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Scratch Cooking burn-out  RSS feed

 
Cr Baker
Posts: 13
Location: Sacramento, CA
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I've cooked some meals from scratch for quite a few years, now, but trying to put it all together has been challenging for me. About 3 months ago, I started trying to cook all of our family's foods from scratch -- 3 meals a day, not counting bread, yogurt, butter, or canning projects. And between the cooking and the dishes, I feel like I am completely tied to my kitchen. I need to have time to check on the chickens and change diapers and work in the garden and just plain relax with the kids some of the time. Do you have any strategies for making things easier? I feel like I'm about to go insane. Thanks!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
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Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Dale Hodgins wrote:One pot cooking and giant pot cooking.

Make lots of stews and soups. Make enough to feed an army, then freeze meal sized portions.


Dale just about says exactly as I would say in response to your post. Follow the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid! Once I understood this simple principal, I was overwhelmed with the time I had saved. Every time I veer away from the principle, I'm bogged down with the intricacies of the finite details of the recipe and getting all elaborate. Of course, occasionally spend the time and get fancy with shit, but I'd suggest lowering the expectations of this a bit, and save yourself the burnout. I'll bet you can come up with variations that make into single pot dishes, or simpler fair that are just as appealing. There must be online resources for such recipes; certainly there are cookbooks in this regard. If you get any grief from the family, then let them know the reason. Maybe they will pick up on the chores so you don't feel like you have to do everything.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Try thinking of main courses that the leftovers can easily be turned into side dishes later in the week.

* A stir fry with rice. When done, mix the leftovers together. Best fried rice you've ever had.
* Turkey. Turkey ala king can be served over pasta, rice, toast, or even mashed potatoes.
* Chili. Baked with some macaroni and cheese makes a wonderful Chili-Mac.
* Roasts. Buy it bigger than you need for supper - uses for leftovers are endless.
* Pasta. Always cook extra. Leftovers can go into soups, pasta salads, etc.

You've got me hungry now. I've gotta go raid the fridge.


 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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This post touches on some larger issues having to do with building a culture of sustainability.
The first one is community. People trying to live a thorough permaculture/homesteading/sustainable lifestyle as nuclear families with a few children, couples, or singles are attempting to do (and all too often burning out) what the entirety of human history has only succeeded in doing in larger collectives....extended families at least, if not even larger groups. Case in point: to cook for ten isn't that much more work than to cook for two, especially if there are two doing the cooking, or perhaps an adult and older child. Meanwhile the other 8 or 9 are doing other useful things that in a smaller group are not spread out so much. There are so many similar issues around sustainability that solve themselves easily when the thinking is done around somewhat larger groups of people.
Before WWII, the extended family, not the nuclear family, was the norm even in the First World. And I think that it's dismantling has to some extent been deliberate, in the interests of profit. Think of all the domestic chores formerly done in those big houses full of relatives that are now outsourced into the money economy....starting with eldercare and childcare, and proceeding on to a whole range of activities around food growing, preserving, and processng; ending up with cooking "from scratch". Compare to today when so many young adults don't cook at all and don't know how!
By and large, the attempt to move towards collectives that function like this is a frustrating adventure.....we have now been so many generations living independently and "free", that a certain crucial set of people skills has by and large been lost. Simply put, people did it that way because they had to. Now, there's always the option to leave, go somewhere else, start over, etc. and so learning to get along with each other and make it work isn't valued as highly.
The second big issue, also deliberately encouraged in the interests of profit, is plain entitlement. We all feel we deserve a wide variety of tasty food, and, ideally, nobody should have to spend a lot of time and effort in the kitchen to prepare it. The world of a truly sustainable life is otherwise. Every climate readily produces, either wildcrafted or easily cultivated, a relatively narrow array of staple crops around which traditional cultures have created a cuisine. Except for celebrations and the diets of the wealthy, that cuisine is often pretty monotonous. A farm family in India, for instance, knows exactly what they will eat on this date a year from today. That's because, in all likelihood, it will be the exact same thing they are eating today. Once again, people do that because they have to, and they find other sources of happiness than exciting novelties on the dinner table on a regular basis.
To recreate either situation in the modern world is an uphill challenge, especially when surrounded by family members, friends, and colleagues who don't think likewise. Personally, for instance, I eat two meals of the three "from the land"; currently based on acorns, white and sweet potatoes, greens, and eggs.....used in two or three recipes continuously rotated (and made in large batches which I then eat on every day); and the third meal is often derived from off-site, to satisfy my (largely inculcated in me by my background and it's resulting cravings) desire for variety.....
 
