Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Simple Summer Meals: Shortcuts



The past week I have needed shortcuts. I love watching jars fill with peaches, applesauce, grape juice, and tomatoes. I have wonderful helpers this year and am amazed at how much faster these projects take than a few years ago. But it still makes busy days and simple meals became priority.



I feel a little silly admitting this but I find it hard to take shortcuts. I love to cook from scratch. I like to make my own bread, rolls, tortillas, granola bars, and crackers. In the summer I walk through the grocery store arguing with myself. I don't need that; I can make it myself. No, you can't; you are too busy; just buy it.

So whether your busy season is August, December, or May -

Whether you love to make your own bagels and peanut butter or your idea of from-scratch cooking is adding toppings to a frozen pizza crust -

I'm giving you permission to take whatever shortcuts you need in your busy seasons.

Without guilt. Just do it. Buy that frozen pizza. Pick up that pack of granola bars. Hide a loaf of bread behind the carrots in your cart. Do what works for you in this season of life.

And I'll try to take my own advice.

Besides making extra purchases at the grocery store, I also try to stock up on homemade time-saving meal ingredients.

A big one for me is canned meat. The other year a friend told me how much she loved having canned chicken. I tried it and now I don't know what I would do without a few jars of canned chicken in my pantry. I buy a 40-lb box of boneless, skinless, chicken thighs at our local butcher shop and pressure can it in jars. It makes such a fast start to so many different meals. Having some pre-cooked ground beef in the freezer is also a great time-saver.

I also like to have a selection of pre-cooked dried beans such as kidney, pinto, navy, and black beans. These I also pressure can so they are ready to add to salads, enchiladas, and other meals. (The directions for canning dried beans is one of the most read posts on this blog.) I also cook a crock-pot full of refried beans and freeze them in pint containers for quick quesadillas and dips.

Yeah...I know. I could just buy cans of beans. I told you I have issues.

Dried seasoning mixes also get used hard in the summer. A few minutes mixing up various mixes make a difference on a busy night. Here is six of my favorite mixes.

I didn't do it this summer but some years I have mixed up a fruit crisp topping and fruit cobbler topping. (For fruit cobbler I use the muffin mix recipe and pour it over fresh fruit in a baking dish.) This makes super easy desserts with various fresh fruits during the summer. I should mix these up for some apple crisps or cobblers this fall.

Now your turn. I know summer is nearly over, but can you share your favorite meal shortcuts? Maybe next year I'll remember to look back on this list early in the summer.

19 comments :

  1. Oh my, you sound so like me! I have been going nonstop with canning and our 14 yr. old grandson came back to live with us(long story),so there is a new adjustment. I have been feeling upset because my baking has taken a backseat. I also need to make laundry soap. I bought some..it is so watery! Also, I noticed the clothes aren't as clean. I bought a loaf of bread to pack the school lunch and felt guilty. One thing I do have though is canned hamburger. I use a lot of that and need not worry if I forget to defrost it! I also can chicken and ham..it is so handy. With all of the garden goodies and those meats, meals can be easy. We haven't had many desserts the past while, much to Hubby's dismay. We get through,don't we? I just love to see your kids helping! They are precious..enjoy them while they are young. They grow too fast! Happy canning!!

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  2. One of my shortcuts is to buy The Lancaster Food Company bread. The bread is delicious and on their website in the about section they explain how they primarily hire from Lancaster City with the goal of hiring people out of poverty and buy ingredients from local organic farmers. I buy it at SKH grocery store. I may have seen it at Giant grocery as well but am not definite on that.

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  3. Thank you for this very useful post, dear Gina. I too was convinced I had to make everything from scratch, to pursue my strong desire for frugality and "simplicity". Over the years, I realized that this mindset was actually complicating our lives. I still bake all our loaves of honey whole wheat bread, I make our yoghurt and all our meals from scratch. But I now "allow" myself to purchase tortillas, pita bread, hot dog/hamburger buns and bagels. It might seem bizarre, but it made all the difference in our lives.

    Thank you for your beautiful ministry, Gina, in inspiring us in so many wonderful ways.

