Now that you are all stocked up in your kitchen and pantry, it is time to do something with all that food.
Most importantly to do it in a timely manner, and at a convenient time.
On March 11, 2009 I read a quote on one of my friends blogs. It touched me and hit my core so deeply that I have been trying to figure out just how to help myself in the area that she calls "the swing shift." The quote came from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints news. It was said by Sister Julie B.Beck.
"The most valuable time of the day for a family is the afternoon/evening shift. Be at the top of your game on swing shift. People are hungry, people are teachable. You feed them; that's when you serve them most. PLAN FOR SWING SHIFT, AND THEN WORK THE REST OF YOUR DAY AROUND THAT."
I now plan for the swing shift. Four o' clock to 7 0'clock is the hardest part of the day. I hate it when I am unprepared.
#1. Plan your meals in the morning. If it is a casserole, make it in the morning. Throw something in the crockpot. Get your meat out of the freezer. What ever you plan to feed your family have ready to go. My friend Krysta lays all of her items out on the counter with the recipe. This way she is ready to just throw it together at meal time.
#2. Double your recipes. If you are making lasagna, make 2. Most of the time you don't even need more ingredients. You could double the noodles, and spread the rest out between two pans. This will save you money, calories and time. Then place the second pan in the freezer for a later date. Make sure that you label it. Soups freeze well also. For freezer ready meals, I suggest the book; Dinner is ready by Deanna Buxton.
#3. When you cut a vegetable for something, cut the whole thing. I also chop my whole onion. I cut up all of my peppers.
Then I place them in a container and they are ready to go for the next meal. I also cut up a whole block of cheese at once.
Whatever it is you are preparing, do it all at once. It will save you so much time the next time you cook.
#4. When you make lunch for your school aged children, make it for all of them. I make lunch for all the kids in the morning. They look like this:
I send it to school, and then I store the others in the fridge. When they are ready to eat they pull it out like a lunchable and we are good to go. I also have a lunch prepared if we have to go somewhere. Then they can bring it along in there lunch box, and I don't have to buy them McDonalds.
#5. Make your bread ahead. You can buy bread, but I like to make it. It takes me 2 hours each week. When I make bread, I plan for whatever meals we will have that week. I always make 2 loaves of bread. Then I make 2 of something else. My recipe makes 4 somethings. I make rolls, hamburger buns, soup bowls, breadsticks, pizza crust.
What ever it is that we may need for the week. Then they are ready to go. Pizza crust is so great to have on had. I pre-bake it, then I cover it and place it in the fridge. When I am ready, I add my ingredients and bake. It is such an easy meal.
#6. Make your meat ahead of time. You can cook all your chicken in a crockpot, and shred it. Then you shred it and place it in ziplock bags. When you are ready to make chicken enchiladas, you just pull out your pre-cooked chicken. It is also handy to cook ground beef ahead of time, and freeze it. For ideas on this, I suggest the book Make a Mix by Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, and Madeline Westover.
#7. Make muffins, and extra pancakes and waffles.
Muffins are such an easy breakfast food and there are so many good recipes out there. I like to make these after dinner. I already have a mess, and then they are ready to go in the morning. I usually make 2 different kinds. This is a recipe for 6 week bran muffins. This will stay good for up to 6 weeks in your fridge:
Six week bran muffins
6 C. bran flakes
2 C. boiling water
1/2 C. shortening or olive oil
1/2 c. sugar
1 qt. buttermilk or 2 cups buttermilk, and 2 C. vanilla yogurt
(have soured my own milk instead of buttermilk, and I also have used powdered)
5 C. flour
5 t. soda
1 t. salt
Pour boiling water over bran and let sit. Can use four cups bran in the water and leave two out for more texture. Mix shortening with sugar, and add bran. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients.
Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes. These will keep in fridge for 6 weeks. This makes a lot.
When you make pancakes french toast, and waffles; make extra. Freeze them; they cook up so nicely in a toaster.
#8. Make smoothie popsicles. We drink a lot of smoothies, thanks to my favorite kitchen appliance. I make popsicles with what is left. I never feel bad about letting my kids have a popsicle for breakfast.
#9. Prepare for breakfast in the evening, and lunch and dinner in the morning.
I hope these ideas can help you prepare for "the swing shift" in your own home. I hope you can share more meals with your family. I know that dinner time is when our family bonds, and our children are the most teachable.
This method has helped me not be so stressed out at dinner. I am also less resentful because I am not in the kitchen for 3 hours at night.
GOOD LUCK planning ahead.
Disclaimer: DO NOT FREEZE YOUR LETTUCE. I was only freezing my spring mix and spinach because I read that you could. I think my previous post was confusing and led you to believe that you could freeze it all. My spring mix lettuce didn't freeze so well either. You can freeze your peppers though, and spinach is fine when you add it to a recipe.
For week one click here.
For week two click here.