Sheri of Donuts, Dresses and Dirt is taking over the blog today while I’m on a brief maternity break!
Hi all! I’m Sheri Silver, writer of the blog Donuts, Dresses and Dirt. And I am beyond thrilled to be posting here while PJ is on maternity leave!
I was thinking about what might be most helpful to PJ during these lovely – yet tiring and stressful – early months with a newborn. I remember when I was expecting my now-5-year-old. I already had 2 kids (ages 12 and 17 at the time) and my own business. I was totally overwhelmed – especially since it had been over a decade since I had a baby in tow!
Yet I was determined to keep life as normal as possible for my family, including mealtimes. This required some advance meal planning – and cooking – but was well worth it when Noah was born.
One of the biggest adjustments I had to make was getting used to performing tasks in little parcels of time again. I no longer had those long stretches while my older kids were at school.
Fortunately, I never stopped using the skills I learned when Chelsea and Conor were little, as they made cooking much less stressful. The most important of which is meal planning – specifically, knowing what you’re making each night (and having all of the ingredients you need at the ready). Once you’ve conquered this task you’re ready to take things to the next level:
1. Become a “master of efficiency” – Since I know what I’m making for dinner every night, prep can start as early as I like – often first thing in the morning. Even if I only have five free minutes I’ll take on at least one task that will get me closer to the finish line. You won’t believe how a few minutes here and there really add up.
On days when I’m flying into the house to get dinner underway (sometimes with my coat still on!), I am so grateful to the “early-in-the-day” me that gave the “oh-my-god-it’s 5 o’clock!” me a running start.
Here are some examples of tasks that take ten minutes (or less):
- Fill the pot of water for pasta; put it on the stove.
- Chop the veggies/crack the eggs/grate the cheese.
- Bread the chicken cutlets and stack them on a plate, separating the layers with wax paper.
- Marinate the chicken/steak (bonus points for having a stash already marinated in the freezer – now you just have to place in the fridge to defrost).
- Drain and rinse canned beans.
- If you’re baking, combine the dry ingredients (leavening agents – like baking powder – are not activated till they hit the wet ingredients, so you can mix them in advance).
- Wash and dry the salad greens; wrap in a paper towel and keep in the fridge.
- Make the vinaigrette; keep in a jar for a quick shake prior to using.
2. Double up – I will often plan two meals during the week that have similar ingredients, so that I can take care of prep for both. For example, I may dice a couple of carrots for a soup on Monday and grate what I need for a slaw a few days later.
3. Employ your “helpers” – Chelsea and Conor had no interest in helping me cook when they were little (and, truthfully, I was happy to have the kitchen to myself). Noah is another story. While I wouldn’t say he loves assisting me, there are times when he’s at loose ends and I must get some prep underway. I can almost always find a task for him to do. Does it take a little longer? Yes. Is it exactly how I would do it? Of course not. But during those times, it is far preferable to trying to distract him with something else.
4. Trim. Clean. Repeat. – Items like carrots, celery and peppers never go into the fridge before being washed, peeled and trimmed first. I detest this task and have found, that by getting it out of the way in one marathon session, I’m rewarded all week long. The veggies are not only ready to go for all of my recipes, doling out a healthy snack is that much easier.
5. Measure. Chop. Assemble (a.k.a. “mise en place”) –Time spent chopping and assembling ingredients prior to cooking will save so much time on the back end, and you’ll find that the whole process goes much more smoothly. Try it and see how it works for you!
Here are some of my tried-and-true recipes that mesh beautifully with these tips. They’re family friendly and in some cases, can be made in advance: