Limited Time & Scratch Cooking

The past few months have been crazier than I think I have ever known. It wasn’t my intention to post recipes so infrequently on Scratch Cooking with the Concord Country Cook, but with this being our first season on our new farm, trying to balance everything has been quite the experience.  It’s silly, because I am usually home all day long.  But there is a large garden (about 2 acres) to weed, cultivate, harvest (and prepare for sale or prepare for storage) and maintain, farm animals that need to be fed, cleaned, turned out, brought in and maintained and endless projects (building more chicken coops, putting up new chicken pens, rototilling walking paths to lay down cardboard and wood chips, maintain our walking trail in the woods, building a duck house and permanent pen, build a permanent outdoor goat shelter, build a milking stand, build, build, build build…..  projects go on and on and on).   My day starts with cooking a from scratch breakfast (usually something simple and sometimes I treat myself to something I prepare the night before so all I have to do is pop it in the oven – or I do something in the crockpot all night).  We have six children who need to be woken, dressed, help tend to animals and eat.  Usually my husband comes home after the kids have eaten and wants dinner (he works midnights, so he usually wants dinner when he comes home in the morning).  After getting him in bed and doing a quick attempt at cleaning, we are out the door to begin our day on the farm.   I have to come in to prepare lunch, and then again for dinner.  If I don’t plan things right, I feel like I spend all day in the kitchen.

While I love to cook, I tend to see cooking as more of a chore I would rather not have during the summer if I am preparing every meal three times a day without any prep done in advance.   There are a few simple things I like to do to keep me out of the kitchen as much as possible during our busy season.

  1. Plan Your Meals. Even if it’s just the night before.  Write it down.  Keep a list on your fridge of new things you have opened that need to be used within a couple of days to inspire your meal planning and avoid waste. If I wake up in the morning and don’t have a plan for lunch and dinner, my day falls apart.  I obsess over these two meals and what I can make quickly based on what is already thawed and ready to go, but usually our meat isnt thawed unless I…..
  2. Prepare The Night Before. If you have to soak or cook beans, thaw meat, chop veggies, prepare a dressing, or throw ingredients in a crockpot to hang out in the fridge all night before cooking the next day, get it all done the night before.  The next morning will go so much smoother than if you do all of your meal prep then (or worse yet, right before you cook your meal).  I am a night owl because I have to wake my husband up to head into work when most people are already tucked in bed.  So as I wait to wake him up, I like to get a head start on the next days meals.
  3. Do It In Bulk. If you are making a ‘cream of’ soup for a recipe, make a few and freeze them.  Or make up a big master mix of the dry seasonings to make it easier to access the next time you need it.  If you already have the ingredients out to prepare an ingredient you use often, it makes sense to put a little extra time into preparing more now verses having to pull everything out again in the future and go through the whole process all over again.
  4. Crockpot or Freezer Meals. Everyone loves the crockpot.  Throw ingredients in, remember to turn it on, and your dinner is cooked when you come home in the evening.  We love the crockpot.  We also love cooking for the freezer – spending some time once a month or so preparing some meals that will be easy to pull right out of the freezer and heat up.
  5. Try New Things.  New tastes and ingredient combinations can keep cooking interesting even when you least want to do it.  I find that if I am in a rut, usually I can keep myself pushing through by trying new recipes that we can add to the rotation.


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