I love to cook! I love all of it; from planning an extravagant dinner party to coming up with new recipes for my family. But, life is busy…I know it is for us! With a new baby, full-time work, maintaining a social life, exercising, and general day-to-day stuff, staying caught up in the kitchen can be a challenge (okay…it can be almost impossible!). As much as I love eating out, I also love providing my family healthy, tasty food at home. I’m always trying to come up with creative ways to stay ahead of the curve because I don’t want to subject my family to a steady stream of Taco Bell, Subway, and Pizza, which is a hell of a lot easier than cooking every night!
Here are some tricks that I’ve stumbled across through laziness, necessity, and general evolution:
1. Prep your fruits and veggies ahead of time. Take some time on a quiet Sunday afternoon to cut up celery sticks, broccoli, or cauliflower that you plan to use during the week. You can store it in zipper bags in the fridge for easy access when making salads, stir-frys, or snacks.
2. When you cook, do it in mass quantity. If you’re going to take the time to prepare a meal, make enough for leftovers or for use in another meal during the week. I often brown 2-3 lbs of ground turkey, season it really well and then use it throughout the week for burritos, tacos, salads, or whatever. I also like to roast a big tray of veggies and then use them throughout the week for scrambles, salads, etc.
3. Use that crockpot!!!! While it may bring back memories of your Great Aunt Betty’s tuna casserole, you can get a lot of bang for your buck (and your time investment) with a good ol’ crockpot. I buy beef or pork roasts when they go on sale and keep them in the freezer for when I’m ready to do a crockpot meal. Thaw, trim, and throw it in the crockpot in the morning before you leave for work and you’ll come home to a house filled with dinner smells! I like to use spicy BBQ sauce with a pork roast for pulled pork, a large can of red enchilada sauce with beef for tacos, burritos, nachos, etc. (I also use green enchilada sauce with chicken for the same kind of stuff).
4. Buy in bulk! For those things that you know you’ll always use, go ahead and stock up. It’ll save you running to the store at the last minute for coffee or paper towels!
5. Freeze, freeze, freeze!!! Plan ahead for a cooking frenzy and make a bunch to fill your freezer. My favorite thing to do on a rainy afternoon is make up a bunch of food and freeze it in dinner-sized portions. Whether it’s trays of enchiladas, lasagna, chile, or chicken soup, it’s always a relief to know that I can just pull something out for dinner when I don’t have time to prepare something.
Bonus: Make clean up easy! I cover all my roasting and broiling pans with foil to avoid soaking and scrubbing. I also use paper plates to hold prepped veggies or meat for quick disposal after the meal is done. I also try to use the least amount of pans and utensils as possible. If I can combine, or rinse and reuse, I get really excited about one less thing to wash!
Now, get in the kitchen and have fun! It doesn’t have to be such an ordeal!