Since March 13 2020, our home became, our school, office, church, theatre, restaurant, gym and everything in between. I am certain so many of us share the same sentiment. Being home all day everyday especially during the earlier days of the pandemic meant cooking three meals every. Single. Day.
If you’re like me, once I’m immersed with work I often forget to eat. I don’t feel hungry at all. Damion and Abiah are the total opposite. At 10:30am I can guarantee someone will ask, Babe what’s, for lunch, Mommy what’s for dinner today. We’ve tried several options, mac and cheese and burgers, delivery, take out, anything to ease the ‘burden’ of finding time during a busy workday to cook.
There was always this issue though, often we just didn’t really love the takeout and we all started gaining weight. Take out also meant spending extra money while navigating a very uncertain pandemic, saving money is top of the list.
I made an ‘executive decision’ for my family, I would prepare lunch and dinner every day. Damion laughed incredulously. I was determined so I went back to the basics. I cooked almost everyday when we lived in Dominica. My job was flexible, so I used that to my family’s advantage. Working from home now provided me with the same flexibility I enjoyed back then.
Here’s how I can prepare meals everyday in less than 30 minutes:
1. Simplify your menu. This is key. Being fed was the goal, being a Pinterest chef was not. We ate some variation of chicken or fish daily with a garden salad and corn or steamed veggies, with a carb, mostly Potatoes (Sweet or Irish) or Plantains or less frequently pasta or rice.
2. Plan a head. Using what we frequently ate, I created a rotating two-week menu, using a variation of chicken or fish, potatoes or pasta and a form of veggie. Planning ahead made grocery shopping simpler and cost effective. I knew what we were going to eat everyday, the ingredients were the same.
3. Find different ways to prepare the same item. We love potatoes, chicken, fish and garden salads. Abiah loves when we do a creamy garlic mash, I love a good potato salad, Damion loves when we have scalloped or grilled potatoes. Chicken breast is the easiest part of the chicken to cook also the healthiest and hubs fav, I only buy breast quarters. We grill, bake, curry, stir fry, jerk, brown stew the breast quarters. Grilling the breast are the easiest and my fav, so yes, we have it about 2-3 times a week. *Change up the sauce for a little variety*
4. Preparation is King and ties points 1-3. I realized to pull this off I need to prep as much as I could. I want to spend no more than 30 minutes daily preparing lunch. Using the daily menu, I prep on the weekends. We went to the supermarket to top on ingredients we’re low on. We clean and marinate all the chicken and fish for the week, seal them in separate bags for freezing. In the mornings, I remove from the freezer the protein on the menu for today. Chicken breast and fish both take about 15-20 minutes to cook, which I do in between meetings or when I break for lunch during the work day. For potato dishes, I peel and dice the potatoes in the morning *most times while in a meeting* I usually ask Alexa to set a timer, strongly recommended- life comes at you fast. I usually prepare a veggie dish during this time; wash and chop all key ingredients toss and place in the fridge. This takes no more than 10-15 minutes. I spend 5 minutes before we eat to put everything together, and lunch is ready everyday in 30 minutes.
If you’ve been struggling with cooking as I did, try doing a simple menu for one week based on staples you love and tweak them accordingly. Remember preparation is King - you need to do some planning and prep for an hour on the weekend or when you have free time to execute swiftly during the days. If being fed in the most nutritious and efficient way possible is the goal, try these and let me know how it worked out for your loves.