Making time to cook

thanksgiving_tableOne of my co-workers recently asked me how I found the time to cook almost every night of the week. She asked this question after having lunch with me daily for several weeks. She was amazed that I always have something home cooked for lunch.  I have never thought that not cooking dinner was an option. My mom cooked almost every night when I was a kid. That’s what people do right?  Apparently not, most people eat out several nights a week. In my office there are seven of us, and only two of us cook at least six times a week. The rest cook an average of three times a week. There are three reasons we don’t eat out a lot; 1) cost, 2) it takes longer than cooking a meal at home, 3) the food is not as healthy as home cooked.

The answer to my co-workers question is “I plan each and every meal for the entire week, then I do my shopping.”  I do one shopping trip a week and use my menu like it is my Bible. Very rarely will I change the order of meals once they have been placed on the menu. Just knowing what you are going to cook and having all of the ingredients to prepare the food is half the battle.  I also like to cook because I am blessed to have an AWESOME kitchen. My kitchen is why we purchased the house we live in. One look and I knew that kitchen would help make our house a home.

My family does sometimes moan when I ask the question every week, “What do you want to eat this week?”  Caleb usually tells me, “I don’t know what I want to eat 4 or 5 days from now.”  While that may be true it is important that we plan our meals in advance. I have found several benefits with making an in-depth weekly menu.

Saves Time:  When I visit the grocery store, I take my list with me.  The list includes everything needed for every meal that has been planned.  This reduces the need to visit the grocery store more than one time each week.  Having a set menu saves me time, because after work I am not looking through the cabinets and refrigerator to determine what is for dinner. I have a plan and I can immediately start dinner preparations when I arrive home.

Saves Money: Having a plan saves my family money because we do not have to go out to dinner or order take-out because there is nothing in the house to eat.  With my prepared menu and shopping list I do not buy things that are not needed for our weekly meals. This really helps to cut down on my impulse purchases.  I am NEVER temped to buy the foods that the vendors are pushing through samples.

Teaches my children skills:  Caleb can make just about any meal that I can make. He started in the kitchen young by helping with meal prep and clean up. It also teaches my children how to make a balanced meal plan and how to prepare a shopping list.  When Madilyn gives me her choice of meals for a night I will ask her does it have a fruit, does it have enough vegetables, and what about protein. She is getting pretty good at making adjustments to her suggestions for meals.  Many times I have Madilyn in the kitchen with me helping to measure out ingredients. She is starting to learn the different measuring units.

More Family Time:  Most of the time the entire family is in the kitchen during meal prep time, and clean up time. This creates some great family bonding time. Caleb knows the secret ingredients to many of my recipes. Madilyn will learn those with time. Eating out at restaurants is not the same as eating at home. In restaurants there are constant distractions and waitresses asking questions. It is hard to have in-depth meaningful conversations while eating out. Eating meals around our own kitchen table allows for uninterrupted conversations.

Healthier Options:  Weekly meal planning allows me to ensure that my family is eating healthy well balanced meals. We are not consuming too much of any one type of food or not enough of another.  I know exactly what is in every dish that is served. There are no hidden surprise ingredients, unless I am making “Meatball Surprise.” Eating out may be easier, but you never really know what has gone into the food you are consuming. While this might not be an important factor to some people it is to me. I am really trying to eat all natural unprocessed foods as much as possible. Eating home cooked meals ensures that I am doing just that.

Easy Lunches:  I always prepare enough food so that David and I can have left overs the next day for lunch. We just pack our lunches as we are cleaning up after our meal. In the morning our lunches are ready to grab and go. There is no thinking about, “what am I going to have for lunch.” This saves us time in the morning and helps to get us out the door on time.

Preplanning our meals takes a little effort but it is worth it to me in the long run because of the benefits I gain.




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