Cr Baker
Posts: 13
Location: Sacramento, CA
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Thank you, one and all, for your input. I really appreciate having some other viewpoints on this. I'm a homeschooling mother to 4 small children, and I'm still pretty new to the permaculture way of life, so there has been more than a little *rethinking* to the way that I do things as I try to live more in harmony with my land and as well as trying to meet future goals. Since I only have one (special-needs) child over the age of five, I don't expect much help in the way of kitchen chores. My spouse is working two jobs as well as doing things like building a chicken tractor and raised beds, and while he's willing to cook dinner a few nights a week, he has no clue what to do with things like dry beans or raw broccoli. I don't mind simple meals -- my favorite thing to eat is homemade vegetable soup with a couple of biscuits. I think I just need to find some options that I can make ahead so that I don't necessarily need to cook everything right before we eat it. Toddlers eat a lot of snacks, and apple slices don't keep well!
 
Alder Burns
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Another thing I do is can prepared food in large batches, so that to prepare a meal often involves opening a jar and heating it. Soups and chili in particular. Also dry beans I soak, boil, and can in large quantities which feels like a time-savings instead of having to plan to soak and cook them meal-to-meal.....
 
John Polk
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Actually, I am happy to see somebody trying to make all meals from scratch.
Besides the health benefits of real food, the cost saving factor is huge.

The other day I was getting Half & Half at the local deli, and while there, grabbed a bag of potato chips.
$3.99 for an 8 ounce bag. That's $8 per pound for potatoes ! Yikes.

Another thing is having a 'formal' dinner with family.
Growing up, we always had dinner together as a family.
With today's lifestyles, very few families ever get to sit down together for a family meal.
That is one of the factors breaking up the family structure in today's society.
Everybody has their own agenda and time schedule.
The family structure will soon be a thing of the past for most.

 
Leila Rich
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This post is a love letter to my chest freezer
If your family eats pasta, I highly recommend having a giant lasagne-making session; say three roasting dishes worth.
All the sauce slopping and pasta laying's a fun, if horrendously messy game for kids.
If the dishes are well lined with baking paper before filling, you can cook, chill, invert, slice and freeze meal-sized slices.
I just shove it in the oven frozen to heat.

A lot depends on how fussy the kids are, but my horribly fussy siblings would eat anything if it was turned into a 'patty', including leftover beans, broccoli, chard...
here's no way they'd have eaten that stuff if it wasn't disguised and fried!
Freezing tends to make things that need to stick together, fall apart. I wouldn't freeze patties, but I'd freeze everything that goes into them...
I find 'wet' things like curries, stews and soups freeze really well though.

Alder Burns wrote: dry beans I soak, boil, and can in large quantities...instead of having to plan to soak and cook them meal-to-meal.....
Precooking a truckload of beans is great. Chickpeas too.
I freeze rather than can them, and I'm big on 'free-flow': I freeze well-drained blanched veges from the glut, cooked beans etc in shallow trays, then container them, label and stack in the freezer.
Another thing about precooking beans is you can ensure they've had a proper soak, and the whole family won't fart the house down!

Not food ideas as much as keeping yourself sane:
My cheffing background has made me quite...keen...on labelling and 'stock rotation'.
It really helps to have the food's name, and month/year it was frozen clearly on the container.
I've discovered that the cheapest, crappiest masking tape is perfect for labels- it sticks, but comes off really easily in the wash.
Just don't try sticking it to something that's already in the freezer. It won't.
It's too organised for me, but some people find it really useful to have a 'what's in the freezer' type list-it might help your man out with ideas too

 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
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Four little kids, a new homestead and a husband working two jobs is heroic. A few small thoughts:

One thing I try to do is measure out several batches of dry ingredients for biscuits, pancakes or cornbread at once. The flour, baking powder, salt, etc are all out, the measuring stuff is already dirty, and the mess is going to be cleaned up anyway, so I just grab some empty mason jars and make my own premixed ingredients for later. It sounds like a small thing, but when I am too tired to cook, it's not so hard to grab a jar and beat in an egg and some milk and call it good. If you are crafty, make up some labels that tell you how to finish it (or so the DH can do it while you put your feet up), but at least write on the lid what recipe you used LOL so it's not mystery mix.

And whipping cream biscuits! So much easier from scratch. Pizza dough freezes and thaws out fast, so I usually make a double batch and freeze half.

My DH works in the city in the week, and comes home on the weekend. I try to send him up with a cooler full of frozen dinners so he doesn't have to shop after work. Just about anything from the crockpot freezes. Enchilada casserole (made like a lasagne-I don't bother to roll them up), regular lasagne, posole stew, all good. When he's gone, I eat the leftovers.

Spend the $30-40 on a crockpot if you don't have one. You can make spaghetti sauce, applesauce, vast quantities of stews and chili, and our all time fave, "Hunk o'Meat" from whatever is on sale. I use mine to caramelize onions and cook down tomato sauce for canning. I often think of getting another one just for canning season.

Another thing that helped was coming up with a regular meal for the night he comes back from the city. Once a week, I know we are having pizza. I don't know what's going on it, or whether it's store bought cheese or we are making 30 min mozzarella, but it makes the transition home into a comfortable routine for at least one night a week. And he has a couple recipes that are his specialty that I never cook (although I can) so when he wants to give me a night off, he's got a plan and it's something we both know we like.

