Wish Upon A Dish: Tips to Save on Time Better Used for Cooking Dinner for the Family

August 7, 2014

Tips to Save on Time Better Used for Cooking Dinner for the Family

A couple of weeks ago the family got together for our monthly BBQ and the conversation steered it's way to how the eating habits have changed just recently.
I have to qualify a few things.
First, we are all over 57 and not retired, yet. One works part-time and her kids are grown but still live at home, one has two jobs and is a widow with no kids, and I am a DINK (Double Income No Kids).
Two of us have diabetes and the other has extremely high blood pressure (which can not be controlled).

I would say amongst the three woman at the table, we pretty much represent the majority of our generation as it is today.

We all eat to live nowadays but appreciate good food, like to cook, but over the years have made significant changes and can not eat as we did the past, not that we were fast food junkies, we just never worried about fats or sugars and Omega 3's.

Turns out we all still cook every night, bring our lunches to work and don't have anyone to help with the housework. OK, The Nudge takes out the garbage that I have bagged and put by the door, and the laundry (which he has done since we got married). I did give him a choice, vacuuming or laundry.
I do everything else (the bills, the cooking, the cleaning, the small repairs and the annual leaf blowing). I have a full day. I swear I can not remember how I managed to work retail full-time, do all the things I do now and still cooked dinner every night. Except during the Christmas Season. While I never had to drive kids to every sports event they can sign up for, if I did have kids they would have walked or drove their bike everywhere.

While I can sympathize with working mothers of today, I do think that it is possible to get everyone to the table at least 5x a week. All you need to do is use a few tips we have learned along the way, to get you started.

1. Join a Big Box Warehouse Store.

2. Sunday: Refill day. Let your kids share this chore while you clip coupons.
Refill all your condiments that you will be buying at a Big Box Store.
Example: ketchup, all oils, salt & pepper shakers/mills, sugar shaker, flour shaker, coffee pods, etc.
Also, shampoo, conditioner and all your over-the-counter drugs.

3. Set up automatic bill pay with your on-line bank and go paperless. Check to see if your supermarket has a shopping app so that you can check out as you shop and pay on the way out. It's wonderful, I do it all the time. Set up automatic shipment from your favorite coffee pod manufacturer and never worry about running out of coffee.

4. See if you can join a CSA so you never have to order seasonal fresh vegetables from your to do list, or better yet, you and your kids start a vegetable garden. Remember it's their job to weed and water. Friday nights after Pizza Night, is a good time.

5. Invest in a freezer, used or new.

6. Buy a food saver system and freeze cheaper larger packages of meats and fish. You not only save a ton of money, you can strike those items off your to do list. make sure you inventory and date everything you put in and what you take out.

7. Buy a battery charger and batteries.

8. Buy your stamps at your ATM and find a drive through post box to mail when you shop.

9. Inventory your pantry so you never run out. Let the kids write items down as you unpack and stock.

10. Make a shopping list, yes, it cuts down half your shopping time and that's time to drop off yet another ball player at practice. As a matter of fact, shop when the kids are not with you and shop in the time they are at practice, this way you won't linger and buy items you don't really need.

11. Buy swifter dusters, floor cleaners and window washers.

12. Shop on Saturdays in as many stores as you can. Hubby and me do Paneras for coffee and breakfast, then the wine store, the cat store, BJ's, cleaners and the supermarket is last. If you need to visit Home Depot, drop hubby off, run to the pet or wine store, and pick him up so he can wheel the shopping cart while you do the list. You will save hours in the long run and that's time you need for cooking.

12. Chop a whole bag of onions, celery, carrots and garlic at once. Better yet, use your processor and just rinse between batches. Store the garlic in olive oil and the vegetables in portioned snack bags. They will keep for a week in the fridge or frozen for 3 months.

13. Use your slow cooker. I have two, a small and a large. Run them at the same time and buy a timer!
Let them cook while you are sleeping or at work. Make enough for two dinners and freeze half. With two cookers, you can make 4 dinners in one full day.

14. Buy a really good, comprehensive slow cooker cookbook. I love the America's Test Kitchen "Slow Cooker Revolution" it not only gives you the recipe, it explains why. You will become an expert at baking and roasting, not just stews. Trust me on this, I do everything in my slow cookers.

15. Do not buy more fresh items than you need. Take into consideration what you will need for lunches but don't go overboard if you see a sale.If you eventually throw it out you haven't saved a thing.

16. Try to use one ingredient in two meals. Vegetables and chicken one night, a chicken & vegetable pasta a day or two later. A sale on corn? Cobs one night, shucked corn salsa the next. Oh, and buy your pico in a container in the salad section. Who has time to chop all those ingredients? Bottom of the pico container, just add to a few beaten eggs (right to the container) for a quick morning scramble to wrap in a tortilla 'to go'.

17. Invest in cheap ice cube trays and freeze cubes of chopped herbs, stocks, the rest of those chipotles in adobo and the rest of a can of tomato paste. Tubes are OK if you don't use enough, but if you squeeze 3 or more tablespoons out of a tube in two weeks it is so much cheaper to freeze and use.

I am sure there are lots more tips to write but not only am I short on time, I am short on memory.
Check back often for updates.

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