Photo by DJ Lein.
Teaching piano is a great home-based business for moms like me, but it comes with its own peculiar challenges. Evening meals are one of them. My husband is a great cook, but he frequently works very late, so supper and the nighttime parenting of my 7-year-old are usually up to me. Like most teachers whose students can't start until after school, I teach as late as I can, in my case, 7 pm. Then, there's no slowing down. I go into high gear to serve and eat supper, check my daughter's homework, supervise bath time and evening reading, and enforce her 8:30 bedtime. Even Rachel Ray's 30-minute meals take too long! I need to be able to get supper on the table in about 15 minutes flat. So, how do you get a home-cooked meal on the table in 15 minutes? As with most things, planning ahead is the key to success.
Here are some things that work for me:
1. Don't leave meals to chance. I plan my menus for the week and try hard to buy everything I need in one grocery run. This is a big weekend job, but it definitely saves time later. It saves money, too, especially if you use sites like this one to research sales and plan your menus accordingly. I keep a master planner notebook and use these printable menu planners. I also keep a master grocery list. I add things to it throughout the week.
2. Schedule a time for cooking. For me, it's too late to start cooking at 7 pm. I cook in the early afternoon after my morning church work and before my students arrive. The meal goes in the refrig. and we warm it in the microwave for supper, so I try to plan things that will be good reheated and save dishes that are best right out of the oven for weekends. I'm always tempted to prioritize this lower than my "real" work and just leave it to catch as catch can, but that's a mistake. All of that "real" work depends on our health, which depends partly on how well we eat. Cooking for the family is worthy of a spot on my schedule.
3. Streamline. Cook once, eat twice. I try to cook on Sunday evening (or sometimes hubby does it) and on Tuesdays and Thursdays before students. When I do cook, I make enough to last for 2 days. Fortunately, my family doesn't mind leftovers. But then, I haven't really given them the option of minding! Sometimes, I change up a side dish on the 2nd night, or sometimes I use the same main ingredient in a different way. Mostly, it's just plain old leftovers. Some things are better on the 2nd day!
4. Get a good crockpot and use it often. This has the added advantage of making your house smell wonderful when the students arrive. If you use a disposable liner, you don't even have to wash it.
In another couple of years, my daughter will be old enough to take on some responsibility for the evening meal. Can't wait for that! Or, maybe I can...
Here's one of my favorite winter menus:
Roast Pork Loin with Garlic and Rosemary - easy, good reheated, and the leftovers are versatile.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions - sounds weird, but tastes good. Sometimes I cook this ahead and warm it up later, and sometimes, I assemble it early and then throw it in the oven during my last student. Takes less than 30 seconds while she rehearses a tricky passage
Spinach Salad with Apple Vinaigrette