Can you say popcorn for dinner? That's what Sarah at Frugal By Choice does every Friday. Most important is not to burn out. Your kids will survive on breakfast cereal for dinner, but they won't get along too well without you. Even Carla Emery never tried to do it all at once, and felt bad that people thought she might think you could or should. What you can do with a flock of toddlers underfoot is plenty good enough and AFAIK no one has handed out any badges to a permaculture police force to say any different. The homesteading routine will sort itself out over time. I say if you go to bed at night with the same number of kids and critters as you started with, none with major injuries and all with full bellies, that's an accomplishment. Everything else is overtime bonus points.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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Lunch - apple slices and peanut butter, or celery and peanut butter. It doesn't all have to be gourmet.

If you're doing homemade bread, look up the book "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day". My friend who has 6 kids and home schools makes that one and it's really delicious!

I used to make a big batch of "mexican rice" - rice, beans, shredded cheese, corn, browned onions, tomato sauce, and a few jalapenos and freeze it in baggies in meal-sized portions. The ingredients were cooked together as it reheated. I had a pasta one too with pasta, shredded cheddar, beef & pasta sauce that the kids really liked. It came out similar to those canned noodles.

The crock pot is your friend - do the cooking when things are quiet (I do it early in the morning when everyone is asleep) and let it go all day for a good hot dinner. Our favorites in the crockpot are pulled pork (cook any pork roast then remove the bones and fat and shred the meat with barbeque sauce), pork cooked in sauerkraut, beef roast with carrots and potatoes, and New England Pot Roast (cover the beef with prepared horseradish then add the carrots and potatoes). Chicken is good in the crockpot too, and there are lamb roast recipes to die for!

Chili freezes well for frito pie over corn chips, as a baked potato topper, on its own, etc.

Sweet squash like cushaw or butternut freezes very well and is delicious and kid-friendly.

Our ancestors would have the same meal, over and over. Like in Kentucky they'd keep a pot of beans warm and people would eat out of it all day.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
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And here was my routine from ‘back in the day’:

Wake up. Coffee. Feed kids. Feed animals. More coffee while I cooked dinner, or started something in crock pot or oven. Clean up whole kitchen prep area. Now only thing left dirty is what is currently cooking.

Always set table after washing dishes. No need to put them away – they are just coming back out again. Table always looks ‘nicely set’ and keeps everyone from piling all their junk on it.

Then time to get on with the other jobs/chores/ whatever. Check on dinner occasionally or set on timer.

One course meals – most of the time. On very rare occasions there might be multiple items but mostly it was skillet dinners, crock pot or romertopf, with multiple things combined in one dish.

Lunch is cold. Always. That was my grandmas rule and it made sense.

Eat what is served. And no, you can’t cook something different unless you plan to cook the entire meal for everyone that day. Everyone eats the same stuff.

So that is how I made it through my daily routine.
 
Craig Dobbson
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I try to find ways to skip steps everywhere I can. I have two little ones and so here's my tips for making it go faster.

If you have to hand feed one of them, hand feed all of them. I make a big pot of either oatmeal or a pan of scrambled eggs with veggies and then I feed the kids directly from the pot or pan while we sit on the floor near the wood stove. That's where we all like to be first thing in the morning. That leaves me with one cooking vessel, one spatula or spoon and one utensil (fork or spoon) to wash instead of service for three people plus all of the accompanying mess that comes with little kids self-eating habits. I can get breakfast done faster and with less mess if I just keep moving food into faces. If I have to sit with them anyway I might as well assist in moving the process along.

Lunch is either cold finger foods like sliced veggies, fruit, nuts, BACON and cheese or leftovers from the previous night's dinner. This can usually be cut up in big batches and dished out accordingly over a few days. The kids can easily self-feed these things and as long as you don't add sticky dressings, there's no worries if they drop something on the floor. Lunch time is when I catch up with checking on animals or getting dinner prepped. Sometimes I dick around on permies while they eat.

Dinners are large simple meals that I can get more than one meal out of. I'll cook a large beef roast with onions and mushrooms, roasted sweet potato, and broccoli steamed lightly. I'll usually make a slaw of some sort as well. I make enough to feed everyone 3 times over. Leftovers become ingredients for the next day's meals. The broccoli goes into an omelette the next morning, the beef can be sliced cold for salads or sandwiches. The pan drippings and odd bits of beef are used to make a soup or stew base that I can add other veggies to for a quick meal too. Same thing goes with bones from other cuts of meat and racks from chickens. Soup is your friend. You can thicken soups with grains like buckwheat or teff so that kids don't drip broth all over themselves.

My kids aren't picky about what they eat. The only things they dread are avocados and turnips. I just avoid those things to keep the meals flowing smoothly. I can't spend all day at the table so I don't make it difficult for them to eat and I stay away from big sticky messy things so I'm not scrubbing dishes all night.

