Sunday, September 29, 2013

Batch Cooking For the 6pm Days

My schedule changed overnight (okay, one week from job offer to start date).  Suddenly, two days a week, we all screeched home at 6pm, supperless.  And typically, we start the bedtime drag at 7pm, with the schoolkids in bed by 8pm.  So, it didn't make sense to start dinner preparations at 6pm. We needed something to - poof - appear on the table at 6pm, ready to eat.



So what I do is cook double the amount of food I normally cook on the days I'm home.  Some of it hangs out in the fridge for the 6pm days, to be reheated in the microwave, and the rest is packaged into the freezer to be defrosted for other 6pm days.

I've read where some people do an enormous batch cook on one day a month and make their meals for the rest of the month.  That alternately overwhelms me and bores me.



Here, I am making a double batch of BBQ (as it's called around here - the rest of the world calls it sloppy joe).  I subbed in cooked lentils for the fourth pound of ground beef.  I also experimented with putting all the ingredients in the slow cooker, not pre-cooking or frying anything first, and cooking it on high for about 5 hours.  The texture was very soft and soupy.  Not terrible, but I now know I prefer the stovetop method.

Mennonite Community Cookbook



I split it into four portions, and we had one for supper. The other three went in the freezer.

All the schedule pieces that flew up into the air in August are slowly settling into place.  We are happy.  We generally have homemade, hot suppers that almost appear on the table at 6pm.  There is generally clean laundry. The house generally gets vacuumed. I get time at home alone while the rest of the family is out in the world learning and working (bonus:  with everyone away more, the house is less dirty!).

But I'll take any 6pm supper tips you want to offer. . .

14 comments:

beth said...

I frequently make sloppy joes...similar to your recipe, but I usually add some rice and extra water to stretch it! Thought you might like another THRIFTY idea for your recipe box. ;)

Lisa said...

Your remark about adding the lentils makes me want to try adding some to my meatloaf recipe. We've recently decided to only buy grass-fed beef, which is expensive - I will have to remember this!
I don't have any tips for you, Margo. I work 9-5 three days a week, and the dinners I make on my days off are eaten again on the days I work. It usually works out pretty well.

jenny_o said...

Breakfast as supper - the easiest is fried eggs, but scrambled are also quick if you whisk them with milk and onions and leave the bowl in the fridge. Just heat the frypan and cook while bread is being turned into toast. More of an emergency meal than a plan. But it's quick and filling!

And yep, no vegetable in that meal. Some days you just can't do it all :)

jenny_o said...

Oh - bad idea if anyone doesn't like eggs :(

momma-lana said...

I have tried the once a month cooking and it is a long and tiring day. Also, we had to repeat too many foods which we did not like. I do like you and cook double or triple and freeze. It seems to keep my freezer effortlessly filled with suppers or the startings of supper without much effort at all. When our 5 children were still at home and we had to be gone all day the crockpot was my first defense. I think crockpot recipes have gotten better of late and there are a lot more ideas and variety of recipes.

Melanie said...

I do this, too, and we don't even have kids yet! Between church activities and various rehearsals and exercise endeavors on weekday evenings, I find I have to be very organized ahead of time for the week, or I throw up my hands in exhaustion/frustration and we end up eating out.

Usually, when planning my meals at the beginning of the week, I look at the calendar and figure out when we need leftovers and when to double-cook. Sometimes, if I'm home but my husband is out, we can eat leftovers and then I can prep another meal later in the evening.

I discovered this month, however, that even that level of organization isn't going to work; there's just not enough time during the week right now. So, I'm experimenting with cooking ahead one week at a time (I'm with you on cooking a month out - ik). We'll see how it goes. Last evening, I was flat exhausted, but looking at the full fridge/freezer from the other side of a good night's sleep, I'm feeling pretty good about the week.

Glad your schedule is settling in!

Beth said...

I like the idea of subbing some lentils in there for the meat! We're working to cut our grocery budget - that would be a good and nutritious option.

We have a few nights a week that are the same way. I either do what you said and make a huge (and it is HUGE) meal the day before and depend on the leftovers, or I literally just plan something like hotdogs, applesauce and something else rather ready-made for those nights.

Glad things are settling in. It's a great feeling. AMEN AND AMEN to your observation about messes being proportional to the amount of time all family members are present at home!. Ha! I can SO get that!

Lydia Jo said...

I use that exact recipe for my sloppy joe's. It's the recipe my Mennonite cookbook falls open to.
So you made me want to make them again and while I was at it, I fried up extra hamburger and made a double batch of cheeseburger soup, double batch of broccoli soup, and one batch of taco meat. I have a crazy week and it feels good to know that I am prepared to feed the family. It took me an hour so there are 4 recipes that work well together. I made the cream base for the soups together, then divided them, etc.

Naomi said...

I'm gone every day until dinner so I plan our menus on the weekend. To simplify, I plan the protein for each day of the week so I know what needs to be defrosted the night before/day of and then the day of throw a bag of frozen veggies in the microwave. This works well for us since we primarily eat low carb for health reasons (luckily we're able to buy very affordable grass-fed meat from a local farmer). I cook with a minimum of sauces--mostly butter and herbs/garlic/onion.

One day I hope to spice things up a bit but since I'm writing a dissertation and hoping to land an academic job this year, we'll have to keep things very simple for a while.

Zoë said...

Does your oven have time bake? Freeze casseroles and then stick a rock-solid casserole in the oven on time bake in the morning and have it turn on 45 minutes or so before you get home. It should be toasty and delicious by then :)

Sew Blessed Maw said...

COming home at 6:00pm is really rough. I like your idea of cooking a double batch , while cooking.. And using it on your bad days.. I did this quiet frequently when my children were home and I worked 12 hour shifts at the hospital.
My daughter teaches school, and her girls are so busy and keep her so busy.. She will buy big packs of chicken or Hamburger meat.. She puts the chicken on to boil, and fries the hamburger meat with onions, etc. She freezes them in indiviual bowls.. The night before she gathers all the ingredients that she needs for [soup, chili, chicken and dumplins, chicken casseroles, etd]. She puts them all together in the refrigerator. Before she leaves for school, she puts it in the crockpot, and its done, when they all get home..She sometimes has a couple crock pots going [she puts her beans etc on too] It works for them.

BLD in MT said...

I've used up all my freezer meals so this post remind me I need to get on some batch cooking as well. I've never frozen sloppy joes. I will have to do that! Is the BBQ'd Hamburger a regional name or just a family name? I've never heard it before, but find these linguistic differences fascinating whenever I encounter them.

Margo said...

Zoe, yes! I need to do that.

BLD, I think "BBQ" is regional, or at least, Mennonite regional :)

Zoë said...

Another meal idea: Fried rice. Beat your eggs, chop your veggies, have your rice pre-cooked, etc. Then just put a pan on to heat while you get everything out of the fridge and presto! Dinner in 10 mins :)

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