Simplifying the Cooking Experience

In Searching for simplicity on October 19, 2010 at 9:52 pm

It seems when you look at simplifying your life, things just keep coming up that could work better if they were just simpler.  And the definition of simple is as varied as there are people.  Take cooking for instance.  I am the person in my family who has taken on cooking.  And up to now my experience of cooking is anything but simple.

Cooking is fun in the weekends, when rarely we have time pressure events of any kind.  On the weekends is when I sometimes dare to experiment, or bake or try out a recipe.  Week nights, forget it.  I am scrambling to get dinner ready.  I am hungry, my husband is hungry, my baby is hungry and we are all irritated, starving and out of patience by the time dinner is ready forty to fifty minutes after we arrived.  It is not fun then.  Not even in the same universe.

When I was living in Mexico eating out was a luxury I rarely engaged into.  Burger King for example, was a luxury I considered out of my budget.  I grew up with meals that were cooked from scratch every day.  It was not fancy.  It was the everyday rice, beans, eggs, meat, potatoes, green beans, tortillas, sauce, cheese, tomato, etc. that my mom whipped out for us.  Over here the reverse seems the norm. Processed foods are cheap. One can get a hamburger for no more than three bucks, but a healthy meal goes up to twelve dollars sometimes and surely more depending on the establishment.  However, if you make those meals from scratch, it is not expensive at all unless you go for exotic meat cuts and stuff like that. I am determined we avoid dining out and eating frozen processed meals as much as possible.

My point is that eating healthy is not expensive if you make it yourself, and in the long run you save more than money, you save yourself. However, it can be quite daunting to make it happen.

My experience with cooking is fond memories of my mom’s cooking, my own short repertoire, my penchant for experimenting and the hair pulling pressure I impose on myself when I have starving people I love waiting for dinner at the end of the workday.

Last week was a low point for me around cooking.  I felt overwhelmed and unhappy about the whole thing.  In the past, when it was just me, simplifying around cooking meant I ate lots of scrambled eggs, avocado, tomato, cheese and tortillas.  In my present life I am certain I don’t want to subject my child and husband to scrambled eggs every night, even though I really like eggs.

So I am making my first dab at what is called freeze cooking or bulk cooking.  My post doesn’t add anything to the many excellent websites out there.  It just has the value of sharing the experience of someone that has considered it out of desperation, is not an expert on it already and put a shaky plan into action this last weekend.

My plan

Cook lots one day of the weekend and have homemade frozen meals ready to nuke during the week.

My rules so far:

  • Make it simple
  • Make it fast

Advice of things I learned from Week 1.

Get a bunch of sandwich size Ziploc for individual portions.  Once you have a system in place, start looking at how to avoid the plastic bag waste.  That at least, is my plan.

Pick a day when you are relaxed and can delegate responsibilities to someone else.  I chose a Sunday morning and delegated everything else, including baby to my husband.

Take account of your cooking resources.  How many things can you have cooking at once to reduce the time you’ll spend in the kitchen? I made good use of my oven this weekend.  And I also had the microwave, my Crockpot, rice cooker and the stove top available.

Pick dishes you know how to do, or ingredients you know how they work together.  Then give yourself permission to play and start mixing, and putting stuff to cook.

Don’t try to make too many dishes, just two or three.  My idea is to have some frozen dinners for a couple of weeknights and then next weekend build up on the frozen stash.

Wait for your food to cool off before putting it in the bags.  You don’t want hot food in plastic bags! I have a friend who doesn’t put food in plastic anything, but that may be for later.

Put a date on your bags.  It doesn’t seem necessary this first week, but maybe I’ll build up enough of a stash that I will want to know when I cooked what’s in the bag I just picked out of the freezer.

Pick your frozen dinner and move it to the refrigerator in the morning so it thaws out by the time you come home.

Happy Cooking!

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