I like to cook. And even more so, I like to eat. However, at the end of a long day of teaching, being on my feet all day, and making hundreds of decisions, the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is to cook, and decide what I want to cook.
Over the last few years I have gradually done more and more “freezer cooking” or cooking ahead. If you have never tried it, I highly suggest it, and would like to share some strategies and resources with you. It will enable you to come home and have dishes like Chicken Kiev (by putting something in the oven, and maybe making a vegetable), or beef stroganoff (just make the pasta).
Complete once a month cooking. This method involves making “all” your family’s meals for the month, including lunches and breakfasts. It makes life very easy, but didn’t work for me. I’ve only done this once or twice. For me, it was a lot of work, and, honestly, I’m fine to take leftovers, or a sandwich for lunch and a bagel or cereal for breakfast.
If you want to go that route, however, a great website is http://www.onceamonthmeals.com or pinterest (look for once a month cooking), or the library. (disclaimer: once a month meals is a pay subscription site, if its what you are looking for, it can be worth it. You pick the recipes from their database, or choose from a set menu, and they create the shopping list, labels, directions, etc.).
Make a few dishes, in bigger quantities, and freeze them. This is an easy way to start with things like chili, spaghetti sauce, soups, etc. Again, you can look up recipes for freezer cooking, go on pinterest, or go on http://www.food.com
Several nights during the week, or on the weekend for a couple of weeks, make recipes that freeze for dinner, and make double. Or even make trips. If you are making dinner, its not really much harder to make 2 or 3 dinners, and then stick the others in the freezer.
Do a “mini menu” as they are called from Once a Month Meals, or create your own. A mini menu might be approximately 4-5 dinners, that you double and freeze. In that case, you end up with 8-10 meals in your freezer. This usually takes a few hours, or half a day.
There are multitudes of websites, pinterest sites, and library books on freezer cooking, or once a month cooking, in addition those few I mentioned.
I highly recommend that you give it a try. Then deciding what to have for dinner turns into choosing of a list. You come home, pop something healthy in the oven, and put your feet up while it heats up. Or come home to dinner already cooking in the crockpot. For our family, it has saved us recently!
PS I loved this post, Tara, and had to add a method of my own because it changed my life when it comes to packing lunches. It’s another Pinterest find. On Sunday, you gather two containers and all of the snacks for the week–carrot sticks, granola bars, etc. In one container you put all of the items that need to go in the fridge; in the other you put ones that don’t. Then, your kids can collect all of their snacks in the morning and put them in their lunch bags. I LOVE IT!