What’s Cookin’?

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domestic bliss

Tell me honestly, does the thought of preparing meat and three veg strike fear into your very heart?

Yes?

Then you qualify to keep reading.  If not, I’m afraid you’ll have to shoo. That’s right: shoo! We are about to discuss some secret, serious, slack homemakers business.

Are you sure you’re not a perfectly capable, cooking dinner every night type of reader?  There is a danger you will be tempted to feel smug after reading, and as the character of my readers is paramount in my mind, I’d spare you that downfall.  So this is your last chance to scat.

O.K.  Unless of woman-kind I alone have ever struggled with the life sentence (pardon!) privilege of cooking sensible meals every single everlasting day of the week, we should be left with those of you who are, for whatever reason, be that illness, lack of skill or knowledge,  or  simply the propensity for reading too long in a day, failing to cook dinner as regularly as you need to.

My initial remedy for meal preparation aversion is not cheap.  This is no time to be budget conscious, and it may well cost you similarly to the round of take-aways and resturant dinners you rely on now.  Budget conscious comes later (if it needs to), but for now the primary goal is to establish a habit of daily preparation.  To that end, I offer you the “L plates” of meal planning.

When you advance there will be many factors to consider in planning a menu: for now the prime criteria is to make it as simple as possible while you establish a routine of meal preparation.  This may take two weeks to a month, depending on your dedication and circumstances (sickness and general trauma can delay progress!)

First, decide what you can make.  I’ve put together a MEAL PLANNER Beginnings *pdf that requires minimal preparation and leaves the least possible dishes to wash afterward.  You may want to tweak it in the event you don’t eat some of the food listed, but the idea is to be simple and realistic: you are trying to establish a habit, and this needs all the ingenuity you possess to pull it off.

* The recipe for Monday night’s dinner in the menu planner can be found here: https://beyondbluestockings.wordpress.com/2007/11/11/emergency-dinners/

The tuna can also be substituted with beef or chicken: I know that sounds weird, but I promise I have tried it all three ways, and it really does work with all three, and extends your choices!

If you are part way on the road already, you may want to browse the “emergency dinners” category to the right, or google simple meals and start planning your own menu according to tastes.

Cook like a busy person.  Remember how your mother and your home ec teacher taught that every vegetable needs it’s own saucepan?  And how there was a mountain of washing up at the end?

What were they thinking??? 😯

pots and pans

Take one large saucepan, half fill with water and add chat potatoes (you know the tiny ones you don’t have to peel? Because the point is…you don’t have to peel them, and it’s easy to guess how many each person will eat.) About five minutes before they are ready, dump in some mixed frozen veggies. Yes, in the same saucepan – forget home ec.  I actually find this easier than microwaving veggies, but  if you prefer to microwave, go at it.  On another night, use frozen corn cobs instead of the potatoes, and add the other veggies at the same time.

For variety, an alternative is to buy large, washed potatoes.  Again, you are not going to peel them: just wrap in alfoil and put them in the oven about an hour before you want to eat.  Don’t worry about pre-heating the oven and coming back to put them in – all in one action, put the oven on and toss the potatoes in.  Again, serve with some frozen greens – or not.  (You don’t want to shock your system. 😉 )

This will not be the most exciting few weeks of eating you’ve ever done, but if you stick at it, it will soon become less of an insurmountable task, and you will have the momentum of routine to stir you on to greater culinary heights.

Print out your menu and place it somewhere unforgettable.  If you are a morning person, (or if a new baby is the reason you find yourself not managing dinner any more) use the morning to half fill your saucepan with water and place it on the stove ready to go, or  wrap your potatoes in foil if that’s on tonight’s menu.  You will love yourself later and reinforce your commitment to actually go through with it come evening.

Decide on a time you are going to start dinner, and barring a natural disaster, stick to that time.  Ask your mother or someone to phone and hold you accountable if you need to.  Be sure to make a shopping list reflecting your menu – failure to have ingredients to hand  is to sabotage your plan.

In my dreams..

Preparing dinner every night may not ever make your heart sing, but if you can stick with it long enough, neither will it seem the insurmountable task it presently appears while driving past the pizza shop.  You may even grow to enjoy it: it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened, and certainly you will be healthier.

Happy cookin’ folks, and stay tuned for the “P Plates” of  meal planning, coming soon. You’ll be inspired 😉   (Or, confound it,  if you’re one of those sneaky Martha Stewart types and you didn’t shoo when you were supposed to, you can marvel anew at how the other half live 😛 )

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Getting to the Church on Time!

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Or perhaps I should say, getting to the church on time and with a sweet attitude? Do you ever dread Sundays?  The rush, the flap of finding everyone shoes and matching socks? Getting all the little girls hair neat and brushed, and the finding of Sunday school books and remembering to take something for morning tea?

Or am the only one with an expression like the incredible hulk by the time we arrive for service?  I can’t help wondering if my husband asks himself each Sunday how his sweet little wife turned into such a shrew?  But times are changing.  There is a new PLAN.  And although it is a sad fact of life that I am a much, much better planner than I am a doer, it seems to be working thus far.

What is the amazing plan?  I could tell you it is getting up an hour earlier to spend time in prayer and meditation, but that would be a gross falsehood.  It is way less saintly, and a good deal more practical.  (Because honestly, after an extra hour of prayer, there would still be a bunch of children all in their pj’s reading books on the lounge room floor, instead of getting ready).  So, are you ready for my secret weapon to make Sunday peaceful?  Ready …(drum roll)……..?

It’s Saturday.

O.k, I know all you veteran, homeschooling, large family, mamas are rolling your eyes – but I’ve only just worked it out.  And surely I am not the only “Sunday morning afflicted” woman on the planet – so I thought I’d share,  just in case there is another little mama out there wondering what there is to smile about come Sunday morning….

Saturday, I either bake or purchase something to take for morning tea.  Even if there are shops open on the way to church Sunday, we don’t have time to stop at them.  Because my mind is like a sieve, I then leave the container by the door – much more likely to remember something I have to trip over before leaving.

Everyone, without exception, has hair washing on Saturday. This saves congestion in our tiny bathroom, and a good deal of trauma.  Clothes are all selected Saturday, so that in the event (and I know this wouldn’t happen in any other person’s house!) that one of the little people has put away a church outfit that is, shall we say, “less than pristine,” there is time to wash, dry and iron it, or find an alternative.  Shoes and socks are found and organized, because there IS a sock monster (a thriving one if the sock drawers are anything to go by), living in our house, and to find a pair, clean and in acceptable condition, is almost a miracle, no matter how many pairs I purchase.

With these matters attended to, as well as being diligent that there are no left over jobs from the previous day still beckoning, means I can go to bed Saturday night with a peaceful sense of expectation that Sunday morning is not going to be an ordeal.  It’s a very simple change of practice, but the difference if profound!

If you have been a Sunday afflicted Mummy, then I hope you will try this out.  There will of course still be days when the cat throws up on the carpet just as you are leaving, or the baby has a nappy explosion that calls for half the family to be re-dressed, and there really is not much that can be done to salvage those situations.  But for general Sundays, I think you will find that a little attention the day before will help you be the sweet, smiling woman your family knows the other six days of the week.

Any super experienced mothers out there who worked this out long ago, please do add any extra wisdom you have share!