What to do, what to do, what to do? There are only so many hours in the day and if you are anything like me, you have none to spare. As a starting teacher with a boy who is more than a handful, I am always pressed for time. I spend my days in a class room, my afternoons keeping up with my son, my evenings and weekends planning for my classes (don’t believe the hype – teachers put in more hours outside the classroom than inside).
My wife works full time at her regular job, and because she became a registered nurse a few months ago, she has to also work a part-time nursing job to keep her licensure, so more of the day to day household duties need to be done by me. Understood. Now because we can’t afford to eat take out every night for both financial AND health reasons, shortcuts are mandatory. I took a hint from all the Foodnetwork gurus: do as much preparation upfront as you can.
What does that mean? When you purchase meat, do as much prep work as you can when its fresh from the butcher or the grocery store before you freeze it. I always buy my chopped meat from those food wholesale stores or Walmart, where I can get it in bulk at lower prices. When I get home, I immediately put at least one single meal portion in a freezer bag and freeze it. Next I brown enough for two meals. I drain that, wrap it in foil, then put them in freezer bags, label it with what it is (remember, it’s covered in foil), along with the date, and freeze it. They can be used in the slow cooker for chili or meat sauce. With the remainder, I make meat balls. If I know I’m going to need meatballs in the near future, I prepare them, mixing and browning the formed balls. Drain the browned balls, wrap in foil and place them in freezer bags, label and freeze them. I keep a Sharpie pen in the kitchen solely for this purpose.
With chicken, especially chicken parts, clean and season before freezing. This even works for entire chickens. Season it as you would, bag it and freeze. When ready to prepare, you can skip the seasoning step as the parts marinade during the thaw process. The same process works for steak. Clean, season and freeze.
These simple upfront steps may seem a lot at first, but when confronted with a bad winter as we are facing this year, its so good to throw a few things in the slow cooker before leaving the house in the morning. When I get home, I can shovel the walk, take out the dog, and I still have time to prepare my classes for the next day, because most of the work for dinner is done.
I will post my recipes for meatballs, chili and a few other easy to prepare dishes in the near future. The chili may take a bit as I tend to just throw those ingredients together with no clue as to how much of anything I’m using.
A kitchen must have for all busy households: a good slow cooker.