Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cooking for the Non-Cooker

If you've been following MaMe Musings' Facebook page status updates recently, you might have sensed something was amiss.

What happened to MaMe Musings, that little place on the WWW where a neurotic twin mom rambles about her parenting ups and downs while sprinkling in generous helpings of cute kid pictures?

Who replaced this self-doubting, over-tired, first-time mom with an over-sharing, meal planning, measuring, sauteing, simmering cooking machine?

She's still here. She's just trying to deal with one pesky, little problem:

Why? Why? Why?

Without a doubt, cooking is one of the hardest parts of my life to manage.

I don't...
  • have time to cook.
  • know what to cook.
  • enjoy cooking.
  • like grocery shopping.
  • want to do dishes.
However, I do...
  • love to eat.
  • want to eat better.
  • need to save money.
  • expect my kids to eat healthy.
  • like to prove my husband wrong pleasantly surprise my husband.
I know I can't be the only culinarily-challenged mom out there-- short on time, ideas, and patience. If you often find yourself one ingredient short of a full meal, then maybe these tips will be helpful to you. If you are higher up on the cooking food chain, please leave a comment with your helpful cooking suggestions/recipes/short-cuts!
    Meal Planning
In my quest to conquer meal planning, I have tried various meal planning sites. One we used with moderate success is e-meals. With E-Meals, you choose a type of plan (store-specific, diet-specific) and for $5 a month, you get a week's worth of meal plans complete with recipes, directions, and shopping lists.

One major positive of using E-Meals for us was that it made us more intentional about what we were buying at the grocery store. We shopped from the list. I will admit that also made grocery shopping more like a scavenger hunt since I often spent too much time hunting down that elusive box of orzo.

While we no longer subscribe, we do use some of the recipes we tried from the plan, and we also have kept with the idea of planning our meals in advance.

Just this week, I discovered another online meal planning site called Food on the Table. This site also builds meal plans that use items that are on sale at your local grocery stores. With an accompanying smart phone app, this tool might just be worth a second click.

    Our Basic Rotation
While I liked the variety of the meal plan suggestions, I often found the recipes required too many ingredients and steps, thereby increasing the likelihood I would call it quits and head for our local diner. On the weeks we do the best with eating at home, I have found this basic plan works:
  • meat, green, healthy starch (ex. chicken, broccoli, long grain rice/roasted potatoes)
  • crock pot (salsa chicken, buffalo chicken, pot roast and veggies, chili)
  • casserole
  • wok (stirfry and brown rice)
  • fish (baked salmon, tuna, fish tacos)
  • meatless meal (veggie lasagne, bean burgers)
Notice I didn't really include recipes above. What simplified things for me was not finding new recipes (Google makes that part easy). It was coming up with the basic overall structure and cooking method. On my best weeks, I add something new--a new crock pot idea, a new vegetarian option. On most week, I just recycle the recipes that I have used before that I know work (see above).
Some Basic Changes
I am a firm believer in making small changes over the long haul. Here are some changes we've made that we haven't noticed/missed/minded:
  • Less meat and more veggies
  • More ground turkey and less ground beef
  • More whole grains (brown rice, whole grain pasta)
  • More garlic (and spices, in general)
  • More MUFAs(avocados, canola/olive oil, nuts)
  • Less fat by using apple sauce and/or greek yogurt in place of oil/shortening/butter when baking
One More Morsel
If you spent too much time reading this super-long post and now just have time to check out one more site, make it this one: Skinny Mom (I LIKE the Facebook page and really use the ideas posted in the daily updates).
Last one--really
Have dirty pots and pans with baked-on food? Soak in warm water with a dryer sheet or two for easy clean-up!
Linking up with two of my favorite blogs today-- Time Out for Mom
and Pontifications of a Twin Mom
Manic Mother

Oh, one more thing--I was in no way paid or sponsored by any site mentioned here!


Suzanne said...

I was faced with the same dilemma. I loved cooking before my twins and found myself wondering what to cook and how I was going to find time to do it. I had years and years of recipes filed away. I also thought there were other mothers out there struggling so I decided to start a 2nd blog, Meals For Moms. I try to post recipes that can be made in 30-60 minutes and most of them have been kid-tested and approved by my own kids (one of whom is extremely picky). I apologize in advance for the shameless plug but I thought you might find it helpful in your quest for simple, quick meals. :)

Tasha said...

GREAT post!! I have never tried any of those sites. Thanks for sharing! I have friends who use them and LOVE them!
I also loved to cook before the boys were born. It took me a long time to get my nerve back to get in the kitchen. Now I do it for many of the same reason you want to.
I make a list of meals our family likes/loves. I rotate and mix them up over a 2week period. I'll sometimes throw a new one in every once in a while. I also always have a night I make something that will provide leftovers. Thursday nights are always CLEAN OUT the fridge and pantry night. Fridays are always homemade pizza nights. And most of the time Sunday nights are snacky type foods. I have found having these set nights for certain meals makes my life much easier. Not just in the kitchen, but at the grocery store too!
Also I have one picky so new recipes are hard for us.
More tips please MaMe...this is GREAT! Can't wait to read more.

RoryBore said...

I certainly do find myself using the same "tried and true" recipes each week. But with young kids, it can be hard to stray very far from what they are used to having. I tried crock pot chicken, rice and veggies the other night - something they've always eaten - but it was "mixed together mommy!!!!" not all separate on the plate.
honestly - what was I thinking? LOL
I look forward to the days when they are more willing to be adventurous: I've got lots of recipes I am dying to use and an iPod fully charged and loaded. the music helps in the kitchen.
also, wine. :)
thanks for chatting!

Colleen said...

I struggle with this too. My husband will help with making dinner but it's not always the most healthy thing. I am trying to encourage him to try other things but it's a slow process!

Olusola said...

It's like you were describing me. When I lived alone, I ate out often and when at home it was either bread or cornflakes. I don't think I turn on my stove for a year. I have no wise words of advise, but I commisserate with you :)

Leigh Powell Hines (Hines-Sight Blog) said...

Great tips, and thanks for sharing my FB page. I appreciate it.

Beth said...

I'm in the same boat. It is such a long process from coming up with a meal to putting food on the table. I've been ordering groceries online through Vons. Delivery has been free for the last few months for adding a baby product and promo code. It makes it easier and gives me time to revise my order if I forget something. But it's still painful and I put it off. I like your basic plan. I've been trying to think in terms of categories for each day of the week - taco Tuesday, pasta Wednesday, etc. I plan on making a binder with print-outs and photo copies and organize in categories. I know that will help since I'm so scatterbrained and forget even the most basic recipes. Every week I draw a blank on what to make! Can't wait to check out the links - thanks!

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