Cooking Dinner… After Dinner

radishes2The 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?

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