I have posted on this topic before, however with 2 toddlers running around and both of us working full time, planning has taken on a stronger role in our lives. It has been said by many intelligent people that the most important aspect of eating well is the planning and preparation ahead of time that counts. As difficult as this may seem, planning meals for a week or two or more takes a bit of creative thinking but it goes a long way in terms of your health, budget and your sanity.
Just this past weekend I had another of my cooking extravaganzas and the result is quite exciting for us because we now have enough food prepped in the freezer to last us at least 20 dinners each. Here’s how the extravaganza event went down…
First I set out the ingredients for spaghetti sauce. We don’t eat a lot of spaghetti, but on the occasions when we are short on time, it is easy to pull out a bag of pasta sauce in the morning to cook the noodles in the evening when we get home from work.
Second, I experimented with soup. I have not had much luck making soup in the past, so this is a step out of my kitchen comfort zone for sure. After some thinking, and some web surfing, I settled on the no recipe soup – which suits me well – and patched together a great tasting turkey ground/veggie soup which even Jen said tastes great!
While the soup was simmering – which I learned is the trick to quality soup – I played with a recipe for Avocado Pie. Yes, this is not a typo. I was intrigued by the guys at The Bitten Word so I decided to try their green pie recipe which ended up with a 5 star rating (out of 5) from my family. This of course didn’t last long but will be on the plans in the future for sure. My father in law actually said that it was the best desert he has had in a long time. I had two pieces and would agree that it was pretty darn good.
Next I decided that I would like to have a casserole so I checked out some websites with a search heading for Low Carb Chicken Casserole and came up with a great recipe from this website. With a few changes, and mostly additions, I ended up with a great looking Chicken Casserole that both Jen and I were excited to try. Because we were asked to go out for dinner, and because the casserole is on next week’s plan, we were forced to package it and place it in the freezer until it is time to enjoy. This was tough because it looked too darn good…
To top off the weekend of cooking, I tossed together 2 Sheppard’s pie dishes made with yams and sweet potatoes rather than potatoes. The recipe is pretty easy and was taken from the Planet Organic cookbook but because I eat meat I subbed the fake stuff for some ground beef which in my opinion provides a much better taste, and fat which is necessary for a healthy body.
So to sum up, I have 4 bags of spaghetti, 4 bags of soup, 2 Sheppard’s pie, 1 casserole and a demolished avocado pie. This took me 4.5 hours total. If I were to cook these meals individually after arriving home from work, the total would be much higher, and I would have less time to spend with my family.
When I got home last night, I simply reheated the Sheppard’s pie, and in less than 3 minutes we were enjoying dinner at the table as a family. With no clean up, we had plenty of time to head out for a walk, popped the kids on the swings and relaxed in the house until it was time to prepare for the morning. Tonight, we ate very quickly again and had time to visit with the kid’s grandparents for about 2 hours.
Here is the photo of the spaghetti and soup just before they hit the freezer…
In addition to planning and preparing the meals, we also decided to commit a few minutes each night to ensure that we are prepared for the next day. Once the girls go to bed, we work together to put together our Big Ass Salads, and what ever else we decide to take for a lunch, along with our work clothing, and we set the table with whatever items we can leave out overnight. As an example, I have the bowls, spoons, our vitamins, my pills, the bag of nuts, and a banana to be used for our breakfast. I also chopped the fruit and poured the milk into the sippy cup for the girls so that when they wake up, we can give them their breakfast immedietly while we gather the remaining ingredients for our breakfast.
We did this on Sunday night for the first time and we ended up with more than enough time to have a relaxing breakfast as a family, clean the kitchen, change the girls, and play for a while before we had to shower and get dressed for work. There was a remarkable difference in my schedule this morning compared to the weeks prior when I was cooking and then rushing around to prep the lunch and clean the kitchen while Jen changed the girls, showered and prepared for work.
As silly as it may sound to have the table prepped the night before, it saves valuable time in the morning, while decreasing the impatient crying of two hungry 14 month old girls!
I would like to hear your time saving tips that contribute to a healthy family…