Another mom sent me an email telling me she had seen on my facebook update that I was cooking. She is trying to cook more to save money so she was asking me about recipes for her family. I explained to her that most of cooking quickly and inexpensively for a family is done at the prep work level. She was a little uncertain what I meant by "prep work".
Sometimes I forget that not everyone is in the same place when it comes to cooking at home. Some cooks my age didn't have guidance in the kitchen. Their moms might not have liked or known how to cook. There are those of us who had moms that worked outside the home and had a few tried and true meals that got us through the week, but didn't expand much on their culinary repertoire.
Below you'll find my response to her. If you're just starting out or getting back into cooking for your family I'll try to break down what I do and not take the basics for granted.
Today was pretty boring actually. Mostly I did “prep” work.
Randall’s had a great sale on ground beef so I stocked up. I cooked most of the ground beef and then packaged it in ziplock freezer bags. Then I can make tacos, spaghetti, stroganoff or anything else that requires ground beef quickly. With some of the meat I also made and cooked two meatloaves, one for dinner and one I wrapped in freezer paper after it was cool [I put it in the fridge when the pan cooled down from searing hot. Don't put anything in the fridge before the cooked temperature has come down some, but don't wait so long that the bacteria has a chance to party]. Later down the line if I know I’ll be gone all day I can take the one meatloaf out of the freezer, put it in the fridge and then heat it up for dinner with sides (we did peas and cressent rolls today).
I also made cookie dough. I make one or two batches of the dough and then keep it in the fridge or freezer depending on when I’m going to bake it. I made brownie bites too, but those are for eating right now.
I made pizza sauce. I’ll freeze it in a plastic container and then defrost it when I make pizza dough. I was going to make mini pizzas, but I’m thinking calzones (think pocket meals) instead. Those freeze great and can be reheated in the oven/toaster oven pretty quickly. Again, mostly prep work.
Cooking every day is more about organization and planning than being talented. Yes, some people "get it" quicker than others, but home cooking is a skill. There are people who cook as an art form (think Iron Chef), but how many of us really do that level for our dinner table?