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Now that the ceremony is over and the gifts have been sorted, the thank you notes have been written and your living quarters have been set
Chances are, you’re both working and in today’s economy, that means you both are working long and hard hours. What has to be done at home must be done
quickly and efficiently—and that means you will have to perform two dirty tasks first: organize and prioritize. If you don’t, you’re going to end
up working all the time, exhausted, and eventually, snapping at each other.
Personally, I come from a school of thought that says shopping before December 23rd
takes all the thrill out of it, so you can imagine that those two things, organizing and prioritizing, strictly go against my nature! Even my free
spirit had to recognize, though, that not giving the whole process at home some thought and organization meant I was spending more time than I had to
at tasks I hated. So even I became a convert! I can tell you, it almost gave my mother a heart attack, but she did learn that miracles really do
Believe it or not, the very first most important task you have every day are decent meals. A permanent diet of fast food brought home is simply not good
enough. Yes, I know that it will feed you, but over a period of a few months it will start sapping your strength, and that’s the last thing you
need to lose. Sit-down restaurant meals are nourishing, that’s true—but even if you have the money—do you have the time? Do you want to take
an extra hour or two out of your free time to eat? Do you realize how much eating out every night amounts to in a month or a year? Why give your
hard-earned money away?
You may also consider that if you’re hungry, you’re probably going to eat snacks late at night. If you do that, you’re both going to be a blimp in no time.
Ever wonder why some couples (especially the husband) seem to gain a lot of weight after the wedding? What people perceive as good cooking can
actually be poor nutrition!
These methods have worked for me; doing 5 days of
meal planning and a list of the ingredients you need
may sound time-consuming and complicated, but
in reality, it should only take 5 to 10 minutes a
week to put together. It's essential that you
have the ingredients for the meals you're planning
that week; there is nothing more
time-consuming that running to the grocery store
multiple times! That's a huge time waster!
Make it your goal to shop only once a week.
Also take the time to go over your inventory of
cleaners and things like toilet paper and paper
towels before you go. How about food
staples like flour, sugar, butter, coffee, etc.?
Incidentally, it's always a good policy not to shop
for food when you are hungry. It can radically
increase your grocery bill!
Cook as much as you can in advance, preferably on
the weekends. You especially need to focus on
the main part of each meal, whether that part is
beef, chicken, pork, or fish. That is usually
the most time-consuming part of a meal. It
sounds like a lot of work, but you would be
surprised at how little extra work making multiple
meals at the same time is, versus making one meal!
Don't forget -- you're free to do other things while
your meals are cooking.
The friend of every busy working person is the
freezer. If you have the chance, get the
largest one you can afford. There are actually
small upright 1/2 size freezers on the market.
You need to insure that junk foods don't take up all
the room in the freezer--it's your tool for good
nutrition, time-saving, and money saving! Oh,
you DO want a frost-free one--don't you?
don’t already have these, purchase both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker.
You’re probably familiar with slow cookers, but a pressure cooker can be
the top gun in your arsenal. They’re easy to use and the modern pressure
cooker has built-in safeguards. They have an emergency
relief valve that eliminates any possibility of
blowing up. Pressure cookers will not only cut
the cooking time of meats, stews, soups greatly, it
will tenderize the meat in a way that simply can’t
be done any other way. As an example, you can
cook a 2 ½ lb. roast, which is far more than the two
of you even need, in 40
minutes, and the results will be tender and wonderful. You can cook stew
meat in 20 minutes, and then add the vegetables for another five and it’s
If you're using a slow cooker, you'll often find
recipes that don't call for browning the meat first.
You'll find, though, that they're much better if you
have browned them. Make that a part of your
weekend preparation; then the evening before, you
can throw the browned meet and other ingredients
into the cooker, put it in the fridge, then just
bring it out and plug it in the next morning.
