Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WFMW- Pre Cook Your Dinner

When I was a work outside the home mom, I very frequently made dinner the night before. Whatever we were cooking would get made after my son was tucked into bed. My husband would finish preparing dinner (or just heat it up) when he got home the following evening. I generally stuck to things like casseroles or skillet meals that didn't suffer from the delay in cooking. The crock pot was also a huge help- if I made something in the crock pot, he didn't even have to cook anything- it was there ready for him.

I thought that this practice was a thing of the past when I became a SAHM. After all, I would have all day to cook delicious, healthy, maybe even gourmet meals for my little family! HA! After the first dinner disaster that left the kitchen messy, me annoyed that things didn't work so well and the baby cranky because he didn't get enough attention, I realized that I was not done with my practice of pre-cooking my meals! I no longer make things the night before, but as soon as the little man is in his bed for his afternoon nap, I am chopping, measuring and mixing whatever I need for dinner that night. Here are some of my pre-cooking tips:

  • Put water for pasta on the stove. I don't cook the pasta in the afternoon, but I will prepare the pot so all I have to do it turn the water on to boil and throw in the pasta. This seems like such a small thing, but when you have a baby literally climbing up your legs, every little bit helps!
  • For casseroles like chicken pot pie or lasagna, I will get everything assembled up to the point it goes into the oven, then let it hang out in the fridge for the afternoon. I add a few minutes to the cooking time since it's starting out cold.
  • It's amazing how easy cooking even a complicated dish becomes when everything is measured, chopped and ready to go! If I am chopping onion for a dish, I chop the entire thing even if I don't need it all. The leftovers go in the fridge for another night.
  • Potatoes for mashed potatoes can be peeled and diced, then placed in a pot of cold water for a few hours. When you are ready to cook them, just turn on the burner and go.
  • Peel, chop or otherwise prepare your vegetables ahead of time, then just steam or roast them right before dinner.
  • When I make something in the crockpot, I try to make a double batch and freeze the other half. When it comes time to reheat, it goes from the freezer back into the crock pot on low for the afternoon. It's ready for dinner whenever we are.
How do you make dinnertime easier at your house?

As always, for more great Works for Me Wendnesday tips, visit We Are That Family!


  1. These ARE great ideas! I'm often making dinner after Mookie goes to bed. Partially because that's when my husband gets home, but mostly because that's when there is enough peace to get it done! :o) I will definitely try some of these ideas, though...having all the work done before she goes to bed will make life that much easier! Thanks for the ideas! :o)

  2. 3Xmom- Glad you like!

    Melissa- I don't have the stamina to do ANYTHING after he's in bed! Good for you! :-)

  3. Prepping ahead definitely makes things easier! I like to pre-measure dry ingredients for bread and desserts. I also like to pre-brown and freeze meat. This week, I made some browned ground beef to put in the freezer in meal-size packages. I added onion and garlic, since most recipes call for those ingredients. Now the meat is ready for chili or spaghetti, for example.
    I've learned the only thing you really can't prep ahead is berries, since they get mushy if you wash them too soon.
    Thanks for the tips on the potatoes. I worry that they'll get dark, but I guess the cold water keeps them nicely! (PS...I don't have littles in the house any more, but your tips work even when the kids are grown!)

  4. I do the pre-cooking of hamburger meat and freezing in small portions. I do the same thing with chicken - I buy large quantities and then put several (okay, as many as fit) pounds in the crock-pot with a little bit of water and cook all day. Then I shred it all and freeze in small quantities. Great start for casseroles, or even chicken salad sandwiches!

  5. The potato idea is a super one!