Thank you Mara for the invitation to Guest Post. I have been swamped with work and I’m not quite sure what possessed me to agree to a guest post, but I love the Kosher on a Budget blog, so I agreed. One of the reasons I love KOAB is because I have less and less time to read the circulars and figure it all out. Therefore, I’m so grateful there is a kosher-keeping blogger doing my homework for me. Extra care bucking at CVS saves us a tremendous amount each year on the basics like shampoo, toothpaste, toilet papers, diapers, and wipes.
But back to the subject at hand! Thankfully, despite being swamped beyond belief the last two weeks, I have yet to resort to ordering a pizza or take out despite crazy around-the-clock working hours as I squeeze in an hour here and 3 hours there, while keeping the house reasonably clean, reading and playing games, and heading here and there for short outings.
It is summer, so everyone is home – everyone, that is, except my husband, whose alarm I’d like to clobber when it goes of at 5:30AM. He is out of the house 12-13 hours a day.
I’m not a super hero, nor am I a martyr, I’m just a mom trying to keep my clients happy and meet a budget even with everyone underfoot. I thought I’d share a few of my secrets that keep this house functioning in the usual frugal manner even when I’m billing time like it is going out of style and burning the candle on ends.
1. My pantry and my freezer are stocked for summer.
I buy staples on great sales like they are going out of style during the school year and we work down our reserves in the summer. When the big 28 oz. cans of tomato products are 80 cents a can, I have no problem buying a lot of them, varieties galore. My biggest, best buy was 72 cans (28 oz) for $36. When jarred, pre-prepared pasta sauces are on sale for $1, I might pick up 30 of them. When tuna is 2/$1, I will buy a case. When tortillas are $1 for a package of 10, limit 10, I buy 10 and freeze them. Thankfully, we also have space for frozen cheeses and meats/poultry, frozen vegetables, and sandwich breads. I also keep rice, bulgur, pinto beans, lentils, and just about every other grain and legume in stock. A full spice cabinet is a must too, because spice makes the food interesting.
2. Dice, Sauté, Spice, Dump, and Simmer.
Making sauces, soups, stews, chilis, and ethnic dishes to serve over rice is easy once the technique is etched in your mind. Start with a base of onions, garlic, and/or green peppers and sautee in olive oil (I buy olive oil in the gallon size containers at Costco). Once the onion base is fragrant, add spices and continue to sauté for another minute or so. Whether you are cooking with Italian spices, chili spices, or some type of curry combination, the formula is the same and the same types of vegetables can usually be used to. (I run though a smaller grocery with a decent produce section about once a week for about 30 minutes max and buy whatever is on sale and pick up my perishables like milk, eggs, and yogurts) Dump in legume/grains, canned tomato products, and vegetables-fresh or frozen. Simmer. Set the timer and in the meantime get something else done.
3. Grill, Steam, Slice for Shabbat on the Run.
During the week, we are vegetarians. For Shabbat, I add some chicken or meatballs into the repertoire. This last Shabbat, at 4:30PM, I had not even started cooking and didn’t have enough fresh veggies to respectable Shabbat meal. At 4:45 we hit the grocery store, by 5:30PM the car was unloaded and we were cooking. By 6:30PM the dishwasher was running and it was time for showers.
What did we eat? Chicken grilled on the stove, steam green beans and sweet potatoes, couscous salad, and fruit salad. Soup and cake came out of the freezer. The boneless, skinless cutlets came right out of the freezer and I defrosted them in the microwave (nearly criminal in my book). I quickly ground up all sorts of washed herbs and garlic in the food processor along with Moroccan spices and olive oil. My kids were more than happy to operate the food processor and I have leftover rub that I can freeze for the next crunch week. While the chicken sat in the spice rub, if it could be steamed, I steam it over the stove. While the kids sliced veggies for the couscous that was steamed and opened some garbanzo beans and raisins, I made a dressing. We quickly braided up the challah dough and let it bake. Lastly, we discovered we had no confection sugar for the fresh sliced strawberries and blueberries, so we solved that problem by running sugar through the food processor. Everyone should have a quick Shabbat solution. Mine is grill, steam, and slice.
4. Extra Slicing Boards.
One of my secrets to cooking in a rush is extra slicing boards. When I find $1 plastic cutting boards, I buy extra. They aren’t high quality, but they do the job. When everyone can cut something, the job moves more quickly.
5. Helpful children.
One of my more worthwhile investments to date has been taking the time to teach a few kitchen basics to my children. I start young and while they aren’t always helpful (sometimes they are anti-helpful), they seem to understand that when it comes to crunch time, if they want to eat, they are going to have to pitch in. In the summer, we seem to have more crunch time and they seem more helpful than ever.
Orthonomics is a blog dedicated to examining the economic and auxilary issues in the Orthodox community. The comments section is always active and reader input and guest posts are much appreciated. The most popular conversation to date was Private School or Bust.