by Helen Herrera
By the time I would arrive home from work, I felt overwhelmed knowing that I had to prepare a meal for my family, help the kids with their homework, clean up, put the kids to sleep, and prepare myself for work the following day. Afternoons and evenings can be chaotic! Sometimes I didn’t want to have to deal or even think about cooking and would buy the kids pizza or some other take-out. Of course, they loved it, but I also wanted to nourish my family and keep more money in my wallet. So, I began to look into some of the tips and strategies that other moms followed to help them spend less time in the kitchen and more time with their family or taking care of one’s self. Below are some of the tips I found most helpful for diminishing my stress and helping me to organize mine and my family’s busy lives.
Honey, what do you want to eat for dinner? I dunno. Kids, what do you want to eat? Pizza! Every night, I had to think about what I was going to cook and my family didn’t help much in the process. Initially, I didn’t think I needed a menu because I envisioned it as something for chefs to do at restaurants. But, the fact of the matter is that I am the chef of my own restaurant, at home. I don’t always stick to my menu because sometimes there are unexpected leftovers or events will come up, but it definitely provides me with guidance and structure. Menu planning also gives me a better idea of the things to buy when I go grocery shopping.
My oldest is almost 8 years old and he is definitely capable of helping out in the kitchen. Sometimes I’ll ask him to crack eggs and beat them for me, open and rinse canned beans or vegetables, or use his hands or scissors to cut lettuce and other leafy greens. A little help goes a long way. Plus, an added bonus to having kids help in the kitchen is that kids, even picky eaters, are more interested in eating food that they helped prepare.
There are some foods that are easy to prepare in large batches without requiring much additional time like rice, beans, ground meat, and soups. When I cook rice, I make more than what I will use that day. Even if I don’t use it the next day, rice will hold up well for several days in the refrigerator. Sometimes I take it a step further by putting any extra rice I’ve just cooked in a freezer bag and placing it in my freezer to reuse at a later date. The good thing is that when I am ready to use the rice again, I just put it in a pot with a bit of water and no one knows if I made it that night or last week!
I can be messy and can easily use half of my kitchen tools to make one simple meal. I used to use a spoon or fork to stir something, put it in the sink, and then grab another. No more! Now, I wash everything as I use it because it reduces the cleanup when I’m done cooking. Let’s face it – no one looks forward to a sink full of dishes!
It took me a while to do this because some kitchen tools and equipment can be expensive. However, with the help of some yard sales, thrift stores, and sales at retail stores, I was able to gather tools that help me cook fast and efficiently, like one or two really good knives, cutting board, a thermometer, blender, peeler, grater, and the list goes on.
I hope this helps! Enjoy the extra time you have from using these tips!