Cook freezer-ready food in the Crock-Pot and don’t stress
Putting dinner on the table night after night is hard for anyone, but especially for a Solo Mom. However, with these three simple things, you can do it:
- One-quart freezer bags
Then follow three easy steps:
- Cook something in the Crock-Pot.
- Freeze the leftovers in the quart bags.
- Every morning, decide if you are cooking in the Crock-Pot or defrosting. This is the important step. Meal prep is easy if you can think of dinner before eating breakfast.
What does this actually look like?
Monday night, around 6:30 p.m., you realize you have no milk and the bread is moldy. You tell your kids, “Super-happy-fun family field trip to the grocery store! Don’t worry about a bath tonight. Homework? We’ll do that tomorrow morning.” Then you take a quick look at your cupboards, make a hurried meal plan/shopping list, and drag your kids to the store at 7:00. Bedtime is 8:00(ish), but you can do it.
Tuesday is Taco Tuesday. In the morning, you throw ground beef in the crock pot with some taco seasoning to make taco meat. This takes less two minutes. After you get home, you chop some lettuce and tomatoes while the taco shells are warming up. Five minutes. Dinner done! You made enough to freeze several batches. Next Tuesday, you’ll just take out a bag before work to defrost.
Wednesday, you woke up late. However! All you have to do is pull out the marinara sauce from the freezer before you go to work. It took you only 10 minutes to make this sauce then, and it only takes you 20 seconds to pull it out now. Your computer crashes at work and you lose all your data, but you hold it together because you know that dinner is waiting for you at home. When you walk into the house, start a pot of water to boil, put in the pasta, warm the sauce in the microwave—and dinner is served. Salad? What? Did you forget? Today was a bad day. But there are still tomatoes in the sauce. Is this still better than McDonald’s? Heck yeah.
Thursday, you wake up refreshed! You have time (10 minutes) to do some gourmet Crock-Pot cooking. You sear chicken breast in a pan, slice an onion and four cloves of garlic, and line the bottom of the Crock-Pot with it and some spices. You put the chicken breast on top of the spices. In a bowl you whisk together some white wine, chicken broth, and flour. You pour this over the chicken. White Wine and Garlic Chicken! You’ve made enough to have two meals to freeze. You also set the rice maker to be ready at 6:00. The house smells divine when you walk in after a long day. You pour yourself a glass of wine from the bottle you had to open for the recipe. You read in Huffington Post recently that a glass of wine can be the equivalent of a half an hour of exercise. Actually, you didn’t have time to read the article. You just read the headline.
Friday! Well, it’s Friday. Fish Sticks Friday, Frozen Pizza Friday, Funion Friday. The most important part of meal planning for Friday is alliteration. Alliteration gives the meal a festive, fun feel. Even if it’s Alfalfa Friday.
Saturday is a busy day. There are soccer games, a pumpkin-carving party, and library books that need to be returned. It’s a myth that anyone can cook on the weekends. Maybe people without kids can. You pull out a bag of pot roast that you froze last week. Pot roast in the Crock-Pot is easy. Meat, cream of mushroom soup, powdered onion soup mix, one cup of broth (or water). At dinner time, you cook some egg noodles and boil some peas. This is a very nice meal to have after a cold day watching soccer.
Sunday, you use the leftover rice from Thursday. You throw it together with some eggs and sad remnants of veggies in a pan and make fried rice. The secret to fried rice is to use cold, dry, leftover rice. You crumble it into the oiled pan. No fancy seasonings or soy sauce? Salt is good enough. If there’s any left over, throw it in a bag and then the freezer.
It’s Monday again! You decide to use up the chicken breast that you bought for cheap last week. You used half of it for the white wine and garlic chicken, but you froze four of the breasts. You pull it out of the freezer. You dump frozen chicken, a can of corn, a can of beans, and a can of salsa into the Crock-Pot. This takes five minutes. Well, it takes half an hour because you have to simultaneously help your son with his homework, pack lunches, drink coffee, and look for the other son’s ballet shoes. Nonetheless, by the time you all head out for the day, dinner is taken care of. Is the kitchen a mess? Yes. Empty cans (that you didn’t have time to throw in the trash), dirty dishes, and a permission slip you forgot to sign are left all over the counter. But, priorities. The family will eat tonight. When the family gets home, you spoon the warm salsa chicken into bowls, serve with tortilla chips (aren’t they better than fries?), and because you do have some time, you toss a quick salad. Then, you scoop the leftover salsa chicken into the freezer bags for another day.
This is how you can feed your family week after week. You throw things into the Crock-Pot some mornings and freeze the leftovers. Other mornings, you defrost what you froze in previous weeks. You can feed your family on $200/month, eat healthy-ish (if not ideally), and spend less than two hours a week preparing food—including the grocery shopping. This is less than the time running through the drive-through. For this, you deserve another glass of wine.
Help another Solo Mom and send your tips for easy to prepare, healthy food to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mika Yamamoto, ESME's Guide for Public Assistance, has successfully nurtured two children as a Solo Mom and now hopes to achieve the same results as a plant nanny.
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