Wednesday, February 11, 2009

4 Ways To Stop Being A Short Order Cook

The worst/best thing about mothering is the feeding people: it never ends.

3x a day, 7 days a week.

Add the night shift if you have a baby.

Forget lunchtime variety. We're streamlining for sanity. Here's how:

1. Instead of pulling out the PB & J, kids get premade sandwiches from the freezer.

2. I'm slicing a whole bag of apples at once and floating the pieces in lemon water. Ditto broccoli.

3. The neverending salad bowl is filled with hardy varieties like napa cabbage and spinach.

4. I prepare last-all-week proteins: a big bowl of egg salad or a bag of frozen chicken breasts.

I'm stunned that such a simple change gives me twice the freedom at half the cost.

What's your strategy for saving time/money at lunch?

40 comments:

Liz said...

We are a mostly ground/chopped meat kinda family, slowly moving from hamburger to ground turkey, and the eternal chopped cooked chicken on the side. I've very seriously considered getting 10-15 lb of the cheapest chicken breast I can find, dicing, cooking, and freezing in ziplocs. Ziplocs cuts down on my total cost savings, probably negating them, but man would the convenience be worth it - not to mention portioning when I'm FULL, not portioning when I'm HUNGRY. The ground meat, too - I used to cook twice as much as we'd need and save half, but I've gotten lazy about doing that. Plus our new freezer is EVEN SMALLER than our old one (3 cubic feet, officially, with a 1 cubic foot ice maker) and so storage is an issue. But I hope someday to have a side by side or at least a bigger freezer space - if not a whole chest freezer!

simplenaturalnourishing said...

leftovers. We eat leftovers for lunch probably 5 or 6 days a week. Hubby takes them to work with him and the toddler and I enjoy them for lunch. I always make nearly twice what we can eat in one sitting at dinner and then just warm it up the next day in the oven.

Another trick is a big pot of soup, chili, stew sometime during the week and then eat it in different forms later. Tonight we are eating chili from earlier in the week over organic all natural hot dogs with cheese and onions on top. No buns because I'm grain free right now.

Amy Ellen said...

I also spend a chunk of time on Monday doing meal prep for the week. This makes lunch so simple... but can you tell me more about the frozen sandwiches? Really? What types do you freeze? Thanks! Amy Ellen

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

My kids will NOT eat lunch meat, so I make a regular PBJ sandwiches in bulk and freeze. Like Smuckers Uncrustables?

They thaw in about 30 minutes on the counter. A good way to keep bread from getting moldy if you don't eat much of it (as in our house.)

Elise will eat some chicken salad with me or maybe half a sandwich.

My husband takes the leftover dinner for lunch most days. We really don't have that many leftovers.

I guess I just like the simplicity of NOT thinking what's for lunch, even if it's only another way to recycle dinner.

Lynn said...

I am going to have to try freezing PB&J.Great idea for when we eat lunch in the car on the way to piano. How long do the apples keep in lemon water? That would be a good way to always have a healthy snack ready.

Mrs. Mordecai said...

Those are great ideas! I try to plan leftovers for lunch, but my two-year-old generally prefers something simpler, like peanut butter on a tortilla (gag!).

Sandy said...

I try to enjoy a salad most every day. I just toss in leftover meat from the night before, purple cabbage, onion - and whatever else I have!

Can I come to lunch at your house? :)

Laryssa Herbert said...

Meredith,
Thanks for these great suggestions! I'm always looking for ways to make my time in the kitchen easier and more effective. I feel the same way you do about cooking...it's good to feed my family healthy,homemade food,but whew...it's a lot of work! :-)

Laryssa Herbert said...

Thanks for the comment! The strawberry idea could have just as easily come from you! :-)

Heather - CROQZine.com - Dollarstorecrafts.com said...

I don't love cooking. Being the house cook is tough! I HAVE to have leftovers to use, or we'd all starve.

