How to Make Meal Times Less Stressful!

Making Meal Time Less Stressful

 

Being the mother of 7 children, I have to think about food A LOT!  My kids can eat and eat and eat.  Everyone has always been impressed with what good little eaters I have.  Now that I have 2, almost 3 teenagers, I am shocked at what that can mean and how many times a person can go back for more food, sometimes long after the rest of the family was finished eating.  If there’s food left in the pot, my son is asking if he can have it!  Cooking isn’t one of the things I really enjoy doing, it’s just a task that has to be done in order to have a functional family, so I have been aiming to streamline my time spent in the kitchen and yet enjoy what we’re eating.  Here are several ways that I have been able to accomplish this.

 

1.  Pick Easy Meals

Think about what you generally cook when you’re in a time crunch.  For me, it’s things like spaghetti, montereys, taco salad, chili, hamburgers, etc.  Meal plan around these easy meals.  If you don’t have a very long list, search for some quick and easy recipes that you can plan around.   You can always throw in your favorite more difficult meal, but spread them out, so they’re not on back to back days.

 

2.  Use Your Slow Cooker 

I decided I wanted to use my slow cooker almost every day.  I just LOVE not having to think about making dinner at 5:00.  You may know me as that Slow Cooker lady by now….and can find many of my slow cooker recipes here:  Crockpot Freezer Meals.

3.  Decide What’s For Dinner the Night Before

The reason this is important is so that you make sure to get anything you need to out of the freezer.  It is so frustrating to decide on making something with ground beef, to remember that the only ground beef you have is frozen in a big 10 pound block that doesn’t fit into the microwave to defrost.  Which brings me to…..

 

4.  Save Money by buying in bulk or buying off brands. 

Believe it or not, we normally shop for our groceries in a bigger city.  We try to plan to go to the city around the time we need to stock back up.    I like to coupon in the cities when I can, but haven’t become quite that organized to do it regularly yet, nor have I been able to take the time to clip coupons on a regular basis.  We generally go to Aldi and Sams and at least check the other local stores for deals we can score while we’re there.  We can save quite a bit on cheese, lunch meat, bread, canned goods, etc.  At Walmart, I can buy a block of cheese for over $4 a pound.  At Sams, I get it in a 5 pound block for $12.  That’s getting 2 pounds free!  I usually stock up on produce at Aldi.  The in season fruit and vegetables are always much cheaper than our local stores.  The fruit that is in season will sell for around $1.50 – $2 per 3 to 4 pound bag.  Strawberries for a dollar a pound and Pineapples for a dollar each as well.  This isn’t all the time, but these are the prices that I regularly look for.

 

5.  Make Freezer meals

For me, that means, make extremely easy freezer meals.  I decided to line up my recipes for a week and make a list of what I need to do in order to prep them.  I do all of the preparation work at once for the week, including chopping and browning of meat.  I place all of my ingredients in freezer bags and freeze them for the week so that they stay as fresh as possible.

6.  Involve the Children

There is  nothing wrong with your children helping in the kitchen!!  It is wonderful training for their future and sometimes, if the family wants to eat, it’s downright unavoidable!  My 11 year old enjoys knowing that she was able to be a big part of getting everyone fed.  If you don’t have kids that old, they can always be right next to you, helping to put ingredients in bowls or bags or even just “washing dishes” by playing in the dish water.  My younger children always think it is a treat to help mommy!

 

7.  Table Chores

This next tip is more for me than for you…because it is a place we still struggle.  Clean up the dishes and the table right after each meal!  It doesn’t take long and we’re always thankful when we do it.

 

8.  Streamline Breakfast & Lunch

My kids know that there are certain things that they can choose from for breakfast and lunch.  I’m not one who is willing to cook a hot breakfast every day.  That’s usually a special occasion.  I’m a zombie in the morning!!  Their breakfast choices are generally cereal, toast, fruit, boiled eggs or oatmeal (made in the microwave).  Lunches are generally cheese quesadillas, ham sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, bean & cheese burritos, mac & cheese, hot dogs, salads or leftovers.  They’re all super easy to prepare and overall, I don’t care if they choose different things to eat…unless it involves making a pot of something (i.e. mac & cheese)…then I require more than 1 person has to want to eat it.

 

How do you make your meal times less stressful?

