Today we ate:
- Breakfast: Smoothies for Dad and LP. Then Mom made some pancakes for everyone!
- We snacked on roasted potatoes later on (a late addition to breakfast)
- Lunch: Leftover seitan pot roast for LP and Dad, leftover carrot-ginger soup for Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa
- Dinner: Spring rolls!
- Mom made some chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies
Today we spent the following:
- $44.78 on a Whole Foods grocery trip
Friday Tips for Living Vegan and Living Cheap – with kids!:
Prepping early for meals
This week we are having company at our house, and the G-man and I were a cooking/cleaning team on Thursday in preparation. In reality it only took us a couple of hours for one morning and then we were ready to have dinners and lunches on the table in 20 minutes or less for the next four days. At some point I will post some tips and recipes for actual meals-in-advance (like casseroles, slow-cooker dinners, etc.) For this post, however, I am sharing some tips for preparing parts of meals in advance in order to make “cooking” the meal quick and easy. By using these strategies we were able to make cooking for this weekend a breeze.
Chop some veggies: One of the most time-consuming parts of cooking is chopping vegetables. I hear from some people that this is the “downfall” of vegetarian cooking, but the reality is that everyone should be eating lots of vegetables! Most recipes I use call for chopped onion and minced garlic, so I sometimes chop up two onions when I only need one, or mince a whole head of garlic when I only need two cloves. Then, I store it in the fridge until I need it next! This can also work well with carrots, cabbage and loads of other veggies. I have been known to pre-chop greens when I’m working, even though greens lose a little bit of their nutritional benefits when pre-chopped. However, greens that don’t get eaten (because you don’t want to bother chopping them when you are in a hurry for dinner) have no nutritional value! So, do what you need to do to enjoy those leafy greens!
Pre-make sauces: On our first night with our house-guests we had spring rolls with peanut sauce. I made the peanut sauce ahead of time so that dinner came together quickly, didn’t create a huge mess in the kitchen and gave me time to visit with everyone. Similarly, I have made stir-fry sauce, marinades and pasta sauce in advance, sometimes on the weekend, so that weeknight dinners come together quickly. I’ve also been known to double these sauce recipes – then we get two dinners out of them!
Use your down time: Every week, when I make our menu, I also make a list of things that we need to prepare in advance. Often the list has things like beans (we use dried beans because they are so much cheaper than canned), rice (for fried rice), or bread (in the form of sandwich loaves or pizza dough). These are things that all can be made pretty easily during our down time, like when we watch TV after the kids are in bed, or when I am nursing a baby or playing the back room with LP. So, I’ll get beans soaking in the morning when I’m making toast, and then cook them in our pressure cooker while the G-man and I watch “House M.D.” Or, we’ll make a no-knead bread, stir it up and pop it in the fridge for a slow-rise just before we go to bed. I found that making dinner during “dinner time” (also known as the “witching hour” in parent-land) was bad time to try and figure out soaking beans or making rice. Now, I do those things a day or two early when we are more calm and chill.
Make several things at once: A huge hassle of kitchen prep, for me, is the materials. I have to pull out the cutting board, get the knife (and pots and pans) dirty, clean up the scraps, etc. I’ve found that making a lot of prepared food at once cuts down on the time I spend on these things, since I can just go though that hassle for a marathon session of prepping once a week, and then I am good to go. Don’t chop one onion when you can chop up two and store some for later. Make a double batch of rice – one for curry tonight and then one for fried rice on Friday. When I make beans for the week I will soak and cook several batches in the same two containers, one after the other. Use the food processor once to chop carrots, shred cabbage, and then rinse it out and use it to make pizza dough before washing it for real. Anything I can do to cut down on dishes is a plus in my book!
There are times in my life when I use these tips and they make my life a lot easier. And there are times when I have not even had time to do a few of these, and I end up making tofu scramble for dinner. Cooking fresh and healthy food for a family is enjoyable in many ways, but that doesn’t always make it easy. However, with some of these strategies it can make it more feasible for a busy family!