to a dish is a fantastic time saver. Some things I like to keep in the freezer are:
  • chopped onions - peppers
  • browned hamburger - I store in increments that I use for cooking for our family - 1.5 lbs per baggie
  • cooked chicken - deboned and chopped...ready to go at a moments notice
  • cooked, crumbled bacon
  • pancakes and waffles - and NOT Eggos!  I always have a few leftover from our breakfast nights and I just whip them up and put them in the freezer for a quick and easy hot breakfast during the week.
  • cooked sausage - both patties and crumbled
  • broth - chicken and beef
  • cooked roast - again, we aren't big fans of leftover roast, but we do like bbq beef, roast beef sands and beef & noodles.  So if we have leftover, they get chopped up and put into the freezer for a quick meal later.
  • cookies - this is a new one for me and I have honestly mentally slapped myself several times for not thinking of this one sooner.  I have my most favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from my mom, but we like them most when they come straight from the oven.  And this recipe makes a TON of cookies and we can't always seem to eat them fast enough {strange as it sounds, it's true!!!}.  I am going to admit something here...I had resorted to buying the frozen cookie dough from Schwan's because it was quick and easy!  We could have a warm cookie from the oven anytime we wanted.  Then a couple of weeks ago I was reading another blog...I didn't mark it and can't remember which one, so thank you whoever you were...and she mentioned that they liked their cookies warm from the oven, so she made a batch, scooped them out and froze them!! GENIUS!  I did this last week and it was 100 times better than the Schwan's cookies.  I only made a half batch the first time because I was a little nervous about them going from freezer to oven, but it worked perfectly!  So from now on, we will have a stock of homemade cookie dough in our freezer...and we are going to save money!!! YEAH!
  • cupcakes - we have cupcakes for almost ANY occassion at our house and I love having them ready to pull from the freezer, frost and enjoy.  The great thing about these is that they will thaw very quickly and can be enjoyed not long after being taken from the freezer.
  • sugar, flour - again these things are bought when on sale and stored in the freezer until needed.  I don't know if they NEED to be stored in the freezer, that's just what I have always done because that's what my mom and grandma did!
  • chili, stew and soups
  • meatballs
  • enchiladas
WOW!! Looking at that makes it seem like I must have a GIGANTIC freezer.  I promise I only have one upright deep freeze and the freezer above my {ANCIENT, STILL WORKING} refrigerator.  Baggies are your friend if you go this route.  I would love to find a better, more eco friendly method, but I just haven't come across anything more functional and practical at this stage of my life.  This is a big project on my to-do list though!

So, when do you get all of these things done and stock-piled?  Well, it does take a little time, but you can do most of it WHILE you are doing something else!  So

TIP #2 - Multi-task!
A good example of this is when I find produce on sale.  Instead of just buying the onion{s} I need for that week I buy several extras.  Then when I am chopping what I need for the current week, I just go ahead and chop the rest, put in a baggie, label and throw in the fridge. This is your best friend for this task!

When you are browning hamburger, do 10 pounds or so at a time.  It really doesn't take that much more time and you will feel so good knowing that you have 9 packages ready to go in the freezer next time you need them.

When chicken goes on sale buy 2 or 3 times what you need for that week.  When you get home go ahead and throw the excess in a big stockpot with whatever you like to season your broth with and get that chicken cooked.  You can then debone and chop it later that evening while you are preparing the evening meal.  By the time you turn off the kitchen lights you will have prepared and ate a delicious meal AND gotten the meat for two more meals ready to go.  Next time you have a chicken recipe, just pull it from the freezer....easy, peasy!

Bake a double or triple batch of cookies, or whatever it is you like to keep in the freezer.  Bake those you want to use on that day, put the rest in the freezer!

So, I think you can see how quickly and easily you can get your freezer stocked up.  Anything you can prepare double of, do it and freeze the extra!  It takes a little extra time on the front end, but when you come home from a stressful day of work and the last thing you want to do is cook a meal from scratch, you can save yourself from the expensive bill of ordering pizza and the guilt of "not" cooking, by pulling one of your own "frozen foods" from your freezer!  It's not only AS easy as purchasing something from the frozen foods section of your grocery store, but it is HOMEMADE and made with love and goodness.  Just give it a try, I promise you will never go back!

TIP #3 - Keep it real!

What does that mean?  I guess what I mean it don't set yourself up for failure! Don't go into this with the expectation that you are going to be cooking 4 course, gourmet meals EVERY day for your family!

Realize that while you are trying your best to cook healthy, save money and be the best wife.mom you can be there are going to be those days when it just gets to be too much.  On those days, pick up the phone, order the pizza, eat off of a paper plate and know that even Mom's need a break sometimes!  Your kids will love the pizza, your husband will appreciate your less stressful, bitter attitude and you will feel refreshed because for one night you can just enjoy being WITH your family.

I admit that I have these days almost monthly.  There always seems to be that ONE day where I just don't have the energy or motivation to be in the kitchen.  I want someone else to do the work for me.  I simply want to sit and enjoy a meal, without the prep or the clean up!!

TIP #5 - Cook what you like!

If hearty, southern food is what you like, then DO NOT go searching for fine French Cuisine recipes!  Be true to who you and your family are in the kitchen and you will experience much less frustration.

Having said that...don't be afraid to try a new recipe that sounds appealing to your family!  If they like it, WONDERFUL!!! However, if they don't, just toss that one and try another.  You are NOT a failure because a recipe wasn't as tasty as it sounded on paper.

Whew...that turned into quite a LONG post.  I am wondering why I am even writing all of this.  Does anyone care?  But then I remind myself that I am doing this blog for myself and my family.  One day, hopefully, Cambree will be able to read these words and be encouraged as she experiences taking care of her family and being in the kitchen.  And if these little glimpses into my life help someone else, well that's just a bonus!

Happy Homemade Cooking!

1 comment:

Rhonda said...

You've got some great kitchen advice, Sara! Some of that I've done, some I haven't, so thanks for adding to my "arsenal" of being prepared. That really does help! I also hear ya' on sometimes needing to take easy way out for a meal!