Contributed by Tiffany Silverberg
When you are juggling the many responsibilities of being a caregiver, mealtimes can be absolutely overwhelming. With three meals a day, not including snacks and drinks and other kitchen incidentals, it can seem like all your time and energy is spent there – cooking, cleaning up, and starting it all again. If you feel like you are spending all your time in the kitchen, just to stay on top of meal preparation, here are a few tips for how to save time and get back to everything else you love – or maybe even put your feet up for a bit.
Make a Menu
Take a few minutes to sit down and think through your meal and snack needs. Who needs a meal every day? How many meals do you need? Take into consideration nutritional needs as well as restrictions. Then make a list. What will you eat for breakfast on Monday? How about lunch and dinner? And will there be snacks? Now onto the next day. Once you have your menu together, you can create a grocery list. By having a plan ahead of time, you merge some of your meal preparations. For instance, if you need browned ground beef for two meals, you can cook it up all at once and then split it, saving you time on the second meal. Use fresh ingredients in multiple meals and just prepare it once to give yourself a bit of free time.
If you need to know how to save time for a whole meal, especially for busy days when you are at appointments or at work all day, consider freezer friendly meals. On a day when you have time to devote to cooking, take the initiative to prepare more than one meal at this time. Pastas, soups, and more can be made in bulk then frozen for a quick reheat and serve on days when you don’t have much time. Make the most of your time by doubling the recipe or using similar ingredients for a number of these types of meals at once. You can freeze leftovers and additional meals in individual or family portions, depending on your needs. This also allows you to leave meals for family members and loved ones while you are away – or gives them the ability to help you in the kitchen by just heating up dinner.
One tactic for how to save time in the kitchen that is rarely utilized is bringing in reinforcements. You don’t have to tackle all the kitchen work by yourself all the time. Find a job for everyone who can help. Even the little ones can help you rip up lettuce for a salad or mix dry or cold ingredients. Ask older kids or loved ones to take charge of a side dish or two. You could also assign the preparation tasks for the next meal to your kids or helpers. Ask them to chop the vegetables or cook the rice you need for that meal, for instance. Then when it’s time to make that meal, the ingredients will already be ready. You can also assign the washing of dishes to your helpers. This way, by the time dinner is ready, the pots and pans and bowls and other utensils will be clean and you can relax with your meal and loved ones.
When you need to know how to save time, there’s nothing wrong with a little outsourcing. Schedule meals on your Lotsa Helping Hands community calendar and ask volunteers to fill in those gaps. Request specific meals and be particular about nutritional needs. Enjoy a morning or night off in the kitchen!