 

This post was updated and modified from one that I originally posted in October of 2011.  I have since added a large section of Crockpot Freezer Meals to my site.  Be sure to check them out.  You can have the recipes for free, and if you’d like the opportunity to save time and let me completely plan the meals for you, I have 8 weeks of Crockpot Freezer Meals that come with assembly instructions and grocery list that you can purchase for a low price of $2.99 per week.

How to Make Meal Times Less Stressful!


Herbed Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker

My husband has always steered me away from using pork roasts and pork chops in my cooking, but recently he announced to me that he was more than willing to try new things.  Let me tell you, it didn’t take me long to jump on that opportunity.  If he’s willing to try pork chops, I am pretty sure I could come up with an amazing recipe.  Let me tell you, this one was just that.  AMAZING!  I had to laugh, as we didn’t eat our meal together this particular night.  He had been gone fishing while the rest of us were eating dinner.  I came into the living room, where he was watching his Kansas City Royals baseball game while eating his plate of herbed pork chops, salad and peas (in his case…I happen to prefer the green beans).  He looked up at me and said, this is delicious!

 

Some of you may have easy to please husbands when it comes to food, but mine, let’s just say he likes his food certain ways and a lot of times it doesn’t match how I want my food.  I like to say he likes his food mostly overcooked and somewhat boring (to me anyway) and I’m always thrilled when I find a tasty recipe that we both love.  Of course, our food choices have grown together more and more through our 19 years of marriage.  He has taught me to like some things his way and I have taught him to like some things mine.  Marriage always will be a give and take and I happen to like it that way!  It may just get boring otherwise.

 Herbed Pork Chops made in the Slow Cooker

Herbed Pork Chops Recipe for the Slow Cooker

 

Herbed Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning (or other poultry seasoning)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
4-8 thick cut boneless pork chops (get enough for your family size)
Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

 

Herbed Pork Chops

 

Mix first 8 ingredients together and pour into the bottom of slow cooker.  Cut slits into each pork chop and salt and pepper each piece of meat.  Place meat in the slow cooker, stirring it around being sure to cover the meat with the liquid.  Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4.  Periodically baste the pork chops with the liquid throughout the day, so they stay covered and the meat takes on the great flavors from the spices.

 

Freezer to Slow Cooker Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a one gallon size freezer safe bag.  Swish it around so that it covers the meat nicely.  Label & Lay flat to freeze.

 

Herbed Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker

 

Herbed Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker


Lamb & Bean Stew Recipe for the Slow Cooker

Although we do most of our cooking for the week on the weekends, there are days when we do not have a meal prepared. Takeout is not an option and I do not want to take away time from my girls. This Lamb and Bean Stew is really easy to prepare, and will cook while we keep about our busy days.

 

Lamb & Bean Stew Recipe for the Slow Cooker

 

Lamb & Bean Stew

 

Ingredients:

½ lb of lamb stew meat
1 lb pre-soaked pinto beans
8-10 medium red potatoes
4 medium carrots
2 large Spanish onions
1 celery heart
1 large zucchini
¾ cup soy sauce
Garlic powder

 

They key to making this Lamb and Bean Stew is in the layering. After each layer, I recommend sprinkling garlic powder. This will add some nice flavors as the stew cooks.

 

Lamb & Bean Stew - Diced Onions

 

After spraying your slow cooker with oil add diced onions,

 

Lamb & Bean Stew - Carrots

 

sliced carrots and celery. I like to use colorful carrots adds it adds nice colors and flavors but orange carrots will work as well.

 

Lamb & Bean Stew

 

Add your beans. If you are running short on time, or do not have pre-soaked beans, you can use low sodium white beans.

 

Lamb & Bean Stew

Lamb stew meat. If you are not a garlic fan and did not add garlic to each layer, I would recommend you add garlic to the lamb meat. This will help add a really nice flavor to the meat itself.

 

Lamb & Bean Stew

 

Top with diced zucchini and red potatoes. I like to leave the skins on for added color and texture but by all means feel free to remove.

Cover with soy sauce and water. Cook for 3 hours on high.

 

Lamb & Bean Stew

Best served hot. We like to eat ours accompanied by homemade Zaatar Bread.

(Recipe is for 12 QT slow cooker)

Lady Lilith is a blogger over at www.LittleLadyPlays.com. She enjoys blogging and sharing with others innovative ways of making education hands on and fun for both kids and parents.