I will let my kids eat as much as they would like at meal time but I always start with small portions first. They can always have more after they finish the first serving. A big plate of food is sometimes daunting for a small child and they end up taking forever to eat anything. On the flip side of this, they don't really eat much in the way of snacks between meals. When they sit for a meal, they are ready to eat and so they don't waste time. If they were snacking all day, there's more dishes to do, more prep, more cleaning and a lot less time to get other things done. They know meal time is time to eat and there won't be snacks to fill the void between meals. Sometimes we have popcorn or something similar to tide us over if a meal is going to be a little late for some reason.

I gotta go make breakfast...



 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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We have a couple big meals a WEEK, and they are still simple main dish and side. They are usually on the weekends when I am not at work and don't have a big weekend project (or the weather doesn't let me do it).

We keep the diet balanced over a couple days, not every meal. Breakfast is oatmeal, everyone knows how to heat water and make it instant-style (scoop of oatmeal, scoop of sugar, pinch of salt). When I am home on the weekend I will make up a big pan of bulletproof oatmeal (toasted in coconut oil first, then made into oatmeal).

Lunch is PB and honey on homemade bread and carrots or fruit. Bread is my 12 YO daughter's job. She grinds the flour and makes the bread, a 4-6 loaf batch every few days.

Dinner is my 15 YO's responsibility, with the help of the 12, 10, and 9 YO's. It could be soup, spaghetti, hash, rice and beans, fried egg sandwiches, stir fry, or a big salad--just depends on the weather and what's in abundance.

Learning how to NOT make dishes while cooking is critical. Most of our meals are done in two pans, maybe three. And that is for a family of 11, you could probably use smaller pans.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Cr Baker wrote:Between the cooking and the dishes, I feel like I am completely tied to my kitchen.

Cr Baker wrote:I'm a homeschooling mother to 4 small children


The problem is, this is completely unreasonable. You're dang right you're burning out, because that's at least three people's jobs. (You've gotten some awesome advice here so far, but I'm still skeptical that it will be enough.)

I don't know your money situation, but I'm going to throw out one thing nobody's said yet: get a cleaning lady. You're laughing sarcastically right now, but bear with me.

In America, we have an aversion to in-home help, like it's extravagant and wasteful. (But then in the very next breath we gripe about unemployment and lack of opportunity.) Let me ask you, why are you swimming so hard against the current? You're doing things that other folks don't do because they're hard, like having more than two kids. Homeschooling. Homesteading. Cooking from scratch. Why are you doing it? Why do all these hard things, instead of living like all your neighbors? Is it because you're not willing to turn loose of a dollar? I bet it's not. I doubt you're going to these lengths out of parsimony. I bet you're doing it because you've got ideas about quality of life. You're busting your hump because you've got some principles about what's most important to you. Does hiring some help with the cleaning violate any of those principles? Sleep on it, and I bet you'll find that it doesn't.

Are there good reasons to have lots of kids instead of staying just the two of you? Definitely.
Are there good reasons to homeschool instead of shipping them off to government schools? Definitely.
Are there good reasons to raise your own food and build your own surroundings? Definitely.
Are there good reasons to cook your own meals instead of buying packaged? Definitely.
Are there good reasons to scrub your own bathtub and wash your own laundry? When you're spread way too thin? When you've been saving a bunch of money by doing some of the above? When somebody in your town needs some work? When, historically speaking, in America we're all pretty dang rich? I don't know. You've got to eliminate something, how about the part you probably like least?

All I'm saying is think about it.


Jeanine Gurley wrote:Always set table after washing dishes. No need to put them away – they are just coming back out again. Table always looks ‘nicely set’ and keeps everyone from piling all their junk on it.

Love this idea! Might see if my wife wants to try it, although we have one table for school, eating, crafts, billpaying/correspondence, and at least in the winter, some of my work from home.
 
R Scott
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I missed that homeschool part the first time around!

CHORES ARE PART OF SCHOOL!!! A CRITICAL part of education is the gift of doing a job because it needs to be done, not because it is fun or interesting.
 
Mike Cantrell
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R Scott wrote:I missed that homeschool part the first time around!
CHORES ARE PART OF SCHOOL!!! A CRITICAL part of education is the gift of doing a job because it needs to be done, not because it is fun or interesting.



Completely true. For the OP though, if her kids are under 5, then they're still at the age where having them help is slower than doing it yourself.
 
Craig Dobbson
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Mike Cantrell wrote:

Completely true. For the OP though, if her kids are under 5, then they're still at the age where having them help is slower than doing it yourself.


I agree that I could do any chore better and faster than my kids but the benefit of having them do at least some chores is that it allows me the time to do other things. It may only be a little bit at first but... every little bit counts.

