Thursday, 1 May 2014

Saving time on a clean, grain free or gluten free diet

I nearly choked on my chicken wing when I read the bit in the GAPS book where Natasha McCampbell bride says 'it takes no longer than normal cooking'.  Similarly there is a cheery australian vlogger who I could cheerily slap in the face if I hear her say once more that 'I find cooking this way is actually easier'.  Even with a tenuous grasp on maths its easy to see that going down to the local polish baker and ordering a couple of rye breads, some ham and some hummus is going to be quicker than baking a loaf, soaking some haricot beans and curing your own meat!  However there are some tricks that once mastered have shortened my time in the kitchen.  After all its no good putting all this effort into making your kids super healthy and active if you actually have no time to play games with them! (Or god forbid have some of your own time doing something completely pointless and selfish)

Batch cooking
When you try a new recipe its advisable to only make one serving incase everyone refuses it or it is not quite right for your family tastes .  I often find I have to adapt American recipes as they are sweeter than we are used to in England.  Once I know something is workable (good enough, remember we are not aiming for perfection here!) then I always make at least two at once and freeze some.  This not only saves cooking time and washing up but saves money on gas and electric.
Good candidates for this are breads, cakes, curries, cottage pie, casseroles, stock, soups, pates and dips, sauerkraut and yoghurt.  (I always slice the loaves before freezing so we only need to take out what we need.  Given that a loaf of almond bread can cost near a fiver to make I don't want to waste any! We even bought a second yoghurt maker as I reckoned £20 to only have to make yoghurt every other day instead of every day was well worth it.  Although biscuits and crackers don't freeze well you can make big batches of the dough and pop into bags so  you only have to roll out and cook.  Ideally only make small batches of biscuits if you use honey as the sweetener as honey attracts moisture out of the air making the biscuits go soft quickly.

Limit choice
At the beginning of our dietary changes I was still used to having half a dozen different baked goods in the house at any time - oatcakes, rice-cakes, biscuits, cakes, etc. I also tried out at least one new recipe a week  I fell into the trap of thinking it would be cruel if the kids didn't continue to have this much choice.  I have toughened up now.  It is not the end of the world if you are not given a choice of what cake you get in your lunch box or what you get for supper and neither is it the end of the world to serve the same dinner two days running (especially when chances are you are only doing that because you are either working / ferrying kids to appts or taking a child who shoved a pea up his nose to Accident and Emergency.  And for that situation its also good to ...

Have a tried and tested emergency dinner 
Sometimes is just all goes tits up.  Even if you start planning the dinner two hours before there could be a massive tantrum, a work call or you get caught up bidding on a bargain retro chair on Ebay (that is an emergency in my house).  Or you have little children they really can't wait if the casserole needs another half an hour and you can't just sling them a sandwich.  In our house it is an omelette. I mean literally two eggs whisked together and thrown into hot frying pan with coated in butter.  I also try to have some cooked meat in the fridge at all times and frozen peas in which will make a passable lunch easily supplemented by pickles, olives, crackers etc.

Internet shopping
Set up a list on amazon and you can have repeat orders every month or as you wish, meaning you never have to remember to order again.  Set up an order list with a supermarket for the basics you don't pick up at speciality shops.  Ok so you may have to pay to deliver and your mum points out there is a Sainsburys five minutes from your house but you have to start thinking about what your time costs (and frankly your sanity)   See here for my post on online suppliers and where to go for what

Make lists and menus
Personally I have OCD and quite like writing lists anyway so it works for me.  However even if you find writing them a ball ache, as they have proved on all those terrible BBC 3 programmes about money it does save you time and money to shop from a list.  Going to Tesco metro on the way home is fine when you are just going to get home and sling some pesto in pan with some pasta.  When you have to go home soak beans, drain yoghurt and stick a lemon up a chicken's bum you really want to limit your hours spent shopping.   It also really does pay to work out a week or even a couple of day's menu in advance because there are very few short cuts when cooking from scratch and its really annoying to find out you can't make something because you forgot to soak the peas or lentils!

Invest in some gadgets
Going green and organic is great but I think its bordering on martyrdom to try and do everything the traditional way like our grannies would have.   See here for my post on kitchen gadgets

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