I’ve been meaning to do a post on kitchen management for awhile. I’ve done several micro-blogs through my email newsletter, but I haven’t actually written posts on my blog about this. I do consider myself decent at managing the kitchen and cooking. I can share a lot of tips and information, but I wanted to ease into this with a basic post. If you came here looking for more information, please do leave me a comment. I’ll answer all the questions as fully as I can.
Why Kitchen Management is Important and How to Not Let it Drive You Crazy
Why the Kitchen is Important
While the living room might be at the center of a family’s lifestyle, the kitchen is at the center of that family’s health and wellbeing. There are many ways that the kitchen affects these areas, and a wise woman will use it to the best of her abilities.
Reason #1 – Healthy Home-Cooked Meals
Okay, so not every home-cooked meal is going to be healthy. Still, as a general rule you can prep the food that you know your family needs. If you’re also a gardener, home-cooked meals is a requirement if you plan on actually using your produce. Even if you don’t garden, though, there are ways to get healthy fresh vegetables into your menu.
Do you have children who swear up and down that they dislike vegetables? Try finding a local farmer to buy your produce from. You all might be surprised at how much more flavor these possess compared to even ‘fresh’ veggies from the grocery store.
Reason #2 – It Saves Money
Maybe you’re in a blessed position where you don’t have to track your incoming paychecks against your outgoing expenses. If you are, then you enjoy the freedom to eat out (and can probably even do it healthily) more than most of us.
Here’s the thing, though, even if we had a huge surplus of income, we would still focus on making our meals at home. Yes, I said we. We’ll get back to that in a moment.
As Christians, we’re called to be wise stewards with the resources that God gives us. Eating out all the time doesn’t seem like a waste of your resources, until you think about where else that money could have gone: your church, the local crisis pregnancy center, to support the missionary family you know in Taiwan, etc.
Even if you don’t give that money to be used to God’s glory, then you have to acknowledge the fact that there’s a certain kind of benefit to families who preserve some more money. If your child has an emergency, you have some spare cash to use. If you all need some extra time together, then you won’t be tempted to weigh vacation against your missing paycheck for the week.
And for those of you are shaking your head while thinking, “Yeah, it saves money and we’re still struggling,” I hear you. I’ve been there, too. Keep fighting to get in your grocery budget. That is a mastered skill that will benefit you both now and in the future.
Reason #3 – It Brings the Family Together
I recently had the rare pleasure of working in the kitchen alongside my parents and brother. It’s the first time that it has happened in a very long time. So in the middle of the jokes about my bad knife-handling (I’ve still never cut myself while cooking) and all the shuffling back and forth to stay out of each other’s way, I suddenly exclaimed, “We haven’t killed each other yet! It’s a miracle.”
“A family who cooks together, stays together” doesn’t describe my childhood at all. We rarely all worked together in the kitchen, mainly because it’s hard to do without constantly being in somebody else’s way. It was difficult if just three people worked together in the kitchen. Yet it was peaceful despite all the teasing.
There’s a rhythm that develops when a family has home-cooked meals, from assisting each other while cooking, to setting the table, to actually eating together. That ebb’n’flow is something worth preserving. The kitchen sets a rhythm for the entire household in a way that eating out or quick pre-made meals never well.
How to Not Let the Kitchen Drive You Crazy
#1 – Don’t Do It All Alone
Unless you have an undeniable talent and joy for cooking, don’t try to take on 100% of the meal preparations by yourself. This is especially true for a house where all adults work. In these situations, it’s unfair and unrealistic to expect just one adult to cook supper all the time. It has nothing to do with being a helpmeet vs. the head of the house; it has everything to do with looking out for each other’s interests. Cooking takes time and energy. Trying to cook when you don’t have energy and never have time to rest will not end well for the entire family.
- If you have two pans going on the stove and you still need to start a vegetable, call in the backup. Nobody wants burnt food or a trip to the emergency room because you tried to handle too much at once.
- Assign one night a week to your spouse or to an older child. You might end up assisting, eating spaghetti all the time, or even picking the recipe, but at least it will give you a break.
- Shake it up for family fun by having some fun cooking nights. I love making pizza because my two-year-old daughter helps me sprinkle the cheese and toppings onto the crust. It may take us twice the time, but it is time spent having fun. Grilling has a similar effect since we all usually end up outside.
#2 – How to Give the Entire Family a Break
There’s always going to be nights where cooking is hard, no matter who is supposed to be the main chef. Maybe you stayed longer at the park than you expected, maybe somebody in the family is sick which has made it a hard week for everybody, or maybe there was some other emergency that postponed dinner preparation. What do you do then?
- If you know that it’s going to be a crazy week ahead of time, plan some days for slow-cooker meals. Since you just have to dump ingredients in, it will feel like you had a personal chef when it’s actually time for dinner.
- Chicken salad is very simple to mix together. You simply take a can of chicken chunks, mix in some mayonnaise, shredded cheese, chopped pickle, and seasonings. Chicken salad can be eaten on bread, on salads, in a wrap, or even on crackers.
- You can freeze some meals for later use. Doing this will give you some options besides fast food when cooking feels too daunting for all the cooks in your family. You can even make something like ham poppyseed sliders to warm up in the microwave individually. Of course, it’s a lot of work to cook freezer food while you have to cook other meals. To get around this, you can either double a recipe with the intention of putting the second batch in the freezer or you can go ahead and cook a meal on a night when everybody can eat leftovers.
#3 – Advanced Meal Prep
Note: this does assume that you are meal planning. I don’t have a post on that, but there are a lot of wonderful resources out there.
When possible, go ahead and prep your ingredients for the next couple of days. For example, if you only want to use half an onion in one recipe but know you need the other half for the next night, then go ahead and cut it up all at one time. It will be fine as long as you store it properly.
It might feel like a lot of work at the time, but it does help when it comes to rest of the week.
#4 – Play Music
If the kitchen feels isolated or overwhelming, then play some music through an online radio station to help cheer up the mood.