Some Chores for a three year old:
Putting toys, clothes and schoolwork where they belong.
Dusting furniture with a damp cloth.
Ripping up junk mail for fire starting
Gathering all sorts of stuff from the garden or yard. Piles of sticks, seed heads, veggies, bugs.


For a five year old:
Sweeping
Vacuuming
Drying dishes
Folding clothes
Planting seeds
Picking fruit and veggies
Weeding
Feeding small animals


A lot of this seems like busy work but it does get something accomplished and keeps the kids involved. I look at all the little things that my kids do and I see them learning skills that will be a part of their lives forever. It may only help a little bit now, but it helps a lot in the long run. Everything they learn to do for themselves in one step closer to true independence and freedom for all of us.
My five year old sets the dinner table every night and then clears the dishes from the table when we are done. If it allows me to sit and talk with my wife for a few extra minutes or help my daughter with something else then great. He likes to do it and he gets satisfaction in knowing that he's helping. Sometimes I pay him when he's being especially helpful. That keeps me appreciating his help.
 
Galadriel Freden
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Cooking! I both love it and hate it: I'm a professional chef and I sometimes get so sick of cooking....but it's actually something I'm passionate about and mostly enjoy. I cook all our meals at home from scratch, although at work someone else does the prep for me

Something that has really helped me in the past is menu planning. I will sit down and write out a full week's menu and put it on the fridge. This way I know exactly what is happening when, and how much time I'll need to prepare; if it's beef stew on Wednesday, I'll know to get the beef out of the freezer on Tuesday, and then to chuck everything in the slow cooker after breakfast on Wednesday morning.

We eat primal now, and meals are a lot easier and quicker without the starch option; it's just meat and veggies (usually with a buttery or creamy sauce to keep us fuller for longer).

I also second what was said previously: no snacks! It's more work for you, and children are more likely to be picky at meals if they aren't hungry.
 
Dan Boone
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Cr, I feel for you because I grew up in a household not so dissimilar to yours, as one of the children. In the 1970s my folks pulled a "back to the land" thing; at five years old I found myself the youngest of four siblings living in a log cabin in Alaska, wood heater and cook stove, no electricity, no plumbing, everybody getting homeschooled. My father handled heavy outdoor work, firewood cuting, out-of-home cash employment, and most of the homeschooling supervision (not much, we were sharp kids and pretty self-motivated by being allowed free time when schoolwork was done RIGHT). Mom -- with whatever help she could threaten out of her surly work-averse children) handled subsistence gardening (starting with 600lb of potatoes) and all household tasks and cooking three meals a day from scratch (there was very little money and most bought-in-food was bulk dry staples). Mostly she was cheerful about this (it was, after all, a lifestyle she had chosen) but where her good cheer broke down was in the constant grind to put meals for six on the table three times a day, with no end in sight. (There was no fast food nor any restaurants nor even a store with much in the way of prepared or processed foods within 200 miles.) At times, she became downright *surly* about the process, and "Mom, what's for dinner?" was often *not* a safe question.

My first advice would be to hang in there. Your children will be providing useful labor inputs (if you let them, or later, make them) sooner than you realize. Given a bit of help regulating the wood-fired cookstove oven, I was baking all the cookie recipes in the Betty Crocker Cookbook by the time I was eight, and the rules were: 1) if you want cookies, make them yourself; and 2) if you make cookies, make at least a quadruple batch. I had the biggest sweet tooth so everybody else learned to wait me out, and my cookies were apparently good enough that nobody fought me for the chore. My sisters, in their turns, were baking all of the family bread before they turned 12 years old. Starting at about age 9, I got the daily chore (which grew bigger and less pleasant as the winter wore on and the root vegetables got more and more moldy and floppy) of pulling carrots and potatoes and turnips out of the root cellar, washing them with a scrub brush, and then cutting away tops and roots and rotten spots and moldy bits so that mom had ready-to-chop ingredients to work with when she started cooking. We kids learned early to make lots of easier one-pot meals; mom would say "I don't have time to cook today, make a pot of chili and some cornbread" and whichever unlucky child was in line of sight at that moment would be stuck soaking and boiling the beans, cutting the onions, making up the chili, and baking the cornbread. Salmon chowder, moose stew, spaghetti sauce and noodles, meatloaf: just a few staple dishes frequently repeated. I would guess that as time went on, mom shuffled as much as 75 percent of the routine cooking work off onto her kids by doing it this way.

One thing that happened very early is that breakfast and lunch became low-effort affairs. Breakfast, a big pot of oatmeal, the cooking duty pre-assigned to a child who would perforce have to the first out of bed the next morning (and thus, responsible for lighting fires and making coffee for the folks as well). Pancakes sometimes, with the cooking shared between the kids; or waffles by mom (they are tricky on a wood cooktop) on Sundays or special occasions. Frequently breakfast would just be toast and butter or jam; our home-made bread was hearty enough for that to work. Lunch likewise; it was usually just sandwiches (plus maybe soup or, in season, a salad). Routines like that turned three meals a day (from mom's prep perspective) into perhaps 1.25.

