Thursday, November 19, 2009

Getting It All Done Tip #8: “Do Ahead’s” Save Dinner! (And lunch! And breakfast!)

“…she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.” (Proverbs 31:15b, NIV)

I think the biggest challenge that faces a woman who works outside the home is how to feed her family healthy, nutritious food when time is pinched. Let’s face it: not only does is cost more to eat real, whole foods, but they also take much more time to prepare. In addition, it’s all too easy to pick up a pizza or head to the drive-thru when it’s late, the kids and hubby are hungry (and probably complaining), and you are facing 1 to 1 ½ hours of prep time before a meal is ready.

After reading through The South Beach Diet on my doctor’s suggestion (and through working to implement the lifestyle changes therein), then through Nourishing Traditions as a curiosity after reading so many posts about it on the New Harvest Homestead Yahoo group, I have become convinced that I must work harder to eliminate the processed foods from my family’s diet. How to accomplish this is taking some time, but I have found that if I can eliminate the things that make it harder for us to eat the best foods for us, I can make the transition easier.
Of course, there is resistance to change from the children, and although my husband is supportive, he is not whole-heartedly committed to making changes himself. In our house, my husband has had the task of getting supper on the table for the last 11 years, since he gets usually gets home before 3 PM. When I was working day shift, I would not get home before 6:15 PM. Since he wanted dinner at a decent hour, he decided to start cooking, and thankfully, he is a fantastic cook. But he doesn’t like to spend hours in the kitchen after working all day, and many unprocessed foods take a very long time to cook. Now that I work evenings, with homeschooling and household chores during the day, I have a very limited time frame in which to prepare a nutritious lunch. The best way to facilitate healthier meals at our house is for me to make it as easy to get those meals prepared as possible, and the easiest way to do that is to make those extra-time-consuming-meal-busters ahead.

For example, many of the meals in my meal plans call for brown rice, which is a whole, unprocessed grain without additives. However, it takes nearly an hour for the rice to cook, not to mention the prep time. If time is short and you are going to have to wait for the rice to cook in order to sit down for supper, chances are you will end up at a fast food restaurant somewhere instead. That’s definitely not in a healthy eating plan, nor is it good for the pocketbook. But if you plan ahead, bearing in mind that it takes just as long to prepare the six servings of rice that you need for dinner as it does to prepare a whole 2-lb package, then why not get out a big pot and cook the whole package on a day when you are not rushed? Then, once the rice has cooled, scoop it by the cupful into zip-close freezer bags, putting enough for a single meal in a bag. Flatten, remove excess air, and place in the freezer. The next time you need rice for a meal, pop a bag in the microwave to thaw and reheat. Meal-buster busted.

Crock pot meals are also a great way to get a healthy meal on the table when you know your schedule is not going to leave you enough time to cook. Getting up a few minutes early in the morning to start a crock pot roast or a crock pot full of homemade chili is well worth the time. When I know I need to start a crock-pot meal, I set “reminders” in Outlook a day ahead to cue me to thaw the meat and even to make sure that I don’t forget to start everything the following morning. The meal plans from both E-Mealz and from Saving Dinner usually include at least one crock meal each week.

On the topic of E-Mealz and Saving Dinner: both of these are a great way of getting into the habit of creating a weekly meal plan, which not only cures the “I-have-no-idea-what-to-fix-for-dinner” syndrome, but also saves money at the grocery store as well. I have been doing weekly meal plans for years, but after a while of eating our “favorites” every other week or so, I find that no one in the family wants the “same-old, same-old” anymore. Then the meals for which I’ve planned (and shopped) either don’t get prepared, or worse, the food gets picked at but not eaten, and I am stuck with leftovers no one wants. These online services are great in that they prepare a unique meal plan each week and provide a shopping list for everything you will need for that week’s plan. Both services are economically priced as well, and once you find a few new favorites, you can enhance your own arsenal of quick and easy meals that your family loves.

Many people use the Freeze-It-and-Forget-It plans, and I understand this is also a great way to make more efficient use of time and money by preparing ahead a month’s worth of meals, but I have never personally tried this. I have, however, made double-quantities of favorite meals and frozen half for use at a later time. I have also frozen leftovers if not eaten the next day to be pulled out for a quick lunch at a later date. I make waffles and pancakes ahead and keep them in the freezer. (I hate cleaning that waffle iron! Waffles are a treat, even if they are made ahead!) If you are rushed in the morning, it’s much healthier to reheat a homemade breakfast with no preservatives than it is to reheat a processed, chemical laden version of the same thing. However, you have to have the freezer space available for this to be worthwhile.

To make “Do-Ahead’s” work for you, identify the stumbling blocks you face in getting a healthy meal on the table, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, and schedule some time to prepare those items ahead and get them in the freezer. If taking a little time one or two weekends a month will help you overcome these, then I am sure you will agree that the investment will be time well spent.

There is joy on this journey, on my way home to my Father's house,
Cindy <><

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting my blog! I am so happy to hear from you. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a note here. Blessings!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...