The ease of dinner from the fridge or freezer on weeknights means that the cooking time must come from some other time in the week. Rather than doing a big freezer cooking day, my routine has always been to simply cook more than we need and freeze the extra. But when 5 of 7 days of the week have little cooking time after work, another strategy is needed… and that’s when I cook dinner after dinner.
Tonight, I spent over an hour driving home at a snail’s pace due to a minuscule amount of precipitation. I happily listened to my audiobook and thought about the burrito filling and tortillas that just needed minutes in the microwave. After dinner, Thom was working, Mari was doing homework, and I needed some food to bring for tomorrow’s lunch. So I decided to cook another night’s dinner, from which my lunch for the next two days will come.
I used to be a meal planner. I made a rough plan for a month at a time, modifying it as the days went by based on grocery sales, leftovers, and creative kitchen endeavors. Now I work one day ahead… I make a general plan of the next night’s dinner so that I can take things out of the freezer as needed; this works because I keep the pantry, fridge, and freezer stocked with most of our staples most of the time.
I wasn’t planning to spend an extra two hours in the kitchen tonight, but it was fine. I used up some potatoes that were beginning to sprout, cooked a meal for the freezer, another for the fridge, and 5 packed lunches. The biggest downside is having piping hot food that needs to be chilled, but this is not an issue in winter: I open the door and put it outside… and turn on the timer as a reminder, lest I inadvertently let the dog out for a feast.
Since I spent most of my day sitting, standing and working in the kitchen was better than sitting down with a book, at least as far as my body is concerned. Chopping vegetables is usually meditative for me, but immediately after work with dinner hour looming is not the best time – I hate feeling rushed, and I am far more likely to cut my hand in that mode. But what I like most about cooking at random times is the opportunity to experiment… thinking about the ingredients I have, and how to combine them in a way that everyone would enjoy. When it’s not mealtime, the things I cook don’t have to form a coherent meal, but can be components of multiple other meals.
What creative routines have you developed to make everyday tasks fit your life?