Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kitchening 101

 I've said this many times, but I think the best way to save money and eat well (in the sense of both taste and nutrition) is to cook mostly at home based on some sort of weekly menu.  That's the first step to making feeding the crew less of chore.  Because that's what it's can easily become, isn't it?  Even if you like cooking with and for your family, if each step is less than convenient the process becomes something you dread.

I love cooking, reading cookbooks like they're a novel, and putting meals together into nice neat little lists.  And I'm the freak that actually enjoys doing housework.  Except unloading the dishwasher.  I hate unloading the dishwasher!  (Although I make a point to thank the dishwasher daily for making such a contribution to our household.  I hate hand-washing dishes more than unloading a dishwasher).  Even weirdos like me who enjoy cooking and cleaning can dread supper time when things aren't quick and easy.

So, here are a few thoughts about avoiding the inconveniences that make cooking a chore.

Know what you're having for dinner.  Hemming and hawing over what to cook might have been fine when I was single, wild, and free.  And it might be fun on a random date night when you choose to stay in.  But day to day,  knowing what you're having saves time and mental energy (things that are not usually in surplus at the end of a busy day).

Know that you have the ingredients on hand.  It's helpful to have your basic meal plan before you make a grocery run.  Make your list accordingly.  Then you are ready to roll when it's time to cook.  There will always be a time that you've missed an ingredient.  It's not a complete fail when you have to run out to the store for something you're out of or text a neighbor to borrow.  Luckily, Tracy is my neighbor so when you need the most exotic of ingredients, she probably has it. Alternatively, know when you can exclude an ingredient.  Sometimes it won't make a huge difference.

Keep your knives sharp.  When your knives are sharp, prepping anything is quick and easy.  When they're not, it's a dreadful mess.

Overcome your obstacles.  I have absolutely no counter space to speak of.  But I do have an oversized cutting board from IKEA.  It easily fits over one side of my (needs to be replaced) sink, and expands my work space.  Everyone's obstacles will be different, but most can be overcome with a little brainstorming.

Finally, have a kitchen that's ready to work in.  Make sure the dishwasher is unloaded before you start working.  Nothing worse than a pile of pots and pans ready to wash when the dishwasher is full.  If you don't have a dishwasher, and I've lived this reality, then make sure your clean dishes are put away.  Hand washing loads of dishes, however, when done as a team, makes some really intimate talk time for man and wife.  Or parent and child.  Make the best of it if you have to. ;)

It's so cliche to say "Work smarter,  not harder", but it's the truth!  These things save me time and fend off frustration during the witching hour when everyone's blood sugar just plummeted.  It's what turns the apron into a super-hero's cape.  Give it a shot.  Since I'm not immune to occasional cooking dread, comment if you have time saving advice to getting food on the table. Keep home-cooked meals fun and instead of something you don't want to touch with a 10 foot pole.  I promise, you'll enjoy it (your budget will too!).

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