When you have two forever hungry children, as well as duties as wife, mother, employee, and caregiver –cooking, and the tasks that lead up to being able to cook, can sometimes feel like a chore (even though I absolutely love to cook.) Here are some ways that I reduce the time suck that is the cooking process.
- Do a “major” grocery shop once a week. I know some people who love to visit the grocery store every day to get fresh ingredients for dinner every evening. I used to be one of those people – when I had fewer responsibilities after work. This approach to cooking winds up being more expensive and a time suck. Keep a list on your phone or a pad of paper and add items as you run out or think of them – and when you go grocery shopping, stick to your list. I try to create a list that is based on ingredients I plan to use in the meals that we’ll eat throughout the week.
- Set aside one night to do most prep-work. If you prioritize your time and are okay with spending the money, many fresh ingredients come pre-washed, pre-cut, and sometimes even portioned out. Bags of pre-washed and cut veggies like lettuce, broccoli, mushrooms, brussel sprouts can save a ton of time but will cost more up front. The same goes for pre-cubed or cut meats. If you’d rather save the money and spend the time you can efficiently do all of your prep work in just one evening depending on how complicated the meals you’ve planned out are. We try to stick with soups/stews + carb (rice, pasta, bread, etc.) or a meat + veggie + carb. I prep all of the veggies first, then the meats. If I’m making a stew, I put the ingredients that need the most amount of cooking in a zipper bag, together – and just dump it into a slow cooker when it’s time to cook. Meats are prepped second – I’ll cube or cut up the meat and either add it to the slow cooker zipper bag or I’ll pre-marinate in a zipper bag for those meals that are “meat + veggie + carb.”
- A food processor is a useful kitchen tool. Most people think of a food processor when they want to make sauces, salsas, and dips – like hummus. If your food processor came with an attachment for slicing or shredding, it could be one of the most useful tools in your kitchen. Quickly make cauliflower or broccoli rice with the shredder. Slice carrots, celery, zucchini, and mushrooms in minutes. Use the slicing attachment to shred cabbage for salads like coleslaw. For years, my food processor sat in our cabinet, lonely and unused. Unloved, really. Now, I risk it dying from overuse on a weekly basis.
- Use a slow cooker twice per week. There are about a billion recipes online for “easy slow cooker” recipes. Do you like cabbage rolls? There are a multitude of recipes for cabbage roll stews. Casseroles? There are as many as there are grains of sand on a beach. Pork roast? Beef Roast? Too many to count. Chicken or beef soups and stews? Thousands of them. And even if they lack flavor – which sometimes they do – it’s nothing that a little salt, herbs and spices, and some lemon or lime juice can’t fix. And FYI – another time saving tip – if the recipe for stew or soup calls for searing beef or chicken chunk pieces, don’t bother. It isn’t necessary. Ground meats need to be seared so that they flake.
I hope these tips help you in your endeavor to make eveningsa little easier – as a parting gift, here is a slow cooker recipe my family(including the kids) love.
Place 4 whole raw chicken breasts at the bottom of the slow cooker and coat with cumin
- 2 diced onions
- 5 cloves of garlic crushed
- 3 cans of drained hominy
- 3 cans of green enchilada sauce or 2 jars of Herdez Mild Tomatillo Sauce
- 1 large container of chicken broth
Cook on low for 9 hours. Remove the chicken and shred. Add back to the soup.
Add lime juice to taste – we like it tart. Taste for salt/pepper.
Serve with the following toppings:
- Sliced avocado
- Sliced radish
- Cilantro leaves
- Slice jalapeño
- Panela cheese or quest fresco