    Anne

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  4. I always make double our regular meals--such as pot roast, etc. and freeze the rest for meals on busy days or very hot summer days when I don't want to use the stove for long periods of time.
    I love to make all my own breads , etc from scratch just like you. It's so satisfying to know exactly what goes in to my food.

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  5. I'm so much like you! My shortcuts are to can beans and broth. I like to do that in the winter when I'm not canning other things. In fact, I really need to be doing beans right now, but I can't remember to wash them and get them soaking in the evening!

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  6. I found your blog because of your pressure canned beans instructions! We are loving them. I'm trying to find the time to make chicken stock/broth and try pressure canning that. Having broth on hand for soups and stews will surely help me out.

    I freeze a lot - big recipes that I can divide into smaller meals to freeze for busy days, leftovers turned into burritos or taquitos, extra grilled chicken or other cooked meats to use to start another quick meal. I also freeze baked goods - usually unbaked - scones, scoops of cookie dough, pizza dough, and bake it off as needed.

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  7. Hi - Was wondering how you use the canned chicken? Do you use in casseroles? Or just eat the chicken as the main meat and not mixed in anything? Thanks, Dana : )

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    Replies
    1. Casseroles, wraps, burritos, salad, pizza - anywhere you use cooked chicken. I don't usually eat it alone - but it wouldn't be bad.
      Gina

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  8. Hi Gina -- love your blog. This isn’t quite on topic with the post, but I can’t help noticing how overtime you post, your children always look neat and tidy. Do you have a dress code of sorts for your children?

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    Replies
    1. You must not see the dirty faces and holes in the jeans! We do strive to dress our children modestly but they don't always look neat and tidy!
      Gina

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    2. What is your definition of modest?

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    3. In general our definition of modest is to be covered from the neck to below the knee.
      Gina

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    4. Gabriel,
      I’m not sure about Gina, but in our family, the rules are: -Long pants for boys (e.g. jeans, etc.) -Elbow length sleeves -Dresses for girls

      Works fine for us. Judging from the photos Gina’s family seems to do something similar.

      Delete
  9. I enjoyed reading all the ideas and tips. I will admit that, though it seems to work for others, I have never worked with meal plans. Only for large occasions like holidays or a wedding or a multi day family get together...then I can get real detailed. But my meal planning is very spur of the moment, what people want...I often ask what should I make for dinner and I'll go with that. It worked when I had the full family of 7 at home and now when I have only 3.

    I do have a large pantry and I always keep multiples of everything on hand. I do a lot of canning, some freezing. I always cook or bake double or triple so that I am putting extra meals into the freezer. There is a large pond on our property and my husband enjoys fishing so he often grills fish for dinner in the summer. Then we just add salads and vegetables like corn on the cob, and dessert.

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  10. I have ground beef bottled in my pantry. You pre-cook it and pressure cook in in bottles, with some water. I love being able to grab a bottle to put together a meal without having to thaw frozen ground beef. I have been making your Honey oatmeal sourdough bread for a few years for my husband. I add raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the dough.

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  11. I love the idea of canning beans ♥

    summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

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  12. I think you should be kind to yourself and not call your method "issues" :) I say this because I am VERY similar in my thinking about scratch cooking and buying ready made stuff. I do feel strongly that I can help the world in many issues by making things at home, but I have come to realize that in this stage of life, I can only do so much with a toddler around, so some of those thrifty/eco/simple habits have to be put on hold and returned to later. It's more important to my family that I am sane and kind than if I am making all their food from scratch and exhausted and crabby :)

    I love how honestly you share, so I shared honestly in return. God bless you!

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  13. I have found my supper notebook to be absolutely critical for navigating busy times and special needs (like summer canning season or meals to other families or vacation food). I try to write down what we ate for supper every night, making a special note for Sunday dinner and carried out meals or potlucks. I've kept a notebook this way for almost 8 years. When I draw a blank for meals, I just flip back to those dates in another year and see what I was making then. Usually I remember a dish or menu that was easy and popular and then I'm on a roll with other ideas.

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  14. hoping all is ok with you and family! no posts for so long has me worried. Praying and God bless

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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