I started making cream-of-whatever soup by the gallon on the weekend. I just chop up whatever veggies need to be used up for the soup (I use the recipe in my 70s BHG cookbook), and store it in a washed-out milk container so we always have soup on hand. You can eat it as is (sooo much better than Campbell's condensed stuff), or use it as gravy, or as a binder in a casserole. Sweet!

I also like to have cooked carbs on hand in the form of whole wheat spaghetti noodles (make pasta marinara, or use them for asian-inspired stir fry), and cooked rice. I am currently loving Calrose (white sushi rice). You can eat it hot or cold! I am going to switch to brown rice, though, because the Calrose isn't as nutritious (darn!) I also like to make a big batch of oven-baked potato cubes (guess they're home fries?) that can be reheated for breakfasty meals (or breakfast for dinner), or incorporated into breakfast burritos.

We eat a lot of mexicanish meals with refried beans as a main component too. Burritos (they take 5 mins to make), taco salad, or tostadas.

Those are my cooking secrets! The secret is, I'm really lazy and not apt to plan ahead. I try and try to make meal plans, but I haven't found a system that works for me!

Okay, now that I wrote a blog entry here, I guess I'll go post this in my blog. Ha ha!

Melanie said...

Reheat last night's dinner for lunch,
bean/cheese quesadillas, crockpot of homemade soup for the week,
make enough chicken salad to last 3-4 days, leftover rotisserie chicken in the skillet w/bbq sauce on buns,
Melanie@Bella~Mella

Randi said...

Thanks for the great ideas ... my kids are homeschooled so I'm feeding lots of meals every day and always need new ideas. We eat lots of dinner leftovers for lunch and way too much canned soup - we're tired of both.

Roxie700 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M.B. said...

Thank you so much for this post! This is just what I needed. I've struggled with this alot lately. Lunch seems so difficult with two toddlers. Prep time while the kids are awake is minimal, and at lunch I'm beginning to feel exhausted and just want naptime to come soon.

Your tips sound great. I'm looking forward to re-stucturing lunch next week!

Marybeth said...

I love these ideas. With a 6-month old and another on the way, I'm struggling to find enough energy to feed myself and my husband some sort of variety. I'm really into soup and sandwiches right now. Thankfully, DH could live off of them, so I don't feel too guilty about that!

Queen of Carrots said...

We used to rely on leftovers, but our family is growing and our pots are not, so that doesn't always work anymore.

When we're out of leftovers, my standby is to boil a pot of potatoes, then toss in frozen peas, butter, salt and cheese. It's a little less protein than I would like (though perhaps tossing in some pre-cooked meat would solve that), but it's very cheap and easy.

Roxie700 said...

I like to buy in bulk when I can get a good sale. I brown up 8-10 pounds of beef at a time for many many different uses. I make several meat loafs, dozens of meat balls, and patties ready to cook. These I freeze using my 'seal a meal' thing. Works well to keep freezer burn off.
Also, my crock pot is my best friend for busy day meals. I love to cook my meals in the early morning. Sometimes I have more than one crock pot going at a time. Baked potatoes work well in a crock pot. They make a good lunch. Extra baked potatoes are wonderful the next day as cottage fries.
As always Meridith, you make me think about how I am doing simple things that really make a difference.
Another thing I buy in 'bulk' is cheese. I take it and grate it in my food processor and put into baggies for later use. I use one or two cups at a time in a recipe.
I often make oat meal for my family and day care kids in a crock pot over night. It is very good. Roxie

Brenda said...

Your kids don't like lunch meat? I thought all children liked ham. My granddaughter's favorite is probably grilled cheese. She will have some fruit on the side.

It is amazing how much time a mother spends in the kitchen, isn't it?

Erika said...

Thank you so much Meredith for bringing up this subject! Lunch has been such a struggle lately--I have actually felt like it is a burden. Not how I want to be thinking. I will be implementing several of these ideas right away.

Betty Beguiles said...

These suggestions may save my life. LOL! Thank you! Hugs!

Domestic Diva....NOT said...

