Monday, April 25, 2011
Hate To Cook (Or, No Time To Cook) But Love To Eat?
One of my favorite things to do is to treat my Mom to dinner, sometimes in a restaurant but mostly at home (I love to cook.) Her face and words communicate the pleasure she takes in the spices, texture and aroma, as she slowly clears her plate. She may be tiny, but the woman loves good food.
Given how much she appreciates a tasty meal, you might be surprised to learn that she absolutely hates to cook. She hates spending money on expensive pre-prepared (and often unhealthy) foods even more. (Though the temptation to go the microwave dinner route is understandable when you are hungry and cooking is a time-consuming chore.)
But in the past seven years that Mom has lived by herself, she has found a very practical way to have a healthy home-cooked meal flavored with her favorite things every day of the week, without spending too much time actually cooking (or inviting herself to someone else’s dinner table.) The key, as it so often is when it comes to motivation, is advanced preparation.
Every Saturday morning she puts the ingredients for a thick soup or stew into her crock-pot (enough to make 6 meals), turns it on and ignores it for the rest of the day to pursue more interesting activities. At dinner time the pot gets turned off and she has her first meal. Before bedtime the cooled pot gets stored in the refrigerator until the next day, when the rest of the contents get divided into 5 meal-sized containers to be frozen.
Initially, she repeated this process on the following Sunday mornings as well, with different recipes, in order to vary her choices for any given day (no one wants to eat the same thing six days in a row, no matter how much they hate cooking.)
After all this time, her system still runs like clockwork. Out of the freezer in the morning, heat and serve at dinnertime. No cooking, no pots and pans.
(If you don’t like stew, there are lots of other kinds of meals you can make in batches in advance, like casseroles. Friends of mine used to barbeque lots of chicken breasts on weekends and then wrap them up to eat during the week.)
This particular system of cooking – doing it once and getting it over with - lends itself to meeting many different goals. For instance, if you work long and irregular hours and don’t want to take the fast food option, or if you’re on a diet or concerned about maintaining a healthy weight (the fixed portions in this system are great for reaching this goal.)
If a member in the family has special diet needs and you find it a strain cooking two different meals each day, this may be an answer for you, too. For working moms and dads, whose teenage children by necessity are alone at the dinner hour, this is a safe and healthy way to eat home-cooking anyway.
Good luck with your goal!