If you're going to use one, make sure the recipe
calls for doing the entire meal in the
cooker. You should have a starch, such as
potatoes or rice and a vegetable for every meal,
many slow cooker recipes include them. It's
the difference between having an entire meal
already prepared, and still having to prepare the
starch and vegetable when you get home. By the
way, you can peel and prepare potatoes the night
before; just put them in the pot you're going to use
and cover them with cold water in the fridge, and
they'll be ready for you!
Another appliance that can be your friend is an
oven with a timer. Most modern ovens now have
a feature that allows you to set in advance when the
oven will turn on, when it will turn off, and what
temperature you want. That means, even on hot
days, you can take a frozen uncooked meat loaf you
made that weekend (by the way, why make one?
It's just as easy to make two or three), put it in
the oven with a bowl of ice underneath along with
two potatoes, and set it to go on at, for instance,
4 or 5 o'clock. Since an oven is insulated,
your meat will remain cold until the oven goes on,
and when it does, it will melt the ice underneath.
You'll also need
storage/freezer bags (get the store brand—there’s no difference) and a
few containers—but go light on the containers. They’re not nearly as
flexible as storage bags, and the tops tend to get lost. Be sure you
There are several simple solutions to the clean up issue.
The major solution is to divide the responsibilities.
After all, if you cooked the meal, should you be solely
responsible for clean up? As you cook and prepare, make
yourself aware. As your meal is cooking, you should be
washing out any used pots and cutting boards. Yes, you can
use paper plates for serving, but two plates are not much to
wash—and so much nicer with a prepared meal. If you have
cooked a one-pot meal, there really should be that much to clean
up, but remember, there is the two of you for chores!
Now, before I
end this, just a word about housework in general. I have been a working
wife and mother for over 40 years. I am now a widow. I have worked every
day of my life since I married, with the exception of a total of six
months—one month before I had my daughter and five months after she was
born. Sometimes, I have had to work two jobs temporarily--a full
time and a part time job. I have learned that housework is not at all like a plane you have
to catch at 8:05 am—I have never seen it get up and walk away—it will wait
for you! The world will not die if your bed isn’t made when you go out
the door. Housework is not your sole responsibility—two people live
there. An added bonus to this philosophy is that if two people have
household responsibilities, they both become more aware of what they’re
doing around the house—it cuts down on the mess created in the first
It helps a
great deal if you both have a routine that’s not too rigid and
restricting. Start to think about loose moments you have while you’re
home. For instance, you’re watching a program you enjoy—how about
bringing out the vacuum cleaner during the commercials? How about folding
some clothes while you’re watching TV? Much as I hate to say it, you do
need to fold them—they don’t store well any other way. How about looking
around the living room to see what can be brought back to the kitchen if
you’re on your way there? Don't go there empty-handed. Just being more aware can radically cut down on
the tasks you have to do in your precious free time.
Another thought. If you haven't touched something in six
months, it doesn't belong there. Too much stuff
makes everything more difficult to clean and keep in order.
Personally, my weakness is kitchen gadgets; I have forced myself
to review my drawers and cabinets every six months and if I
haven't used it, I get rid of it!
I hope this article has been of some use to you as you start out your lives together. I
have enjoyed sharing with you as much as I hope you have enjoyed reading
this. In the directory of articles on this site, I have put two very
easy recipes you can do ahead to get you started.
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Back to ThinkWedding's
Steak in Brown
Gravy – for a slow cooker, pressure cooker, or on the stove.
Round steak, about ½” thick. Save
money by buying a roast when they’re on sale and cutting your own into
this and stew cubes. Do a batch all at once and freeze! Freezes
beautifully, by the way.
|1-2 cans of
Cream of Mushroom soup—grocery store brand is fine for this.
It depends on how much round steak you’re going to cook,
|½ to 1 envelope of dry onion soup mix
or onion-beef soup mix. If you do one can to one envelope, it’s a little
too salty, but ½ envelope to 1 can works well.
About ½ can water per can.
