Welcome to the October 2013 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Meals that Keep.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month, our members are talking about how they preserve food to reduce waste and stock their kitchens! Check out all of the posts to get recipes ideas and learn more about putting up food for your family.
Eating foods made from scratch for 31 days of a month seems overwhelming for some people. Who has time to make a meal from scratch every time you need to feed your family?
As someone who still puts a whole chicken in the pan the wrong side up, yet manages to feed her family a tasty, nutritious meal, I know you can takes steps towards reducing the processed food in your diet. You could even go so far as serving a meal from scratch for 31 days. You just don’t have to cook every single meal from scratch. Use the power of kitchen short cuts like batch cooking, meal planning, and leftovers to create a plan for healthy meals every night.
Kitchen Short Cuts
Planning your meals for a week is the number one way to ensure you will serve lots of whole foods to your family. Even if you’re not ready to tackle the methods I discuss below, you can write out a simple meal plan. Getting the plan on paper helps you plan the kitchen activities around making the meal like having the kids help you make rice before they go to school.
Grab a piece of paper or print out my weekly meal planner. Grab your family calendar. On the days you have time to cook a meal from scratch, choose a meal that can create leftovers for a meal on a busy night. For example, one night have baked chicken thighs, sauteed green beans, and rice. Make a double batch of chicken thighs and rice for another night. You can make a quick sauce for the chicken and rice, or use leftover gravy to have chicken and gravy over rice.
One of my favorite methods for creating meals that keep and feed my family is batch cooking. When I have a mostly free block of time, about 2 to 3 hours, I will make a bunch of side dishes and snacks. Most of these go in the freezer to pull out for a busy weeknight. I package mine in meal portions in Glad containers. The chicken stock goes in freezer pint jars which hold 2 cups.
During the summer you can create side dishes from your garden or great deals at the produce stand on organic fruits and vegetables in the dirty dozen. Steam and freeze the fruits and vegetables in quart freezer bags to pull out when you need to do a quick saute or need vegetables for a casserole, soup, or stew recipe. Since you don’t need special canning equipment, anyone can steam and freeze fruits and vegetables in about an hour’s time.
If you find a great deal on meat at the grocery store, buy more than you would normally buy. When you get home, break the packages into meal-sized portions and make a marinade for each meal. When you defrost the meat in the fridge the night before the meal, the marinade will help tenderize and flavor the meat. The marinade can become the basis for a sauce or gravy after the meat is cooked.
Once a month Cooking
To be honest, once a month cooking is a kitchen activity I haven’t embraced much. When I was pregnant with 4 kids in about 6 years, I would do a big cooking session towards the end of my pregnancy to ensure my husband had plenty of meals in the freezer for the first few months. He would take over the meals while I settled into a routine with the baby.
Once a Month Cooking requires at least a day dedicated solely to cooking and preparing foods in the kitchen. To make Once a Month Cooking work well for you, plan on spending at least an hour or so writing a detailed plan for your cooking day. Decide what you need to do ahead of time such as chop veggies one day. Check your supplies for storage items like containers and freezer bags. Then, plan a shopping trip the day before you plan to cook; make sure you have plenty of room in the fridge for storing the food overnight. Set out all your kitchen tools the night before with specific work areas in your kitchen.
My best 2 tips for once a month cooking: start small and use recipes your family already likes. Doing a session of 2 or 3 recipes helps you understand how to efficiently prepare food and set up your kitchen. Choosing recipes you know your family likes ensures that no food is wasted. Save the new recipes to try once before using in a once-a-month cooking session.
Yes, canning is a way to create meals that keep. During the summer months, make and can quart jars of tomato sauce, chicken stock, beef stock, and of course, soups. For example, cook and can chicken soup without the chicken and then add cooked chicken while you’re reheating the soup. Some stews will do well in canning; avoid ones with potatoes, rice, and pasta. These can all be added later during the reheating process.
What are your favorite ways to create Meals That Keep?
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Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:
Because I love meeting new people and sharing, this post is linked to:
Small Footprint Friday, Show Off Your Stuff