March 15, 2011


I've had several people comment to me that they just don't have the time to cook from scratch every night. I can respect that. I was once a full time researcher along with being a mom and wife. When you add in any significant commuting time, the thought of cooking up a whole meal is draining, at best. So here are a few ideas for those that would like to eat from scratch more often, but don't always have the time.

Once a month cooking or OAMC-There are multiple websites dedicated to the art of cooking enough food for one month all in one day, or weekend, and then freezing it for later use. I utilized a few of these recipes when I was pregnant with my infant son. I wanted to have meals in the freezer and ready to go for those newborn days. Some of the recipes are really pretty good. Just be sure to keep the cooking directions some where handy. Nothing is more frustrating than forgetting to save them and then having to do all the searching all over again before you can cook your dish. I mean, I would think it would be frustrating. I, myself, would never do something like that.  At least, that's my story and you can't prove otherwise.

Dream Dinners, Supper Thyme, etc- This is the same concept as OAMC, except you go assemble your dinners at a commercial kitchen establishment. I've done this before and the food was good, reasonably priced and pretty much "from scratch". This is more expensive than doing it all yourself, but they do the shopping and the clean up! Plus, most places will provide snacks and drinks while you work. Some places will let you book a group and then it's just like cooking with all your friends, except that you don't have to shop or clean up! Did I mention how nice it is to not have to shop or clean-up?

Roasting the perfect chickenSupermarket Shortcuts- These are shortcuts that enable you to make the primary dish without some of the prep work. For instance, many grocery stores sell rotisserie chickens for $4-$6. Recently, I bought one and shredded the meat. I got enough meat to make four different dishes. Shredding the chicken only took a few minutes and it saved me cooking chicken for each of those four nights. Many stores offer vegetables and fruit that's already been cut up or a wide variety of hot and cold side dishes. Take advantage of these. Again, they may be a bit more expensive than doing it all yourself, but if it's time that you're trying to save than this is a great way to do it.

Now, you'll notice I don't recommend any of the frozen meal options that are available. That's not to say I've never used them, because I have, but most of them are loaded with salt, sugar and artificial ingredients. Also, some of them just don't taste very good. If you're a label reader, check them out. If you're comfortable with the nutrition info and ingredient list, then go for it. I have found, though, that for their price and flavor they're just not worth it for us.

I hope that one of these is helpful for any of you that would like a little more scratch cooking without all the extra time!


Laura said...

I cook up entire packages of rice or pasta, then freeze them. I got the idea when I saw frozen, cooked rice at Trader Joe's. It was crazy expensive and you only got a few servings. For rice, I cook the whole package in the rice cooker then cool and freeze. You can then just take out how much you need and micro it for a minute or so. Family size amounts of pasta take a little longer to reheat in the micro, but the idea is the same.
If you throw some frozen chicken breasts in the crockpot with water or broth when you get up in the morning, those will be done by the time dinner rolls around. Just heat up some rice or pasta, a frozen veggie and the chicken and you have an easy meal.
I've also read that you can cook ground beef in the crockpot. If you do this on a day when you're not crockpot cooking dinner, you can have cooked ground beef to portion out and freeze. Then use for tacos, pasta sauce, etc.

A pricey option is to buy the deep covered baker from Pampered Chef. I think it's $80, but you can cook a whole roaster chicken in the microwave in 30 minutes. It doesn't *taste* like microwave chicken, either. I've also done chicken breasts ( fresh, not frozen) in 10 minutes. It can be used in the micro or the oven.

Ann @ Living From Scratch said...

Blogger ate my comment... :) Do you find that the rice and pasta keep their texture after freezing? I love the idea of having a bunch ready to go.

Laura said...

Rice does but pasta is a little more mushy, but not totally soft, if that makes sense.
I've also done quinoa, if your family eats it.

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