Dump all these ingredients in—you
don’t have to brown the meat first. If you’re preparing the night before,
put in fridge, then take it out the next day, plug in, and turn on low for
8 hours or more or high for four hours (more only if you add ¾ can water
rather than ½ can—the gravy starts to dry out, and the cooker starts to
“sweat” all over your kitchen counter on high). Eat.
On the Stove
Brown the meat, then add the
ingredients. Cook for about 1 hour. Eat
In a Pressure Cooker
Brown the meat in the cooker, then
place the liner in the bottom. If you don’t, the meat will stick to the
bottom of the pot. Dump the ingredients in and cook for about 15 minutes
The gravy this makes is absolutely
terrific. Great with mashed potatoes and corn or peas! Consider adding
mushrooms if you like them and/or quartered onions. Freezes beautifully!
Meat Loaf – feeds
at least two, usually with a few slices left over for sandwiches to take
1 lb. ground beef or meat loaf mix – recommend a low fat
content ground beef – 85% to 92%
¼ cup quick oats per pound
¼ cup bread crumbs – plain or flavored per
1 egg per pound
a little milk to dissolve the oats and wet the bread crumbs
½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, ¾ tsp garlic powder. Too much
salt during cooking will toughen the meat.
Optional parsley, optional 1/8 cup finely chopped green
bell pepper (more, if you like it)
Optional catsup, but reduce the milk if you
|About 1/2 tsp garlic powder
|About 1/2 tsp salt
|About 1/4 tsp pepper
Mix the ingredients together before adding the
ground beef. You want to reconstitute the oats, and you’re aiming
for a thick mix. It should look a little thicker than oatmeal you
would eat for breakfast, but the oats should be wet. Let stand for 5
to 10 minutes before adding the ground beef or meat loaf mix.
Add the ground beef and knead
the mixture into it. Go around the sides of the bowl, put your hands
under the meat and turn towards the center. Rotate the bowl. That’s the
fastest way. This step is very important, but should not take very
long to do. You should not see individual oat flakes any
more. If when you fold it the fold disappears, it’s wet enough. If the
folds stand out, it should be a little wetter.
Put in a loaf pan and shape into a
loaf. There won’t be enough meat to fill the pan, so; push against one
side so that the loaf is roughly square when you look at it from the
front. Put in the oven and cook at 325o for about an hour and
15 minutes, or up to about 4 hours at 280 o. If you try to
cook it any longer than that it can form a hard crust and be difficult to
cut, but it doesn’t affect the flavor. The slow cooking time is
actually the best.
The meatloaf has a wonderful texture.
It will be firm enough to cut but not hard and rubbery as it would be if you didn’t
mix in any ingredients at all, and oatmeal is very, very good for you and
is low in calories as well!
This recipe works well in a “batch.”
You can mix up two, three, or four pounds, adjusting the ingredients
accordingly, of course, divide them up into loaf pans and either cook and
freeze, or freeze before cooking. It can take a while to defrost from
scratch if it’s cooked, though, so be sure to put it in the refrigerator
in the morning or even two days ahead to thaw.
This recipe makes wonderful meatballs
as well. Form into individual balls. Spray your broiling pan,
both the bottom and the rack, then place the meatballs on it. The
pan usually comes with the oven. Make sure you spray the pan or the
meatballs will stick. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, then either cool, wrap
in plastic wrap individually and freeze, or add to spaghetti sauce and
freeze with the sauce. If you’re adding the frozen meatballs to a sauce,
they take about 15 minutes to thaw and heat up.
If you froze the meatloaf uncooked,
put out the thaw late the night before, or put in the fridge two days
ahead, then put in the oven in the morning with a bowl of ice and set the
oven timer to go on about 2:00 at 280 o. Should be ready
by 5:00. You could put in a couple of baking potatoes at the same
time. Don't forget to prick the skin with a fork in a few places, or
they'll burst in the oven.
You'll have your potatoes