And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 KJV

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cooking Burnout

Do you ever get cooking burnout? I know I do. Several times a year it seems. From the recent influx of foodie posts on Facebook, I don't think I'm alone. So what are the options when prepping food, cooking, and kitchen clean up seems like more than you can do? I have a few standards I try:

Plan. I know it seems counterproductive to spend MORE time thinking about meals but I have found that if I meal plan there are several benefits:

1. I will have all the ingredients I need on hand.
2. I am more likely to have the correct meat thawed and ready to go.
3. I don't have the stress of deciding what to cook an hour before we need to eat.
4. When I have meals pre-planned my family is less likely to complain about the meal before them at dinner time.

Meal planning can be done several different ways. You can invest a lot of time at once and plan for a whole month or you can use a little time to plan for the week. Plan BEFORE you go to the grocery store unless you've committed to using whatever you have on hand. If you're home during the day (like we are) keep in mind that you will need items on hand for breakfast and lunch too (it's amazing how often I forget this even after staying home for 8 years). Some folks go as far as putting the ingredients for each meal in a separate basket or on a shelf together. Like I said you can invest lots of time or a little time. You can use a giant magnetic calendar board or just jot it down on a piece of paper.

Vary your meals. This seems like a no brainer but I often get in the rut of making the same 5 or 6 meals and after several weeks we are all SICK of those meals. I recently got a pretty journal with kitchen items on the front and I've been jotting down meals I prepare and all the ingredients that go in them and what side items we like with them. This way when I get ready to meal plan my lists are all ready there I just have to transfer them to the grocery list. AND when we are sick of the same meals I can flip through for new ideas. If you haven't made lists, no worries! Google meal ideas, hit up Pinterest, or just scroll through your Facebook feed. Don't be afraid to try something new (keep a frozen pizza on hand for disasters!). Also don't be afraid to put something new in front of your kids. You will be doing them a favor by expanding their palate. Speedy is our picky eater. If he doesn't like it then he eats the minimum and has a bigger breakfast the next day. We move on with life. I make several meals that 1 of the 4 of us don't enjoy. It's impossible to find lots of meals that we all like. The one who doesn't like the meal learns they will have something they enjoy more the next day (that goes for me too). Last night I made one of my great-grandmother's favorite meals. It's been awhile since I did this one and everyone RAVED over it.

These are so simple that it's laughable. And they are super versatile. But you need an iron skillet. Really an iron skillet is the trick. Anyhow these are just burger patties. I take some hamburger meat and mix in whatever I'm in the mood for. Last night it was steak sauce, season salt, a little garlic salt, and pepper. Pat them out. Put them in an aluminum foil square. Stack on veggies. Last night it was chopped onion, bell pepper, and tomato. Seal the foil packet and back in the oven. I had them on 400 for 20-25 minutes. That's it. We enjoyed some fried okra and sweet tea with that meal. The kids LOVED the cooked onions and each gamely tried bites of the tomato and bell pepper. Clean up was a breeze!

Enlist your family! Apple loves to be in the kitchen and she's developing some lovely cooking skills. She can't do a whole meal by herself just yet but each time she comes in to help me she learns something new. My goal this summer is to teach her a few simple dinners that she can cook on her own from start to finish like frozen lasagna, hot dogs, etc. Hubby is also a great cook and he can be depended upon to grill up a feast or make grilled cheese sandwiches. Speedy is a great mixer and he's always willing to help with setting the table and after dinner clean up. Get everyone involved so you don't shoulder the burden alone!

Last but not least you can always scope out a good pizza coupon and send Hubby to pick it up. This isn't viable for our budget all the time but it's a great option on the nights when I just can't get up the drive to cook.

Let's you and I make it through these cooking burnouts together! Another great option is to invite friends over for dinner! Do a potluck. Let the kids play. Laugh and enjoy the evening. :)

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