With five kids, it’s not too uncommon for me to find myself helping kids with homework, rushing to get ready for Taekwondo, soothing a crying baby, and scrambling to get dinner on all at the same time. In fact, over the last 9 years of motherhood, I’ve noticed a steady and constant trend. Dinnertime seems to always be the craziest part of the day. The kids are tired and hungry. They want mom to spend time with them and not at the stove cooking.
So, in answer to their cries for attention and in effort to restore sanity to the 5 o’clock hour, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade. Ways to make mealtime more simple.
I’m sure I’ll be posting tips as I think of them, but todays tip was inspired by the chicken breasts that were on sale at the store today. Not worrying about whether I would even be eating chicken this week, I bought 14 pounds and brought it home.
Later, after getting the little ones down for a nap, I slipped into the kitchen, pulled out the knife and started chopping: nugget sized pieces for nugget night, tenderloin sized pieces for saucy dishes and breast sized pieces for baked chicken. Then, I divided the chicken into meal size portions and stuck them in freezer bags and labeled them “Tenderloins, 1 meal”, “nuggets, 1 meal”, etc.. The rest of the chicken I dumped in the crockpot, covered with just enough water to cover the chicken and then turned it on low. It will cook for a good 6-8 hours until sometime after bedtime when I will remove the chicken and shred it with a fork. It will be so tender by then that it will simply fall apart for me. When cool, I’ll put it in a bag as well and freeze it shredded for enchiladas, etc. It took me all of 15 minutes (minus the crockpot cook time) but look what I got: at least 7 meals already pre-prepped and all on sale!
On enchilada night, I can skip the “cook chicken” step, saving me lots of time. I just have to pull out my frozen chicken the night before, add it to the other ingredients, and I’m done! Enchiladas only takes me 5 minutes! For chicken dishes with a sauce, I can just dump my frozen chicken into the pan, cover with the other ingredients and stick it in the oven. Since they’re already cut to smaller “tenderloin” sizes, they’ll defrost and cook in the same time specified by the recipe. Best of all, I don’t have to defrost the whole package of chicken for just one meal. They’re already stored by meal so I don’t have to see any chicken gone to waste.
Prefer beef? Make meal time quick and easy by buying your ground beef (or turkey) in bulk. Spend 20 minutes cooking it completely in a fry pan. If you’d like, add fresh or dehydrated onions. Store in freezer bags in “meal-size” quantities. When you need beef for a recipe, just let it defrost enough to loosen. Add it to sauces or casseroles or warm it up with taco seasoning. However you do it, you just saved your self a lot of time at dinner time.
Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!