LOVE the ideas! Thank you for sharing :) I never thought of freezing the sandwhiches, it would be just like an uncrustable! Ingenious :)

Michele said...

I, too, freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a week at a time. My daughter takes them with her to school for lunch. Other quick ideas are mini bagels and cream cheese. And I buy string cheese from Costco in bulk - a quick, healthy snack or lunch. I keep pita and hummus on hand a week at a time. Other veggies are great for dipping in there as well - tomatoes, carrots, etc. Another favorite is hard-boiled eggs. They keep for a few days in the fridge.

Heather said...

It won't be long before your children are making lunch so you don't have to! I taught our daughter to make 'hodgie podgie' plates at 5 by using her hand to help her remember 1 protein, 1 fruit, 1 veggie, 1 grain and 1 dairy. She is an old pro at lunch now at 11 and has branched off quite a bit, but it worked well for us. We also avoid the deadly contents of cold meat, but I do cook up chicken, turkey and extra ham when we have it for lunch meat every week - we use nuts and cheese for protein a lot too which are easy for a child to prepare.

Do you feel like you might loose a lot of vitamins by keeping the apples and broccoli in water like that? I have thought of doing the same thing but thought that the loss of food value might make them not worth eating. My sister soaks carrot and celery sticks too, but I just don't have enough nutrition knowledge to make a good choice there. Have you used a heavy duty apple corer slicer for making wedges - it's quick too!

Elizabeth G. said...

You have great ideas, Meredith! Is there anyway to get tapes of the conference?

Elizabeth

Carrien said...

Soup and leftovers. That's how we roll. One big pot of soup lasts almost all week. add some toast or grilled cheese and some cut veggies and we're good to go. I get the kids to peel their own carrots, which they love, and pull the broccoli apart.

If we're out of all of the above I make fried eggs and rice, for some reason they love that. (Add some spicy pork with basil and you have a meal from a village in Northern Thailand.)

Sandy Toes said...

Well, I am not as wise as you! I am organized but money saving is not my "speciality". But, when I go to the store...I do wash and cut up all the fruit for the week...also it's nice to have it handy so they will all eat it other than junk food!
-sandy toe

Amy said...

My hubby takes leftovers and we usually do grilled cheese & soup, macaroni, or pb&j for lunch. I love your ideas for prepping ahead though- very smart! I need to put the pb&j's in the freezer- bookmarking :)

Kristie said...

Wow... thanks for the blog post, and I was so intrigued... I read all the comments, so, thank you all who commented too. I learned a lot, and this is great!

Kate said...

Thank you so much for sharing these tips Meredith! Lunch is a struggle every day. I've mastered having dinner done early in the day so that that's not a hassle, but now I'm going to start doing this for lunch. Such a great idea! I never would have thought of freezing sandwiches.

Kristina said...

Great ideas! My kids eat anything so I guess I'm lucky that way. I try to make a little extra at supper the night before for leftovers. Or we do scrambled eggs and toast, wraps, tuna salad sandwiches, cereal (once in a while), grilled cheese, etc. Nothing fancy that's for sure.

Kari said...

We also like to make things ahead and have them ready in the freezer. Even just cooked chicken breasts and cooked ground beef portioned into family serving sizes has made a huge difference for us. For lunch we stick to the basics - salmon sandwiches twice a week, beans and whole wheat bread and fruit twice a week, and bacon and eggs once. Occasionally we'll throw macaroni and cheese in, just liven things up :)

Tubo Family said...

Great ideas Meredith. One of my kids is supersensitive to tastes and textures so it's hard to feed him leftovers like the rest of us rely on, but he will eat PB&J so I love the idea of premaking them. Your post coming on the heels of this http://www.stretcher.com/stories/07/07feb12g.cfm is making me rethink how I am spending my time daily.

Brenda said...

We usually have leftovers from the night-before dinner. My 7 yr old doesn't like peanut butter...can you believe a kid who doesn't like pb? So the quick pb&j sandwich is out the window. If there's no leftovers I always have soup on hand and/or deli turkey.

Western Warmth said...

