Do your kids eat oatmeal? If they do, consider yourself a fortunate woman! Oatmeal is cheap and healthy - and it's easy to cook. (Important Note: Don't use those little packets of instant oatmeal. They are expensive, packed with sugar, and most of the fiber and nutrition in the oats has been processed away in order to make the oats cook quickly.) Want to make oatmeal even easier to cook? Use a crock pot. Just pour 1 cup oats, 2 cups of dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried figs, etc. - or a combo of them), 4 cups of water, and 1/2 cup of half and half into the crock pot. Cover, turn on low, and go to bed. 8 to 9 hours later, the oatmeal is ready to eat.
Because, yes. For breakfast or dinner, a crock pot is also your greatest ally. And while it does take some planning to make crock pot cooking work, it's quite do-able:
1. Begin by making a list of dinners you want to make in the crock pot. I've posted a few here - plus there's my guide to converting recipes you already make to the crock pot. You'll find about a gazillion other crock pot recipes on the Internet, too.
2.Add all the ingredients to your shopping list, then go buy them. Now you have two choices:
A. Time needed during the week: about 10 or 15 minutes per day: Commit to pausing in your morning every single day to chop up and throw ingredients in the crock pot. If you eat at 5 pm, that means getting the crock pot cooking by 11 am or so. Or...
B. Time needed during the week: about 1 minute per day, plus 30 to 45 minutes one day a week: Take one day and prep all the ingredients for the week. Label 7 freezer bags with the name of the recipe and any special instructions (so you don't have to refer to a printed recipe later in the week). Then cut up all the carrots you'll need for the week, for example, then all the onions, and so on, adding them to each bag as called for in each recipe. Seal the freezer bags, expelling as much air as possible. Toss in the freezer. Now, the night before, remove the desired bag and place it in the fridge to defrost so it's ready to put in the crock pot in the morning. NO, you don't need to blanch the veggies before you freeze them. Yes, there will be some loss of nutrients, but not a great deal. Certainly not enough to make you ditch home cooked meals for delivery.
For years, I resisted crock pot cooking. I just wouldn't make the time in the morning. But now I realize it's a huge time saver - allowing me more time with my children, or for other things that need doing. And this school season, I plan to do almost all my cooking through the crock pot. What about you?