Secret #1: Freezer meal rotation
I am sure many other busy moms have used this method and I am not the one who invented it, but when I figured out this rhythm last year, I got hooked immediately. Basically it’s a way to have 2-3 thaw-and-reheat freezer meals each week while only cooking in a hot kitchen one day each week. (However, and there’s no way around this one, you do need a good bit of available freezer space.)
Super simple, here we go. Choose several freezer meals your family enjoys. My go-tos are meat or vegetarian lasagne, taco bake, chicken enchiladas, blackened peas & corn casserole with cornbread topping, sloppy joes, chili, baked chili mac-n-cheese, chicken pot pie… You get the idea. Anything you can freeze in Ziplock bags or aluminum trays portioned out to be the right size for your family to have for dinner.
Choose a day this week and make ONE of these freezer meal recipes, but in a quantity large enough to feed your family 4-5 times. If it’s a casserole-type dish, put it into 4-5 aluminum trays and go ahead and bake them all then allow to cool. If it’s a sloppy-joe kind of thing, allow it to cool then portion it out into Ziploc freezer bags.
Have the meal for dinner that night and freeze the remaining 3-4 batches. (Tip I learned the hard way: label them well! Nobody ever wants Mystery Dinner.) For the Ziplocs, freeze them flat on a baking sheet and then they stack to take up the least amount of space in your freezer.
The following weeks, you repeat the process. Eventually you’ll build up a varied stock in your freezer and still only have to cook in that miserable kitchen one day a week, but you can enjoy prepared homemade meals several nights a week.
Secret #2: Meat and two sides
We like our vegetables in this family. Well, I do and I do the cooking so therefore my kids have to eat them. 🙂 In hot season, when fresh produce options are slim, we tend to eat a lot of baked sweet potato (patate douce orange) fries or this cole slaw recipe, and pan-fried okra (gombo) or frozen broccoli. That’s about 85% of our veggies-as-a-side intake, right there.
Most days I choose two and then serve them with one of the following:
- chipolata sausages or saucisses de volaille from La Boucherie Nouvelle
- BeerSheba’s Italian sausages from the American Food Store
- BeerSheba’s all-beef hamburger patties from the American Food Store
- Shady Shack‘s chicken tenders (Or one of the other excellent options in Dakar!)
I buy all of these in large quantities. The sausages I bake in the oven, then cool and freeze. Same for the chicken tenders – let them cool, then freeze. It makes dinner quick and easy to just grab something frozen, thaw and reheat as I’m making the veggie sides.
Secret #3: Pizza delivery
Now I obviously I did not invent pizza as a quick weeknight meal. 🙂 But on nights that I order pizza, our ‘first course’ is served before the delivery guy even knocks on the door. I put out a tray of carrot sticks, cucumber slices, bell pepper slices, leftover veggies from the night before… and everyone starts eating. By the time pizza arrives, I can be pretty sure the kids have had a good dose of healthy veggies before they dig into cheesy goodness.