Squeeze-It-In Cookin’ For The Pressed-For-Time Home Biz Owner

by Sarah on September 15, 2011

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Yesterday morning my daughter woke me up asking if I wanted huevos rancheros for breakfast . . .

And last night, my son helped me make bison burgers. (He was master of seasonings.)

What a delight to have older kids taking over some kitchen duties!

But it hasn’t always been this way for me.  And even with a couple of aspiring chefs in the household, most food prep still falls to me.

(My husband is not a cook – he’s got other duties.)

I think for many of us home biz folks, we have a love-hate relationship with cooking.

  • One of the delights of working at home is that you can cook more meals and enjoy them.
  • One of the frustrations of working at home is that you have to squeeze in cooking between other work duties.

Even if you’re a farming foodie, like me, meal prep starts to lose its allure.

But when you’ve got a family, there’s no shirking this demand. Especially when you want to eat well and on a budget.

However, over the years of being chief cook and CEO mama, I’ve developed a few strategies for keeping food on the table without ordering takeout 3 times a week.

Here they are:

1.    Cook Very Big

We have in our household what we call a “Big Cook”. In the summer this translates into 4-6 pounds of meat on the grill outside with a big pot of rice and another of beans bubbling nearby.

In the winter, I’ll fill my oven with 2 roast chickens, 6 loaves of bread and squash. Or put together a couple big lasagnas at a time.

This way I can lay off cooking duty for most of the week, only adding a few beans and veggie dishes over the week.

The other advantage of this strategy is that we save money on gas for the oven and wood for the grill.

Deborah Taylor Hough has this down to an even finer science she labels creating “Frozen Assets” (hee hee). She does a big BIG cook once a month and freezes a month’s worth of meals in individualized portions.

I’ve never gotten to that level. But it’s certainly something to aspire to.

2.    Cook Somewhat Big

A “Big Cook” or Deborah’s Frozen Assets are fantastic but they do take a level of preparation that can sometimes be daunting.

Often enough I simply cook meals for 2-3 nights. A big pot of stewed chicken or a pork roast.

I’m a great lover of leftovers! And if I do it right, I even have enough to put in the freezer for a couple meals.

3.    Use a slow cooker

On this note, I am great pals with my slow cooker. I can toss together a meal like lentil soup or curry goat in half an hour and then let it go.

And even for less elaborate fixings, like a pot of beans or tomato sauce, slow cookers allow you to put it together and then forget about it for half a day.

4.    Cook Fast

In addition to the big cooking ventures, I’ve got quick meals I love to use once a week or so:

-    broiled salmon with a miso glaze
-    bison or free-range beef burgers
-    spaghetti with chicken sausage
-    stirfry
-    frittatas

All of these meals are ones that I can put together in 25 minutes flat (take that Rachel Ray!).  I make sure that I stock the fixings for these in the freezer and pantry so I have something to turn to in a pinch.

5.    Cook Old Favorites

Whether fast cooking or slow, I have a stockpile of old reliables.

I love perusing food magazines like Eating Well and have some glorious cookbooks I leaf through and drool over.

I spend a lot of time daydreaming about wonderful new dishes I’m going to try.

But when it comes down to it, there are some regulars that show up at my table like old friends.

The beauty of these dishes is that I barely think as I prepare them. So my mind can be mulling over other things. Or unwinding from a long day of writing.

And I save time because I’m not reading through the recipe and planning my attack beforehand.

Simply put, like an old pair of jeans, these old recipes are comfortable and easy to prepare.  Some days, with my home business and family, I’ve got enough challenges.  Dinner challenges I could do without.

Bonus hint: If you’re not much of a cook, start small. But when you hit upon something you like, cook it over and over so you can turn it into a reliable standby.

As you cook these standards more, you’ll be able to be more creative too.

One of my favorite guides for getting the basics down and developing your own creativity in the kitchen is How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. (I should get a new copy since mine is falling apart from such hard use!)

If you’re a little nervous about tackling meals, this book will help you overcome this. And it’s a great resource for experienced chefs as well.

It’s helped me develop cooking skills where I can rely less on recipes and just do it, saving me lots of time and energy.

6.    No Cooking

Getting a good meal on the table doesn’t always have to involve cooking. And this doesn’t mean I order out.

Sometimes it’s a big salad and we simply toss some cold meats, hard-boiled eggs, leftover rice and beans on top.

Every year we smoke a couple turkeys, chickens and hams so it may mean it’s a cold cuts sandwich night.  Or hummus and chips. Or canned salmon or sardines spread on toast.

This is an especially lovely option when summer temps rise into the 80′s.

Again I try to keep my pantry and freezer stocked so I can easily call a no-cook night.

Plan, Stock Up, And Then Default

Of course, there are days when I announce, let’s eat Chinese takeout food tonight.

But by planning ahead, stocking up and having defaults I can turn to, I can avoid this more. This helps us save money and nourish our bodies better with healthy food.

By putting these strategies to work, you’ll be able to savor one of the really nice advantages of working at home – a nice home-cooked meal.

Share with us all, your strategies for making home-cooking a nicer fit for your home business. And favorite recipes are always welcomed!

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This post is part of the Your Healthy Home Biz. YHHB gives home business owners specific strategies, tips and inspiration for running your home business without running yourself into the ground.  To get weekly tips sent right to your inbox plus the invaluable but free guide “The Easy Way To Sneak Exercise Into Your Workday And Get More Done” sign up at www.yourhealthyhomebiz.com.

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