I love to cook. I'm always game for a new recipe, and I enjoy everything about cooking, from the shopping, to the prep work, to the actual cooking process. The best part, of course, is the eating. The only thing I really don't like is handling raw chicken. Ugh! I shudder at even the thought of fat (gag!), skin (wretch!), and tendon (harf!). Yuck! But when raw chicken is not involved, I really do love to cook. However, homeschooling has complicated my routine significantly. By the time school is done and I've done the necessary housework, my energy is gone. Who wants to think about putting together a meal when you can barely muster enough energy to play Candyland with your 6-year-old? So I have created a plan. And it works. And I love it.
Before I do my bi-monthly shopping trips, I sit down and make a meal plan. I factor in all three daily meals, and make my shopping list accordingly. I go to the store in the evening when the kids are in bed so I can shop without feeling hurried or stressed. When I'm relaxed and have a fully tummy, I'm much less likely to impulse buy. I stick religiously to my list, and shop for the best deals. It's amazing how much can be purchased at the Dollar Store! I got canned corn 3 for $1 day before yesterday, and a huge bottle of pancake syrup for $1. For you future moms out there, you can even get pregnancy tests at the Dollar Store. But I digress. Planning ahead allows me to justify buying meat in bulk. I always know I'll use it. Shopping this way has saved us so much money! I can feed our family of five for around $400 per month. That includes diapers, cat food and litter, laundry soap, Ziploc bags, shampoo, etc. Also, every time I shop, I pick up a Stouffer's lasagna, too (but not at the Dollar Store).
The day after my shopping trip, I spend an afternoon cooking. My meal plan always includes 4 casseroles that can be prepared in advance and frozen. That way I'm guaranteed two nights a week that I don't have to cook. I try to reserve those casseroles for days when I'm feeling even more fatigued than usual. I also make a soup that I freeze in portion-sized containers to pull out for lunch. I can only take so many sandwiches, you know? And taco or lentil soup is a great, healthy alternative to the other things I may be tempted to eat for lunch when a sandwich doesn't appeal to me. My family loves this plan. I'm a happier, less stressed mommy, and the food is so good, too!
Today was my cooking day. We did school first thing this morning, and then I tidied up and ran the vacuum in the living room, and did a load of dishes. I wiped down all the counters and swept the floor, because I like a neat work space. I put out a fresh trash bag and filled the sink with soapy water. Then I was ready to go. I cooked for 2 1/2 hours this afternoon, and here's what I have to show for it.
Taco Soup (8 lunch portions)
Fiesta Tamale Pie
Hash Brown Casserole
2 loaves of homemade whole wheat bread
Guess what we're having for dinner tonight? Stouffer's lasagna!