Organizing Tips After Your Marriage


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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 up—what now?


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 happen.


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?


If 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 done.


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 label them!


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 place.


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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 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.


Slow Cooker

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 and eat. 

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 to work


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 pound

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 use it.

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 ready too!




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