In short, simplify your meal prep, simplify everybody's notions about what it takes to be a "meal", and delegate like mad just as *soon* as your kids are capable.

Of course none of that helps you yet. I would second the crock pot advice; get the largest one you can (7 quarts?) and keep it going all the time. I do this now, just cooking for myself (I eat mostly beans and legumes, which nobody else in my family is interested in). I'm content to make 7 quarts of something and eat it until it's gone 1-2 meals a day, but if I had more freezer space, I'd freeze it in meal-sized portions and start another pot of something else.
 
R Scott
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On the crockpot thing, also look for an electric pressure cooker. They are like a supercharged crock pot. Costco usually has them, or amazon. You can make dry beans in about an hour start to finish, about the same time as a rice cooker takes to make rice.

Those three make meals much easier and hands-off.
 
John Polk
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I'll agree with the pressure cooker.

Besides saving time for things like beans, they will also pay for themselves over time.
Not just because the stove is used for 1 hour vs. 3 hours, but also because they are often the best way to utilize the cheaper (tougher) cuts of meat. The tougher cuts of meat become tender when cooked in a pressure cooker. Great for stews.

 
Matu Collins
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I'm right there with you. I have three kids aged three and under and two teenagers both of whom have choosy palates. I homeschooled fir a long time and will homeschool the little ones at least for the early years. The food thing is huge.

I second the "prepare in the morning" "lower your standards" and "find help with household chores" advice. Also the no snacks. Apples can be eaten whole!

What is freshly important for avoiding burnout for me is to give myself breaks regularly when I can be alone or be with just grownups. Just a walk in the woods or even a committee meeting helps. My commitment to this lifestyle is strong, and my sanity is necessary if we are to keep it going!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Here's a huge time saver --- I often cook up a whole lot of hamburger, chicken turkey or whatever with garlic, onions or whatever spices for stews and soups. Lentils, beans and rice can go in as well. These meat bases are over spiced. They get frozen in the quantity needed for various sized groups.

Now these rich bases can be used along with whatever is ready from the garden and with leftovers. These meals are quick. Meat and other slow cooking items are ready to eat complete with spices. Just chop up a bunch of today's harvest and steam it while the frozen stuff is heated separately. Mix together and you're done.
 
elle sagenev
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My kitchen savior is pre-planning and preparing. I plan my meals for a month. Then the night before, after the kids are in bed, I prep. I peel, chop, mix, whatever. If I'm doing a crock pot meal I put it all in the crock pot and stick it in the fridge until the morning. Prepping is the only thing that keeps our family fed from scratch. Plus I do my prepping in front of the TV so it doesn't feel like a chore. I only watch TV after the kids are in bed so it's a real luxury to peel potatoes while watching a crime drama. Also, I always make a mass of at least a few meals a week so we have leftovers for lunch. My husband and I both work full time so time is scarce. Breakfast is the one thing we don't really do. The kids eat at daycare and we tend to just throw something together. I've been trying to get better at breakfast, planning and prepping them the night before. I'll cook bacon and have everything laid out to make bacon, egg sandwiches. But I'm not great about that yet.

I make some fancy meals too. Very fancy. I've just got it down to an art. I can make chicken marsala or apple cider cooked pork chops or steak and ale pie in less than an hour with all the prepping. Pretty much all I have to do when it comes time for dinner is dump things into a pan or skillet and let it go. I made beef bourginoun on Sunday. I didn't prep it at all and it became a real chore because of that. Chopping and washing and peeling while also browning and such, a pain.

So prep. Prepping will change your life!
 
Ronnie Ugulano
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I also have to put in a good word for the pressure cooker. I've had both an electric and a stovetop, and I prefer a stovetop. I recently bought a new one (I could no longer get parts for my other one), a Fagor Duo. The Duo term is due to the fact that it can cook either at lower or higher pressure, but I only use the high pressure setting. The reason I bought this particular set was because it came with two pots, a 4 qt and an 8qt, one pressure lid, and one plain glass lid. This lets me cook either a small or large batch. I never realized how lovely it was to have a smaller pressure cooker for some things.

Anyway, I tend to cook certain things in large batches. I make big pots of refried beans, chili beans and spaghetti sauce. We'll eat out of the pot one night and freeze the rest, which usually offers 3-4 other dinners. This gives me access to at least one or two dead easy dinners per week. The pressure cooker also makes it possible to cook a roast in an hour, chicken in 10-15 minutes and veggies in, like, 3 minutes.

As much as I like my slow cooker, I usually reach for my pressure cooker first.
 
alex Keenan
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Do you have any strategies for making things easier?

Having to cook from scratch for decades due to food allergies in the family I can appreciate the hours of work cooking from scratch requires.
I quickly learned that cooking is not cooking. Let me explain with a story.

