I was asked to post a "day in the life of Tara" to give an idea of how I manage my time in the kitchen. I've been pondering this for a while and I think I came up with an honest way to do this!
An Ideal Day
I am up early to read my scriptures and study. I am studying in a kitchen that is nice and clean thanks to the older kids who did a great job on the dishes the night before. The kids start waking up around 7 AM and I start cooking the oatmeal that has been soaking over night. If it's not an oatmeal day I either mix up some muffins, make some type of eggs or what ever else sounds good. I pop through the shower and into clean clothes and we all eat at 8 AM. School starts after breakfast and we read, play, and work together until I leave them to themselves around 11(ish) so I can start lunch. Lunch needs to be easy! My favorite is to roll out lots of flat bread and stuff them with cheese or peanut butter and honey, or spicy rice. I'll chop up some fruits and veggies and call it good. Another lunchtime favorite is left over soup from the night before with soaked rolls or muffins. We go back to schoolwork and jobs until around 2(ish). The night before I set beans to soak so I rinse them and put them in a big pot and get them boiling around 2:30. They cook away while I get some other things done. I toss some of my canned, home-grown tomatoes into the pot around 4PM and smell it to see what spices it needs. If we're lucky I'll put a pound of pasture-fed beef in too. At 4:30 I roll out some soaked dough rolls and then make a salad while they cook. I mix some dressing up for the salad and then call the troops in to help get things on the table. (I don't always make beans! There are LOTS of other dinner options! I just usually try to start dinner prep no later than 4PM.) While the kids are cleaning up after dinner I prep for the next day. I mix up some dough to soak and any other thing that needs to soak, i.e. oats, rice, beans, breakfast cereal batter, etc. I also make my hubby's lunch for the next day. If I am really feeling nice I'll mix up a batch of cookies. It's probably time to start putting little kids to bed at this point and then I will read to the older kids. At about 9:30 PM the house is quiet and I have an hour or so to study by myself.
A Not So Ideal Day
I wake up later than I'd like because I was up with a sick kid, or up late cleaning the kitchen because one of the older kids was sick or gone and couldn't do their job, or up late reading a great book, or up late just enjoying the silence! I didn't prepare well for breakfast so we have scrambled eggs and fruit smoothies. For lunch I get out all the left-overs from the fridge and hurry and roll out some cheesy bread. School goes long or there was a field trip or someone stops by to visit or I get to talking on the phone or I'm out in the garden and I don't get started on dinner until 5PM. That's when we have "breakfast" for dinner and I mix up some muffins, scramble some eggs and chop up some fruit.
The only real difference between these two kinds of days is TIME. We still eat nourishing foods, even when I'm not as on top of things as I should be. I LOVE to be able to get a soup going at 3 so it has lots of time to simmer and let the spices meld together. I love to make pizza and Mexican wraps and lots of other things that take more time, but some days THERE JUST IS NO TIME! You must be prepared so that "no time" doesn't equal dad stopping for pizza! (Although that does happen every once and a while around here.) Here are some things I do that help me be prepared. (*And some things I am determined to do better at this year!)
Grow a garden so I can produce:
-1 year's supply of ketchup
-Potatoes for the winter
-Cucumbers for pickles
-Beets to pickle
-Herbs for spices and medicines
Inventory food storage*
Make sure I have Cod Liver Oil
Shop for fresh/frozen foods (2x a month)
Make capsules with our most needed/used herbs
Inventory/replenish food storage*
Make 1 gallon of yogurt
Make 1 batch of breakfast cereal
Make 1 gallon of buttermilk
Read recipe books for new ideas*
Keep a list of things I'm running low on
Plan for tomorrow's meals
Make a batch of soaked dough
Get tomorrow's grains or beans soaking
Pray and study
The BIGGEST lesson I have learned is that the key to being happy in the kitchen is being PREPARED! If I am prepared then meal prep is so much easier! I used to hate it when at 4PM my husband would say, "What's for dinner Hon?" I would get frustrated and reply, "I don't know, I haven't thought that far ahead yet." I felt like I didn't have time to think about dinner until the school and house work were done. THEN I would think about it. Lot's of times, okay most of the time, I wouldn't even start thinking about dinner until it was 5 or 6PM! This was a source of ... stress... in my marriage!
I really like the FREEDOM that comes with planning and preparing the night before! Freedom from what? Freedom from the age-old question, "What shall I make for dinner?" (Funny how that question always pops into our minds at the worst times!) Mostly it's the freedom from guilt about the quicky, prepackaged food we know in our hearts isn't good for us!