From the Empty Nest: Kitchen Hacks

I’m starting with kitchen hacks because I love to cook. I have an eye for good recipes and love to make all kinds of food. I get bored easily so I don’t have a menu rotation and we don’t make any of the same things each week. We ate together as a family every night and when schedules got crazy we just aimed for as often as possible. Our middle son was diagnosed with celiac at age 8 and when you live in a small town there are zero options for him. I was so happy when our little grocery store started carrying gluten free pizza!

So how did I do all of this as a working mom and needing to cook for a special diet? Here’s some tips.

Plan your meals. Do one week at a time, two weeks, whatever works for you. Buy all the groceries for those meals ahead of time. This way you aren’t running to the store and wasting valuable cooking time. You don’t have to religiously stick to this plan, but you at least have five to 14 meals planned and purchased for to choose from each day.

Cook double. If you are browning one pound of hamburger, brown two. Freeze one pound for quick meal prep later.

Cook chicken breasts in the crockpot, shred, and package in 2 cup servings. Most chicken recipes call for 2 cups of chicken. Voila! Yours is cooked and ready to go.

The crockpot and Instant Pot are your friends. Learn to use them. These two devices shorten time you spend in the kitchen. I never had an Instant Pot but I used my crockpot all the time. Throw the ingredients in the night before. Refrigerate. Take out and plug in before you leave the house the next morning and it’s ready when you get home.

Have your kids help. They can chop, stir, open cans etc. Have someone cleaning out the dishwasher, someone setting the table while you’re cooking. You’ll be amazed at the conversations that happen when you are all organically together. And they are learning to be a part of the family. To help each other. I always stressed that a family was a team and each person had to do their part.

Set the expectation for family meals when they are little. Everyone up to the table at the same time. If it’s a habit they don’t question it as they get older. Again, small town. We didn’t have many alternatives to eating at hone either and most of their friends were doing the same.

This is something I have started doing again now that we are empty nesters-freezer meals! When it was just three of us sometimes a recipe made too much. Rather than get sick of the leftovers (we did that a few times) freeze the leftovers. Sometimes if the recipe called for a 9×13 casserole dish I would intentionally separate it into two 8×8 pans and freeze one for later. I’ve started doing that again now that it’s just Philip and I.

This really came in handy recently when my back went out. I went to the freezer to get ingredients for the nights meal and saw some frozen leftovers. I made the smart decision to just reheat those rather than try to cook. Sometimes I’ll put them on my menus and sometimes they are there for just such an emergency.

I hope these tips help you as they did me! I still make menus every two weeks and wouldn’t know how to grocery shop with them now!

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