My daughter loves a TV show called Kitchen Nightmares.
There was one episode where the owner of a restaurant had all of Ramsey's cook books.
Ramsey had him get rid of all those cook books. Why, because they were made for the home where one would have much time available to prepare those recipes.
A working kitchen needs recipes that can go from order to out of the kitchen within a limited time frame.
My daughter has a culinary degree. Some of the classes she had to take included recipe books. Most have times to prepare for all recipes.

In many ways those who cook from scratch are facing the same issues.
Many of the recipes we follow were created without time being considered a factor!
What we need is to develop recipes that can be grouped by time required to prepare them.

Also we need to look at the preps themselves.
I found that for some preps I can either can a starter or freeze a starter.
For example, I have a recipe that calls for diced onions, garlic, etc.
What I found was that frozen work ok for this recipe.
So I will set aside time on a Sunday and shred, dice, blanch, etc. ingredients and put them in freezer bags so I can just pull out a bag in the morning and it will be ready for me when I get home from work and need to make dinner.
Another thing I will do is buy and slice. I love Korean hot pot. So when a good cut of meat comes on sale I will buy it and hand slice it. I then put the correct amount for a hot pot in vacuum freezer bags. So when I want a hot pot it is just a matter of pulling the meat out a the freezer and placing it in a bowl of hot water.

One advantage of doing batches of advance preps is saving in cleanup. Many of us do not take into account the cleanup time. The more stuff we dirty in preparing a meal the more time we need to clean up after the fact. So if you can do batch preps and can or freeze them you are also ahead of the game when it comes to cleanup.

Well I have a ton more tips all learned the hard way. But I have to stop for now. Good luck on your efforts.
 
Ronnie Ugulano
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Do you have any strategies for making things easier?

I keep a sandwich ziploc baggie of chopped red onions in the fridge at all times. I also keep bell pepper sliced into thin wedges in the freezer. So far, my big shortcut regarding garlic is only using dried garlic, but that works most of the time despite the fact that fresh is always better.

I'm interested in others' ideas, as well.
 
alex Keenan
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Do you have any strategies for making things easier?

Most people tend to eat the same foods over and over during a given year.
It is very likely that you fall into this pattern as most people do.
Much of cooking from scratch is based on recipes. Recipes with many ingredients and many steps can likely lead to more time and more cleanup.

For example I can use one pan to make bacon and eggs in the morning. However, bacon only cooks so fast. I can make eggs and fried porkchops in much less time and have the same amount of mess.
I like waffles for breakfast. However, again we are talking time and cleanup. Now if I can settle with a waffle I froze and toasted I have a fast time and little cleanup.

You are now keeping onions and peppers in the freezer.
Now what if you can do a gingered chicken. Let us assume that you can take your onions, fresh ginger, roasted peppers, etc. and freeze them in a ziploc with a date on the pack. Now let us assume that all you need is a crock pot and to dump this frozen lump of junk in with one whole chicken and let time and heat do its work. Again it is about time and cleanup.

So to make this work you need.

1) A good set of recipes that are either simple or ones where you can prepare batches and freeze or can key ingredents.
2) A well stocked pantry and freezer so you can just grab the items you need when you need them.
3) Labor savers like bread machine. I use the dough setting to make my bread dough and then I put it in bread pans to rise and bake in a oven or on a pizza stone.
4) Can soups, stocks, etc. make canning time count by going beyond just canned tomatoes to whatever your favorite mixture for a meaty red sauce would be.
5) Factor in time and cleanup into cost when bargain hunting. Many times a bargain that is not used or that will require alot of cleanup or extra work is no bargain.

 
elle sagenev
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alex Keenan wrote:
In many ways those who cook from scratch are facing the same issues.
Many of the recipes we follow were created without time being considered a factor!
What we need is to develop recipes that can be grouped by time required to prepare them.


I really think part of this is knowing. I wanted to make beef bourginoun. It was an entire day event. Quite the hassle. However, I recently had a roast and some red wine sitting about. I made a very abbreviated version of beef bourginion that took less than 30mins of active time to achieve. I couldn't have done that without some knowledge of how to cook and what tastes good together. Some people have it, some don't. If you don't and always have to use a recipe, cooking will always be a bit more work.
 
Ronnie Ugulano
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Most people tend to eat the same foods over and over during a given year.

I remember reading somewhere that a president's wife from the past (waaay back, since I don't think that president's wives have time to run a kitchen much along with first lady duties) kept a 2 week menu, then just kept rotating it over and over. She made room in the menu for special events and so forth, but went back to her 2 week rotation right after. Keeping a "frequently used menu" would make it easier to streamline things and it would be more likely that you'd keep certain things on hand.
 
S Bengi
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What does each of your disk look like? Make a top 7 recipe folder.

