Have you ever felt like you’re constantly cooking and struggling to keep up with the meals that need to be served? I have!
This year I have five boys ages 11 and down home all day, and not having any teenagers who are homeschooling means that there are fewer older children to delegate tasks to. That means that the younger boys are learning to step up and help more, which is good, and also that I do more.
Having meals ready on time makes our home run much more smoothly – there’s nothing like kids asking again and again for food and not having anything to serve them makes everyone irritable! Nutrition is important to me but I can’t spend hours in the kitchen – I try to stay home as much as I can, but I still have homeschooling, shopping, regular therapy appointments and extracurricular activities for the boys to attend to. Not to mention my work – sessions with clients in the evenings and in a couple of weeks I’ll be adding workshops back in to my schedule. Oh, and I try to get some sleep, too.
I make meals from scratch three times a day. It’s rarely fancy – we have hot cereal or eggs for breakfast just about every day. There’s nothing wrong with scrambled eggs and rice for lunch or dinner but when I get busy that becomes too frequent and it doesn’t feel like a meal to sit down together over! Since having a sit down meal with our family is an important value for me, I try to make a satisfying dinner.
With all of the holidays, I had been caught up in the cycle of cooking, cooking, cooking but never getting ahead. This week I’ve been able to get back into a cooking routine that makes my life much easier – cooking in bulk!
What I try to do is plan ahead so that I can double whatever I’m preparing for dinner. I then can serve some for dinner and ‘feed the freezer’ a meal that I can pull out at a later time.
Here’s a list of dinner meals for the last few days:
Mon – black bean vegetable soup and rice
Tues – baked chicken, chickpeas with sauce, salad, baked sweet potatoes
Weds. – chicken tangine with chickpeas
Thurs. – Brunswick stew
Here’s what my cooking schedule looked like the last few days:
On Sunday we had leftovers from Shabbos for dinner (chicken, potato kugel, roasted vegetables). I didn’t need to do any cooking for that night, so on Sunday afternoon I prepared a large pot of black bean soup.
I went out with the boys on Monday afternoon and before I did, left the soup on a very low flame to heat up. We walked in at 6:35 pm – I try to serve dinner at 6:30 pm – and were able to sit down to eat dinner as soon as we got inside.
Later in the evening I soaked a pan of chickpeas.
On Tuesday I cooked a pot of rice, a pot of buckwheat, ds10 baked a large pan of sweet potatoes and I asked someone else to put the chickpeas on to boil. I also baked a pan of chicken – all quick and simple things to prepare.
On Wednesday I did a big shopping trip and got a bunch of chicken on sale (including chicken wings for just 4.90 shekels a kilo so I got twelve kilos!). Since the chicken was fresh, I made peanut butter/honey chicken with sesame seeds for Shabbos and plain roasted wings to use for two other dishes I planned to make that day. I also cooked a few kilos of chicken gizzards.
(The buckwheat cooked on Tuesday was intended for a dish but the boys asked if they could eat it for lunch, so I let them have it.)
While the chicken was cooking, I prepared two chicken dishes: a double recipe of chicken tangine with chickpeas (using chickpeas I had cooked the day before), and Brunswick stew (using white beans I had also cooked in advance). I also made some quinoa black bean burgers using some leftovers I had in the fridge that I served for lunch the next day.
We had the chicken tangine Weds. night for dinner. Later in the evening I boiled a large pot of potatoes and soaked a pan of lentils.
On Thursday morning ds10 mashed the pot of potatoes and I cooked the lentils. While they were cooking I prepared two lentil mixtures: lentil meatloaf and lentil-rice-mushroom casserole. I made 2 large 9 x 13 pans of each. We had one pan of lentil-rice casserole for lunch; the other three pans of food went into the freezer.
I then had an unexpected furniture delivery that took a lot of time and energy to organize (looks great now, though!), and it was later in the afternoon before I could take a nap. Before I lay down, I put the Brunswick stew on a very low flame to heat up. I got up at 6:10 pm but dinner was ready on time thanks to the advance preparation!
Thursday evening, I prepared the filling for shepherd’s pie, chopping up the chicken gizzards I cooked the day before, then topped the chicken and vegetable mixture with the potatoes ds10 had mashed that morning. Once the two huge pans were baked, they went right into the freezer for two different meals. (In case you’re wondering, I also made some chicken soup and roasted chicken for Shabbos.)
With some advance thought and a bit of extra effort, I now have four different dishes/6 meals in the freezer. It didn’t take much extra work but ready to go meals in the freezer are my ‘fast food’ for busy days!