Thursday, 27 March 2008

My best advice Pt 2

For the first installment, see here.

2. Cooking:
~ Do not cook breakfast. Unless you are happy to get up at 5am, and probably even then, it is a waste of your time and energy. There are a lot of nutritious cereals out there that only require you pour the cereal and add milk. Until the kids can get their own breakfast and clean up any mess they make doing it, cereal is the only option they need. You can always add a little fruit or yoghurt to make each day's cereal that little bit different. (We do have "special breakfasts" at our house once a week or less often - pancakes or bacon & eggs - Jeff does the cooking and lets me sleep in until it's time to eat, but I have to wipe up the sticky or greasy faces!)

~ Unless you are reheating leftovers, do not cook lunch. Unless you really love cooking, and probably even then, it is a waste of your time and energy. Or maybe if you live some place that is very cold and you need to warm up your kids from the inside out. We have about three options for lunch if we're at home: sandwiches with cheese and peanut butter (my husband tells me this is a crazy combination but I grew up with it and think it is normal - you could always try vegemite instead); sandwiches with cheese and cold sliced meat and if I'm feeling really generous a slice or two of tomato or cucumber or a lettuce leaf or something; or baked beans with grated cheese (in the summer the kids eat these cold, in the winter I heat the beans and mix in frozen grated spinach). If we go in to Jeff at college for lunch, we sometimes buy something from a bakery (sushi is also a special favourite) or Jeff makes a tuna and salad sandwich for us from his lunch supplies.

~ Work out what evenings you need to have a very easy, quick meal (for us it's Tuesdays when Jeff is out leading a Bible study, Wednesdays when we go to our couple's Bible study straight after dinner and Fridays when Jeff takes Joshua to Karate). On these nights, don't attempt anything more difficult than reheating leftovers or baking frozen fish fingers/chicken nuggets in the oven and microwaving frozen vegetables. Take-away is an expensive but no-brain option, especially if your husband collects it on his way home from work.

~ Divide the other evenings into those when you would like to prepare something more special and know you will have the time (maybe only once or twice a week), and those evenings when you'd just like to get something nourishing and reasonably edible on the table. Draw up a list of meals that fit into these categories.

~ I have two meal lists, one for summer with lots of BBQ style meals and one for winter with more pasta dishes and soups. On my summer meal list I have things like "Lemon Pepper Lamb steaks with Peach, Baby Spinach, Pine Nut and Proscuitto salad" and "Portuguese Chicken Burgers" for the special dinners - they take 30min or less to get serves for six on the table, now that I've done them a few times, but taste great because of quick but delicious marinades. On my winter meal list I have things like the weekend staple "Lamb roast with garlic, rosemary and sea salt seasoning and roast vegetables" and "Beef Mince with (tinned) Tomato, Basil, Mushrooms and Eggplant over Spagetti" (although I have to admit I overdid that one last winter and am banned from cooking eggplant until September this year). If a meal gets good comments from my husband, I make sure I keep the recipe and it goes on my meal list.
~ Make up a one-week menu from this meal list. Then write a shopping list for these meals only. Buy fruit and milk all the other stuff you need as well, of course. For example, this is my menu for the last week, including the Easter weekend:
Maundy Thursday:
b'fast: weetbix and milk, water to drink.
lunch: cheese and sliced ham sandwich, fruit, water to drink.
dinner: lamb roast with microwaved corn on the cob, broccoli and turkish bread, water to drink - we were meant to have red grape juice but I forgot to put it on the shopping list.
Easter Friday:
b'fast: weetbix and milk, water to drink.
lunch: bakery leftovers courtesy of our church, fruit, water to drink.
afternoon tea: solid chocolate eggs (metaphorically full of sin).
dinner: sword fish steaks coated in flour and panfried, microwaved frozen vegetables (carrots, peas and corn), water to drink.
Easter Saturday:
b'fast: weetbix and milk, water to drink.
lunch: BBQ for Great-granny's 91st birthday to which I brought a hot potato salad (which I do for practically every BBQ we go to).

dinner: leftovers from lunch, water to drink.
Easter Sunday:
b'fast: pancakes with golden syrup, water to drink.
morning tea: hollow chocolate eggs (metaphorically an empty tomb).
lunch: bread rolls with salami, sliced cheese and salad leaves, juice, bakery treat.
afternoon tea: hollow chocolate eggs.
dinner: (with friends) BBQ lamb sausages and morroccan spiced lamb steaks (THANKS GRANNY FOR THE HOME RAISED THREE SHEEP AND HALF A COW IN OUR FREEZER!) with tossed garden salad and soft drink for the adults.
b'fast: weetbix and milk with a dollop of yoghurt, water to drink.
lunch: (I was really lazy) take away hamburgers and chips, water to drink.

dinner: Portuguese chicken burgers, water to drink.
b'fast: weetbix and milk with a few slices of canned peach, water to drink.
lunch: cheese and peanut butter sandwich, fruit, water to drink.

dinner: (with Jeff at college) toasted bread with cheese, salami and tomato, hot cross buns, water to drink.
b'fast: weetbix and milk, water to drink.
lunch: (at Kings Park with friends) cheese & bacon bread roll, fruit, bakery treat shared between four, water to drink.

dinner: take away pizza, water to drink.

~ Do a slightly different one-week menu each week for a month or so and see how it works out. Once you feel it is working well, consider shopping for a fortnight (or longer) at a time, or just writing out three or four weeks' menus with their shopping lists and photocopying them and then just rotating through them. When it comes time to shop, check to make sure there's nothing very unusual happening this week, and otherwise go with the pre-planned menu.

~ Start making up a list of things you need to buy regularly (every week or less often) such as milk, detergent and toothbrushes and check this list before you head off to shop for your meal list items. Also, when you run out of a spice or dry herb (eg chilli flakes or dill) or a pantry staple (eg spiralli pasta or honey), add it to next week's shopping list straight away, so you don't forget.

~ Keep the meal list and shopping lists as your tools, not your masters.

I'll post on cleaning ASAP - but be warned, I'm not the cleanest person I know!


mom24 said...

Ahhh... this is just what I used to do B.A. (before allergies). Our 4-day rotation diet w/o 11 to 13 allergy causing foods has made our life a little more (try - completely and totally) crazy these days. EVERY meal needs to be cooked and I am spending at least 2 hours on lunch and dinner (start to finish). My grocery planning is now all out of whack as well as our budget (I ahd this all figured out last fall ad was loving it).
Your post has made me long for the simpler kitchen life..... You've got the right idea though!

ps. I forgot that Joshua was in karate. Jefferson is too and he LOVES it (although he is still quite clueless - it's cute). What a great activity for them, huh?

Sharon said...

Apparently Joshua asked Jeff on the way home from his first karate lesson, "Dad you said I was going to kicking and punching school. When will I learn to kick and punch?" and Jeff was astounded by his complete lack of awareness. He seems to be enjoying it though and is defnintely getting better at showing off his moves to friends and family.
~ Sharon