Ways for busy moms to cut down on cooking time in the kitchen? Is it possible to even have the time to cook when you have a job, five brawling children and never-ending loads of clothes to launder and iron? By sheer necessity, and at times for the sake of healthy eating, you must cook at times even if it is a dish for a pot-luck party.
1. Prepare part of the meal in advance.
Certain items take time to prepare. These include pastries, bread dough, pizza crusts and pasta sauces. Instead of cooking portions enough for just a meal, prepare for up to a month where certain items are concerned, and refrigerate in portions enough for a meal for the number of people in your family. Vegetables can be cut and vacuum-packed for a few days’ worth, and refrigerated.
2. Use different cooking methods at a go.
Instead of having to watch a dish cooked one at a time, plan dishes that involve various cooking methods. Your strength might be in roasting. Hence roast sufficient meat to last for the night, sandwiches for lunch the next day, and chef’s salad some other day within the week. In the meantime, boil water to cook pasta, and while both are cooking, slice up the vegetables or cut up fruit for dessert.
3. Cook a combination of simple to prepare dishes.
Instead of packing food home from the local eatery, having fast food or television dinners, cooking up a three course meal comprising a soup, a main course and sides is a remote possibility that many working mothers do not consider, let alone having only one pot to wash. Here are some simple one-pot cooking solutions.
Example 1: Meat, mashed potato or pasta, mixed veggies
If you are cooking for only two or three people, this combination is an easy one. First, boil the potatoes. Instead of boiling just enough for a meal. you may decide to have potatoes for two or three meals that week – the first being whole potato with a healthy mayonnaise. While you boil the pasta, wrap enough potatoes in foil. Add the sauce only when you are ready to serve. Nobody will know that you boiled instead of baked the potato.
While you cook the pasta, put the remaining potatoes into a strong zip-lock bag, and start hammering them with a food hammer that you use to tenderize meat with. Use the blunt edge of a chopping knife if you do not have a food hammer. Put the bag of mashed potatoes into the refrigerator for the next meal.
Do a London Broil with your meat. You can start on this while your potatoes or pasta is cooking. Use part of the dribbling to make the sauce for your potatoes or mixed vegetables if you do not fancy a calorie-rich Mayonnaise topping.
Example 2. Chinese noodle soup
Chinese noodles are easy to cook. You can have anything you want in the soup – mainly vegetables, or a mix of vegetables and some meat or meatballs. A tip is to cook the noodles separate from the soup so that flour used in separating the strands of some noodles will not cloud the soup.
Add the meat to the stock and the vegetables last because most vegetables take a shorter time to cook. Besides, the meat will also add flavor to the soup and vegetables.
4. Go home to empty nests
If you have a young family and live near your parents or parents-in-law, work out a schedule whereby you will go over to their places for some meals. That way, the older couple will not feel neglected and will see their grandchildren. You will also have some time off your children and enjoy your parents’ home-cooked meals as well. Occasionally, have your parents or in-laws hang up the aprons and eat out. It would be a great treat for everyone.
Make sure you pay your parents or in laws for their service. You could do it in cash or in kind, such as stocking up their refrigerators and cold rooms or larders, buying items for their homes, or sending them on a holiday.
5. Home catering
Have a neighbor or caterer provide food for part of the week. Although menus may be standard fare, it is definitely healthier and cheaper than eating out, especially when you have a large family with young children. Some caterers are generous with their portions, and instead of ordering for the whole family, the whole family could go by on a few persons’ meals.
You could perhaps just order the main dishes and cook the rest on your own so that you do not have soggy and cold rice, noodles, or potatoes when you are finally ready to eat.
6. Take turns to cook
You could team up with a neighbor or two to take turns to cook. After all, making pasta for two or five does not make much of a difference. Moreover, it would save on food cost to buy in bigger portions, utility bills, and most important, time. It is not necessary to eat together, although that is also a possibility. You get to share the washing up, and if your children are about the same age and go to the same school, you could also share in looking into their homework.
Cooking can be a chore or a fun thing to do. It all depends on how you network with your family, friends and neighbors. Think of win-win situations and not simply gains for you and your family.