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Kitchen Management and Meal Planning
By Crystal Miller
Busy homemakers can find managing the kitchen and meal planning and preparations a large challenge. The trend towards fast foods and convenience foods is common today as a solution to deal with this challenge. I walk into a nearby grocery store and find the deli loaded with “old-fashioned” goodies like roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, apple pies and any other item one could want for making meal time a breeze. This could seem like an answer to prayer!
I am not so convinced that these types of helps for the homemaker are answers to prayers. The food is loaded with bad fats, MSG, sugar and poor quality ingredients in general. They add preservatives and coloring so it is shelf stable and looks appealing. Perhaps the answer lies more in improving the skills of managing the kitchen so as to give us the extra time we need in our days and to be able to feed our family better quality food.
When you are looking at where to start in managing your kitchen remember that every homemaker must have a plan. As managers of our homes we can’t be tossed about and pulled by our daily lives as though we were victims of whatever may come our way. We need to work on a plan to be prepared to handle the feeding of our families.
Food and eating are major issues of both finances and health, and worth the time and effort that is necessary to be organized in this area. I have found that having a weekly menu has been the main key to good kitchen management. Making menus, grocery lists from those menus and keeping my pantry stocked with needed items makes meal time much easier to deal with.
The first step is to make a menu. If you have not done this before, begin by writing down all the meals that are your family’s favorites. Keep this list posted somewhere (perhaps in a 3-ring organizer/binder, on the back of cupboard door, your computer, etc). Each week take out the list and pick about 5 meals from it. Pull out all the recipes for that week and put them in one place for easy access. Fill in your calendar with the meals you want to eat on their proper night. Make sure you consider what types of things are happening during the week. If you will be gone all day, don’t plan a complicated meal like lasagna. Pick an easy crock pot meal instead and prepare it before you leave. Save two nights each week for eating up leftovers, trying out a new recipe, having a sandwich night or a “cook’s night off”. Take time each evening to look at the next day’s menu and see what needs to be done that night. Do you need to take anything out of the freezer? Do you need to cook some beans in the crockpot overnight so they will be ready the next morning?
Make a grocery list from your recipes making sure to check your pantry for any of the needed items. There’s nothing like running out of baking powder when you are trying to quickly make a batch of cornbread. Or finding that your recipe called for a can of tomato sauce that you thought you had.
Having a well stocked pantry is helpful for good kitchen management. Begin by creating a pantry list for yourself. Find lists on the internet to help you get started (I have one on my site, http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/pantrylist.html ). Add to this and remove items to suit your cooking style and needs. Watch for when these commonly used items to go on sale and then stock up on them.
If you feel you just don’t have the time to spend to organize this area let me encourage you that as we look at our roles as wives and mothers and put the things of our lives into priority we realize the care and feeding of our family is pretty high on the list. How wonderful it is to be able to feed them better quality home cooked meals and not over do the budget in the process. We will spend time at the grocery store and in the kitchen anyway, so we might as well spend a little extra time organizing this area of our life and receive the benefits of being an organized homemaker!
Crystal Miller, 2004