These are great ideas. We've been doing "last all week" breakfasts like baked oatmeal (I make a 9 x 13 and then we refrigerate and scoop some out each day and microwave it) and granola in a container.

Sarah Schreffler said...

Can you freeze grilled cheese? My son loves them, but is not patient enough to wait for them to be made. When he's hungry, he's hugnry now! (18 months old)

Pat W said...

We prepare a relish tray that stays in the refrigerator. We take a cereal bowl, line it with paper towels, add celery sticks, radishes, carrots, cut up peppers & cauliflower. (Cucumbers do not last very long.) Cover with another paper towel and then saran wrap. Then at lunch time, we pull the bowl out and use it as a relish tray or make a tossed salad by adding lettuce.

Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life said...

I love that idea of pre slicing the apples...I need to do that to give me a little extra time during afterschool...

Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart said...

My kids really like egg salad. I just use eggs and a bit of mayo and they gobble it up. I never thought of making up a big batch and using it for the week. Great idea! I'll be making some of the other foods you suggested as well.

Hope life with three kiddos is going well!

Workin' MAMA! said...

YUM! Looks so good!


My oldest is in a private school, so to save money we pack her lunch - Lunches at the school per day are 3 bucks! I can make her lunch for .80. Fresh fruit, yogurt, bottled water, pb&j sand, and carrots are usually great -
I switch it up at times with a thermos of soup on occasion - with side of crackers - etc.
She loves the personal touch - school lunches are expensive -
The menu plan at home helps hubby stay on track with the youngest -
and I carry my lunch and the occasional 'eating out with the staff' happens at least once a week -
Of which I still bring a huge snack and eat 'before' going out with them - and order soup at the restaurant - I'm getting smarter with this 'cutting back' thing -

It really helps too - and the pocketbook feels better ---
Since we have a fridge at work, I have a little section I quarter off with the occasional hot pocket/yogurt/lipton green tea -
I keep popcorn for the mic in my office - and fresh fruit from home -
sure not to spend money at the building store - or restaurant downstairs -
I've saved one million dollars in about 2 years - at least it feels like it...

latrice!

Shelley said...

Such wonderful tips!!! I have been taking notes, but I have to change things up a bit as we are vegetarian. (The girls do eat some eggs and cheese however)
We eat a lot of leftovers from the night before for lunch and
I always keep a tupperware of brown rice in the fridge for quick meals...just throw on some soy sauce ( the real stuff, not the fake bad for you stuff!) or some salsa. I usually throw it in a pan with some chopped veggies or broccoli slaw and either the soy or the salsa. I also take an avocado, mash it and add a couple of spoonfuls of salsa and serve it up with some tortilla chips. I try to always keep a container of homemade hummus in the fridge and that makes for an easy lunch with a veggie plate of assorted goodies. I also try to keep cut up fruit in the fridge as well. They will eat their weight in cantaloupe and watermelon and grapes!! I freeze fruit when it is in season and they love to eat a bowl of frozen fruit for lunch with some string cheese...whatever!!
Another option we use is Raman noodles ( I know...high in sodium, but I only use a dash of the seasonings, then add soy sauce.) They only take 3 minutes to cook and I always throw in a big handful of Broccoli slaw in with them while they are cooking. My girls call the noodles "worms" and they love them.
I also try to keep some hard boiled eggs on hand and sometimes I make "rice-eggs" with the rice in the fridge. Just soften some cooked, chilled rice in the pan with a bit of butter and when it is heated through, crack an eggs over it and scramble. It is yummy and you can throw in some veggies or some salsa for and extra boost!!
They love PB & J so I am definately going to freeze some. I wish I could freeze their favorite sandwich which is cheese, baby spinach leaves and mustard!! I guess I am just stuck with making them as required!!
Oh...another goodie that my girls love and I have taken to as well. I take the smaller romaine lettuce leaves and "stuff" them with hummus. You can use the bigger leaves as well, but you have to kind of roll them up like a tortilla. YUMMY!!!!