For me, it 4 'pots' all going at the same time for at 30-60 minutes, with a combines hand on time for about 12 minutes (4 X 3)
Veggies (10-20), Legume(30-60min), Starch(30min), Meat(30min)

I dont try to mill wheat berry, then beat a dough, then make angel hair noodles, then cook the noodles, then season or turn soybean to tofu.
Instead I buy the actual wheat/soy seed and cook them physically whole, maybe even sprouted.

Meat =fish, lamb, goat, beef, chicken/poultry, egg
I have a nuwave I put my meat on it for about 13minutes then I flip them, then set another 13 minutes they are now done.
I also season, package(ziplock bags) and freeze my meat monthly or weekly.
School has a syllabus, my food production also has a planned schedule. I like to rotate the type of meat daily

Legume Family = regular/other beans, pigeon peas, lentil, fava bean, field pea, rotated daily
I soak them overnight, then I cook them the next day.
Use a pressure cooker.
Drain the water and add it to your greens to make a salad or separate whatever works
You can use a induction cooktop with timer to start at 5am in the morning at 200F, then once you wakeup at 6pm, turn it on high (475F) fir a few minutes to kill the anti-nutrients.

Grass/Grain Family = Oats, Wheat, Rye, Millet, Barley, Corn, Teff, rotated daily
Best if you can get the grain berry (example rice/barley/wheat berry)
Sometimes I puff the grains as in pop-corn, rice-puffs, but usually...
I add a crazy amount of water to the pot, once it is done cooking with lots of water still in it, I drain it, then either add sugar for porridge or salt+pepper for lunch.

Greens
Onion family
Spinach family =swiss chard, spinach, beet tops, amaranth, lamb quarters, etc
Cabbage family = kale, collard, etc
Tomato family = pepper, tomatoes, eggplant
Carrot family = carrot, lovage, water celery, etc
I usually cook one green from each family everday, but rotate the actual species in each family.
I have them prepared and packaged in my freezer, then I dump them in a oiled pot,

Fruit/Rose family
They don't need any processing, except washing.
I sometimes get sad, that I only eat fruits from 1 family and if my body will become allegric to it
Apple, pear, quince, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, plum, apricot, peach, etc all the same family.

You can use different sauce and condiments for different taste for breakfast, lunch, dinner.






 
A Bargatze
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If you can get easy grabs for breakfast and lunch, it makes dinner seem a lot easier to handle.

Some of my favorite do aheads for breakfast -
--French toast and pancakes (easy to big batch and they freeze like magic, reheat in the toaster, you can cut them up for finger food or spread things on them for breakfast sandwiches - my daughters favorite are buckwheat pancakes with chocolate chips)
--Steel cut oats (who has time to make that every day? Not me. But you can make a huge bowl of it and keep it in the fridge, and reheat in the mornings and add whatever your specific people like in it , you can even make a little 'add on' plate for the kids, so they can sprinkle in their own. Makes it seem fancy.)
--parfaits (since it sounds like you're a boss and even make your own yogurt, these will be even tastier. I like to get little bowls and put in plain yogurt, and some frozen or dried fruit, and some nuts. Whatever your family likes. That way you have something that you can grab and go with, and you can make them small enough for little appetites. If they are portioned out in the fridge, the older kids can even get them themselves. Makes it seem fancy.)
--Breakfast burritos. (This is where the magic comes in. Eggs, cheese, meat, no meat, vegg, beans, onions, no onions.. whatever combos your people love to eat can be slammed in a tortilla, in advance, and frozen for a quick breakfast or lunch. You can make them small or large... they heat in the microwave in minutes, or if you don't happen to be a microwavey kind of family.. in a nice hot oven in just a little longer. Either way, they didn't take morning prep, cause you 'so' have other things to do. The only things to remember when you are assembling is the fillings need to be cold, and the tortilla needs to be warm, then wrap them up and send them to the freezer.)

--My best hint for lunch, cause that's a hard one at our house, is a container of cut up vegg in the fridge to grab bits and pieces of as needed (celery, carrots, and cucumber are our finger foods of preference) and little bags or cups of snack mix portioned out (dried apricots, almonds, and shredded wheat is our go to)

--And lastly.. if you have the fridge space on a regular basis.. this is a variation on the whole no knead six minute bread thing... http://jezebel.com/5881847/how-to-make-easy-fast-foolproof-bread-from-scratch. Its the least hassle bread recipe I've found because it's the least timing dependent, and its really good bread.

--And even more lastly... take a deep breath. That's a ton of stuff you're juggling. There are days when I feel like if I got mine to school on time and not on fire, I deserve a medal. And I've certainly not got as many as you do. However, I suspect if you've got that many wee ones floating about there's a good chance there is a star chart in your house somewhere to show your kids the good job they're doing. Make yourself one, and give yourself stars for all the categories of things you take care of in a day. And then don't forget to give yourself a reward, cause 'that' is what will keep your batteries going to keep doing all the awesome stuff your doing.
 
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