One evening – prepping dinners

Published February 1, 2015 by lynn k scott

I admit, I’m a busy wife and mother.  While I only have one child at home currently, I know what it’s like to juggle more than one child (have four adult children too).  I’m not sharing this piece to say “look at me”, I’m sharing it as an example of time management.  As everyone’s situation is unique, you have to find the balance that works for your home.

I promote using a crock pot (aka slow cooker) whenever possible.  It truly can make meal preparation that much simpler, esp. for large families or parents who are always on the go.  I admit, I am not one to come home from work, kick off my shoes, have a sit on the couch and relax.  Quite the contrary.  When I arrive home from picking up my daughter from the sitter’s house, after working a full day, it’s onto feeding the dogs, settling them down from being alone all day, preparing dinner and then onto homeschool lessons.

This bit is about dinner preparation and how it may provide a guide for other busy moms and dads.  I am the first to admit, I haven’t jumped on the prep and freeze slow cooker bandwagon.  I haven’t reached that stage yet, but what I’m currently doing, works for my household.

Here’s an example of two dinners last week.

Today’s Dinner:  baked chicken and mashed potatoes.

Tomorrow’s dinner:  crock pot chili.

Before starting the chicken, I take out the beans I have in the refrigerator.  I soaked two different kind of dried beans while I was at work all day.  I drain and rinse them, put them in the crock pot, cover with water and cook on high for 4 hours.  They will be done right before I go to bed.

Next, get the chicken into the oven as it will take about an hour to cook.  I always line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. It’s a simple little step that will save you quite some time in the clean-up portion after dinner.  Season chicken to taste and in it goes.  Set microwave timer to turn chicken.  No sense in trying to remember.  Use what devices you have to help you along.  I know my memory is shot when it comes to “when did I put that in” type of questions.

Next, out comes the large skillet and in goes the hamburger meat,  Set to medium/low and stir occasionally while peeling potatoes.

Speaking of potatoes…peel and wash the potatoes, cut and into a pan of water.  Set wooden spoon over pan.  This little trick really does prevent the water from boiling over.  By the time the oven timer goes off, telling you to turn the chicken, the potatoes should be ready (or almost ready) to drain and mash.

Your hamburger meat should be browned and ready to drain off the fat by the time the chicken timer goes off at well.  See to the chicken and then drain the hamburger and let cool in the pan.

Chicken flipped, timer reset to finish cooking, and onto mashing the potatoes.  Have your kid(s) help you set the table.  No sense in you running around doing everything.  Now there’s about 15 minutes to spare until it’s dinner time.

Tomorrow’s dinner:  crock pot chili.

I take out my mandoline-type slicer.  I only need about 5 minutes to peel, slice and store the onions.  Mine has a setting that will slice into strips, a couple chops of my knife across the strips and the onions are ready to go.  Put into a glass dish and into the fridge until after dinner.

Skip through dinner and clean-up.  Just to note:  kids can help clear the table.  If they are older, they can rinse and load the dishwasher.

Back to chili prep.  Take the onions out of the fridge.  I use a container that will hold the onions, bell pepper and jalepeno pepper.  No sense in making more dishes to clean.  I quickly dice all the peppers.  Add them to the container.  Put on the cap and back in the fridge until morning.

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Next, I take out all the seasoning, tomatoes, and stock I use in the chili.  I place them near the crock pot.

I take the hamburger meat, now cooled, and put into another container and that goes into the fridge, near the onion and pepper container.  Makes for a quick grab in the morning.

Ok, chili prep is done.  I continue on about my night, doing the rest of my routine.  It’s about 9:30 now.  I drain the beans and put them into a bowl.  I take the bowl, uncovered and put into the fridge.  This will help them cool own so I can add a lid and get to bed at a reasonable hour.

My mother always told me to wash dishes in the hottest water you can stand.  I now have no problem washing in extremely hot water.  Good thing too, because my crock pot is still hot from the beans.  I give it about 10 minutes to cool down.  Good time to grab a quick shower.  Be right back.

Ok, I’m back.  See how quick that was?  Now, get the dishwater nice and hot so you don’t crack the crock when you wash it. Clean it up because it’s needed first thing in the morning to start tomorrow’s dinner.  Put it back in it’s warmer, after washing and drying it.  Now tomorrow’s dinner is prepped to go.  Just combine all the ingredients, set it on low for 10 hours, and dinner is done by the time you walk through the door.

Before heading to bed, add a lid to those beans you put in the fridge.  Ok, time for a bit of sleep.

Now, if you got exhausted just reading that, it’s ok.  I have been on this type of schedule for years.  It’s what works for me. Is my house spotless?  Heck no.  I just do things in shifts.  I prefer to utilize the minutes I have, when I have them.  No sense in sitting down for 10 minutes to wait for dinner when I can use those minutes and be productive elsewhere.

All I am saying is use time to your advantage.  If and when your kids are older, have them lend a hand so your hands can be busy doing something else.  Find your groove, if you haven’t already, and create a working system for your busy schedule.  This is just one example of time management.  Have a good and productive week!

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