Since my kids eat like animals (AKA inherited their Daddy's appetite), I decided that it's high time I jump back on the bulk cooking wagon. I haven't bulk cooked since September when I stocked the freezer for having a baby! I just don't have the time these days to carve out an entire day to bulk cook. There are little people who would not survive if I did!
I decided to do an afternoon of bulk cooking since I found that to work well during my pregnancy with Katrielle. It truly is amazing how much cooking one can accomplish in just a few hours when you are focused and motivated!
In the morning I put a crockpot full of pinto beans on to cook and also a rice-cooker full of brown rice. In the afternoon, when the two little ones were down for a nap, I got started on my main cooking. I pulled 6# of roasts and chicken breasts from the freezer and seasoned them and put them in the oven.
Then I called my little helpers, Jeremiah, Ali, and Arianna (a 4 year old friend I babysit on Thursday afternoons) and had them come to the table and make banana muffins.
my husband calls me Mrs. Monk I'm a little OCD about germs and cleanliness while cooking, I told myself that I wouldn't worry about what the kids did while they made the muffins and I just would avoid eating them. I want them to learn to cook and being uptight about everything won't help them to be joyful about cooking so I thought it was a great solution for me. And of course Jer licked the raw egg fork.....ick!
When the little helpers were done with their double batch of muffins, I popped them in the oven and they ran outside to play. I then made a quadruple batch of whole wheat pancakes (NEVER AGAIN!!!! I may not have to make pancakes again until September!!!!) and cooked 100+ of them up and froze them. The baby woke up sooner than I expected so I loaded her onto my back in my backpack and she proceeded to pull my ponytail and suck on it the rest of the afternoon. I put the 14 C. of cooked rice and 6 C. of cooked beans in the freezer in small containers, took the meat out and let it cool before chopping it into small pieces and freezing in meal-size portions, and cooked up 2# of macaroni. I made a fruit salad (for a dinner I was attending that evening), and some mock Devonshire cream and hazelnut chocolate scones (for a Royal Wedding Party with my girlfriends that evening), and cleaned up the kitchen. When the muffins were done I fed the kids a few each and then froze the rest for handy snacks for the coming week. I was hoping to get to Berry Granola and Whole Wheat Graham squares but I was pooped and my kids needed me to make them dinner so I saved those two items for later in the week, as well as a crockpot of homemade yogurt.
Here are my best tips for cooking with kids around:
1. If possible, swap an afternoon of babysitting with another mom or utelize a mother's helper or Grandma so that you can get more accomplished and have fewer interruptions. If that is not an option:
--Let the kids watch an afternoon movie while you work
--Put them to work. It may be a little more work but it will keep them busy and someday they will actually be more help than hinderance so it's good practice for them!
--Spend extra time with the kids in the morning and if possible, wear them out on the playground or in the yard so that they will be happy to do quiet activities or nap in the afternoon while you cook.
2. Planning and preparing is crucial to the success of bulk cooking. Do your planning, organizing, and shopping the evening before WITHOUT the kids so you are totally ready to go the next day. Don't forget to buy ziploc bags or containers to freeze your foods in if you need them. (Ask me how I know this......)
3. Figure out what your top food needs are and make these things. I don't mind making dinner every night but our family constantly seems to be out of snack foods and I'm not a morning person so I find it hard to make pancakes first thing in the morning. So, I made sure to make up a bunch of pancakes and a bunch of snacks (muffins, graham squares, scones) and a few things that would make meal prep faster in the evenings (rice, roast, chicken breasts, pinto beans, macaroni).
4. Put your "servants" to work. I used my crockpot, rice cooker, oven, griddle, dishwasher, and most of my cooking pots simultaneously!
5. Don't over-do it! Plan to stick with your time-frame of 3-4 hours and allow yourself some time to sit down and browse a magazine and eat some chocolate for a little break while things are baking. I wanted to do a lot more than I did, but at the end of the day, I had to admit my limitations and realize that it's not the end of the world if I have to buy bread on sale than trying to make up 20 loaves of homemade bread to freeze.