Your three year-old’s “too hungry to watch TV”. The baby’s fussy, even in the sling, and she keeps reaching for your knife, making it kinda hard to chop the veggies. It’s too hot to turn on the oven but it doesn’t really matter since the chicken’s nowhere near defrosted. Breakfast for dinner or pizza, again?
We’ve been asked to elaborate on how to get dinner on the table and we love taking requests! Here’s how to save time while making something nutritious and delicious for your fam every night… or, er, most nights:
- Pre-prep. Our definition of prepping is washing and chopping whatever needs to be washed and chopped, and jam-jarring any sauces. Taking the meat out of the freezer the night before to defrost in the fridge is one thing, but throwing together the marinade for it to thaw out in overnight as well… yum. And spending five minutes to cut up an onion while the baby’s finishing breakfast means one less thing to do during her witching hour.
- Ignore the dishes. Whenever we’re in the kitchen with a minute to spare we’re doing something food-related until dinner’s donezo. And when we need a clean dish throughout the day we reach for one from the dishwasher – by the time we’re ready to re-load it’s practically empty and we haven’t wasted time putting the clean stuff away only to dirty it up again every time we need to cream cheese a cracker.
- Split up the sling/no-sling steps. Anything raw or requiring a sharp knife and our complete attention has to be done while the baby’s in her high chair or asleep. It’s a lot easier to pause chopping to pass her another blueberry or measuring cup, so we’re in the habit of searing meat during nap-time and letting it rest on a plate for an hour or three before continuing with the recipe. Most of the time this doesn’t affect the meal’s outcome and really, what better time to experiment? You’ll figure out what steps can be put on hold and what needs to be done pronto before she’s old enough to be your sous-chef.
- Make friends with your oven. Figure out the timer and you can pre-set it to cook while you’re at work/piano/the park. It’s just like using a slow cooker – your tastebuds will salivate the second you walk in the door – but better for your electricity bill. We still like to slow-cook it up for stews in winter but save them for weekends/holidays (when our electricity rates are cheaper).
- Don’t discard anything! We freeze all leftovers and have made some superstar meals starting with half a pork chop/a few strips of bacon/a handful of chic peas/baby puree. If all else fails, we whip out the chopper attachment with our beloved hand blender and grind away before tossing it in pasta sauce/quesadillas.
- Big batch it. We don’t have enough freezer space to Big Cook it, but we usually double batch the rice/quinoa/soup/lasagna/whatevs and portion it up to save some for a rainy day.
- Experiment with healthy convenience foods. Fruit and veggies from the freezer aisle are just as nutritious as fresh produce, maybe even more. Tossed together with the meat you marinated last night and some pre-frozen rice… well, dinner’s done less than ten minutes after you walk in the door. Frozen mangoes with pre-cut peppers and beef… ’nuff said.
- You already know we’re all about meal-planning with the fam, right? Letting everyone choose a meal each week helps picky-eaters outta that phase, makes them feel proud because they get a say in the household biz, and it also gets you off the hook. Anyone know a three year-old who won’t choose PB&J/nuggets/grilled cheese for dinner?
Once you’ve been cooking long enough to know a few recipes by heart, it’s easy to up your game. Finding shortcuts gets you out of the kitchen long enough so you won’t dread every time you have to stand in front of that stove AND you get to enjoy pre-dinner playtime instead of pre-dinner crankytime. Work a cocktail into one of your shortcuts and, well, there’s a reason it’s called happy hour.
Email us if you want food storage tips and to keep those questions coming!