I found this article written, some years ago, by TV Chef Dad, Andy. When life was hectic with babies and toddlers, Andy would help out by preparing two weeks worth of meals in a day. He and his sous-chefs would shop and cook and then freeze all the meals. That full freezer certainly made life easier.
“To eat or not to eat that is the question.” Actually this isn’t much of a question, since not eating constitutes a very serious weight loss program. Eating is one of life’s pleasures and the ability to cook surely ranks with art and music as one of God’s gifts that can be enjoyed by everyone.
But let’s face it, cooking can be a real chore, and just another task to add to a hectic homechooling schedule that already includes one-to-one teaching, music lessons and sport to name just a few. Cooking on a Catholic (large) scale is not to be underestimated and is extremely challenging both from the aspects of cost and time. Just ask the homeschooling camp cook, who annually feeds over a hundred people for a week at Fitzroy Falls. Where small families can base a diet around frozen shop foods, these are an exception rather than the rule in Catholic homeschooling diets.
Cooking can, with a little planning, become less of a challenge and even a fun and educational experience that can be shared by the whole family. What could be easier or more comforting than taking a home-cooked, pre-prepared meal out of the freezer the night before. A two week menu can easily be planned by choosing a week’s worth of meals and repeating them. This system can be used to allow most members of the family to contribute with suggestions for meals. This has the advantage that those family members with fussy tastes will eat at least two meals a fortnight.
Preparing and maintaining a list of meals that the family likes takes a lot of the potential stress out of the selection process. Choosing meals with common ingredients reduces the cost of the shopping bill and the preparation time for the two week menu. Once you’ve chosen your menu, stick to it! A good tip is, any meal with a sauce is ideal for bulk cooking. Shopping once every two weeks only takes the same amount of time as for a single week, although it will require the assistance of ‘volunteers’ (children) to push around the couple of trolleys (or more) needed. Bribery may be necessary at this point. Be prepared for the standard question from the check-out assistant “Ooh, are you running a restaurant?”. You could explain, but it generally takes too long.
Once you’ve managed to lug all your supplies home and stored them away or delegated your ‘volunteers’ to do this, the real work can begin. By choosing meals with common ingredients, in particular vegetables, the preparation of these meals can be streamlined by peeling, chopping and slicing in bulk.
Now cooking is not a ‘girl thing’, just look at the number of male chefs that appear on the television, and if anything is going to get boys interested in cooking, wielding a knife will never fail. You may need to be prepared to accept slightly strange lumpy-looking vegetables initially, but things can only ever improve. It’s something even ‘mere husbands’ can attempt. Young children are especially drawn to anyone who spends time working in a kitchen and will willingly help with the most mundane chores, since they have a ‘captive’ audience to prattle at.
The time spent preparing meals has the added benefit of strengthening family bonds, particularly where husbands are away from their families for much of the week, and teaches children the fundamentals of future independence. Children are also much more likely to eat a meal that they have helped prepare, than one forced on them.
You will need to prepare for bulk cooking, and the following will make the job a whole lot easier-
- A good supply of freezer containers (ice cream containers will substitute)
- Willing, or unwilling, help as the case may be
- Sharp knives
- Decent sized (large) pans
- Someone (a volunteer/s) to clear the backload of washing up
- Plenty of tea and chocolate for sustenance (don’t want to faint from hunger!)
- Good sense of humour and some more chocolate
A food processor is not essential as food takes on a more rustic appearance if prepared solely by hand. Don’t let not having electrical kitchen aids put you off trying!
Like all athletic pursuits there comes a stage during a cooking day when you will ‘hit the wall’ and this is where someone can come off the bench and give you a short ‘spell’ by clearing up all the mess you’ve made while you drink tea and eat the chocolate. Then it’s eyes down for the second half.
If all goes well and you haven’t decided to go to McDonalds for dinner, then you should end up with a freezer full of homemade meals and a feeling of self-satisfaction, not to mention a sore back and feet. All that’s left to do is clean the kitchen again, mop the floor and that’s your meal preparation over for another 2 weeks.
On the face of it cooking 2 weeks worth of meals in a single day may seem like a daunting task, but think of the benefits-
- Cooking is the only hobby where you can eat the results
- More time for homeschooling
- Less washing up in the week, which is a boon for families that have a washing roster
- Makes the morning sickness period during pregnancy more bearable
- Involves the whole family
- Educational for the children