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Creating Your Own Fast Food

Does it feel like you live in the car shuffling kids from play practice to sporting event to sleepover? With all this shuffling, what’s happened to your family meal table? That’s exactly the question Melodie M. Davis asks in her book, Whatever Happened to Dinner? Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime. In her study of the evolution of family mealtime, she discovers that it changes with our changing culture; but despite the changing culture, we as parents must keep mealtime as glue for holding the family together and a center point in our lives.

Yet many weary parents succumb to grabbing on the go, whether in the drive-through or pizza to eat in front of the TV once they do get home. While it’s important to periodically take stock in our family’s activities and decide if they are profitable, we also can preserve that center point by creating our own fast foods to eat at home, around the table.

If you knew that you could have supper on the table before the kids unloaded the groceries from the car, wouldn’t you want to give it a try?

Here are a few ways to consider:

Once-a-month cooking - This technique gained in popularity in the 1990s with the publication of a book by the same name. To practice once-a-month cooking, a homemaker devotes one day per month to shop and the next day to prepare 30 meals which they put in the freezer. It’s a lot of work for a few days so that you can relax the rest of the month. If you collaborate with friends, combining your menus and working together, the workload is cut in half and the fun is doubled.

Crockpot cooking - For the family on the go, the crockpot can be a lifesaver. Similar to the once-a-month cooking method, crockpot freezer meals are assembled ahead of time and frozen until ready to use. Sarah Robinson, mother of six with one on the way, likes to assemble her freezer meals on a weekly basis.

“I love how crockpot freezer meals help our family to eat at a normal time,” she says, “and help us to eat together as a family more often.”

Sarah has found this technique so helpful, she’s developed her own recipes and menu plans that she offers on her blog Sidetracked Sarah.

Homestead cooking - If you garden or grow any of your own food, you know that life is a little different around your place. Rather than weekly shopping that includes getting a few bags of frozen vegetables, a few pounds of ground beef, a litre of milk and a bag of potatoes, your food comes to you by the bushel. That volume of food tempts you to put it up in the fastest way possible to save time for other things.

But if you start with a plan, knowing how your family will consume that food throughout the year and put it up accordingly, then your meatballs will be ready when you need them, and soup will be canned and on the shelf. For instance, rather than can 80 quarts of green beans, the homestead cook mixes their beans, tomatoes, corn and carrots in one jar. When they want vegetable soup, they combine a jar of mixed vegetables with a jar of chicken broth - it’s that simple.

Meals in jars - Holley Cooley teaches busy moms to create meals in quart-sized Mason jars from freeze-dried ingredients. As a consultant with Thrive Life foods, she advocates having your pantry stocked with meals in jars for those days when cooking just isn’t an option. By simply adding water to the contents of one jar, a homemaker can serve their family of four a hearty vegetable beef soup, chicken stir-fry or beef stroganoff in a matter of minutes.

According to Holley, freeze-dried foods retain more nutritional value than foods processed in other ways. Picked vine-ripened, the raw enzymes found in fruits and vegetables are still alive in freeze-dried foods. “Flash freezing doesn’t destroy the cell walls of the enzymes like other preservation methods,” shares Holley in a recent interview. “So when you rehydrate, the enzymes wake up from their freeze-dried state.”

Nothing relieves stress in someone’s life like knowing what’s for supper. Having a meal plan in place, meals put up and on the ready by any method, and being able to relax with the family around the table brings renewed energy of mind and spirit on those crazy busy days of shuffling kids. Why not try creating some of your own fast food today?

Interested in restoring your family meal table by planning ahead?

Here are a few resources to help you in the process:

• Once-A-Month Cooking: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Every Day by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson.

• Whatever Happened to Dinner? Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime by Melodie M. Davis.

• - This personal blog covers the art of cooking freezer to crockpot meals. Sarah Robinson has created free menus with recipes for you to print and use.

• sells freeze-dried foods and other emergency preparedness items.

Freelance journalist Carol specializes in all things home. Her work has appeared in BackHome Magazine, Grit, Hobby Farms and in over 30 regional parenting magazines. She is also the author of the newly released e-book, Homestead Cooking with Carol: Bountiful Make-ahead Meals.

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