My, are things hopping around here today! So far I have four extra kids with more on the way. A little bit of snow and my home turns into Disney since we live on the best hills in an area of flat land. I only hope the food holds out.
Tuesday I talked about cleaning out the freezer, pantry and refrigerator and grouping similar items so that you can find things quickly. Getting rid of any "antique" food you may have also leads to safer eating. Now, what do you need to have on hand so you can cook quick, easy meals? Let's start with the freezer. If you have a full size freezer, you are lucky because you can take advantage of specials on meat and other items plus freeze precooked meals for nights you are really busy. If you only have a freezer/refrigerator combo, you will have to stock only a few basics. I keep frozen ground turkey and cooked chopped chicken most of the time. Catch chicken or other meat on sale and wrap it properly to avoid freezer burn. Use meat in a timely fashion though. I keep frozen corn, brocolli, green peas, sugar snap peas, okra, brussel sprouts, spinach, chopped green pepper and hash brown potatoes regularly. These basics can be easily cooked for a side dish or added to soups and other dishes. I rarely buy vegetables with a sauce or seasoning as they often have too much fat and salt. I usually have frozen rolls and biscuits on hand too and some frozen fruit. Yes, I even roughly alphabetize the vegetables in a row so I can find them quickly. (I know what you are thinking.) I don't buy many frozen meals. Occasionally I pick up a Lean Cuisine for lunches and rarely do I buy frozen pizza, etc.
My refrigerator always has milk and orange juice, eggs, cheese, butter, lunch meat, fruit and carrots. I always have several kinds of jelly, low fat mayo, mustards, ketchup, soy sauce, Worchestershire sauce, jarred chopped garlic, salad dressing, lemon juice and pickles. Usually there is yogurt, cottage cheese and some leftovers. Sometimes I have bacon or a fresh vegetable I'm going to cook soon.
My pantry always has several kinds of pasta and rice, dried beans, oatmeal, cereal, popcorn, crackers and bread. I keep canned green beans, corn, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, several soups, several kinds of beans like black and kidney beans, salmon or tuna, applesauce, and peanut butter. There are different dried fruits like raisins, craisins and almonds, walnuts, peanuts and pecans. I use lots of olive oil, cooking spray and canola oil, plus all-purpose flour, honey, pancake syrup, sugar and Bisquick.
As you can see, there are often several kids at my house so I try to keep a variety of snacks, some not as good as others. I keep G-2 and Roaring Water and yes, some sodas. I have granola bars, usually Fiber One, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, trailmix, etc. If I know I'm having a group of kids in advance, I'll get a fruit or veggie tray and yes, they do eat it. There is always fruit like apples or bananas and the cutie oranges are big right now with the kids.
You should be able to cook a fairly decent meal at any time with food you have on hand. I promise, time taken to organize and stock your kitchen leads to less stress and worry about "what's for dinner?". The best reward will be healthier meals when you eat at home and money saved.
If the weather is bad where you are, get started on that kitchen this weekend! See you next week.
Update on our friend that suffered the brain aneurysm: he is now at a rehab center and doing really well. He can eat regular food and is learning to walk again. We are so thankful for his continued recovery. His previous good health and physical condition has helped speed his recovery.