We all know about the array of benefits of home-cooked meals yet everyday cooking can sometimes feel overwhelming. Well… a while back I read a French book called “Et ils eurent beaucoup d’enfants…” * (Translation: “And they lived happily ever after”… which, in French, involves having many children” ;-)). This book is written by Marielle Blancher – in collaboration with Pascale Krémer – a mother of twelve children, who explains among many other things how she handles home cooking for her entire family, outlining 15 kitchen organisation tips.
Only a few of us need to cook for twelve children on a daily basis I guess but the bottom line is if she can do it for twelve we can do it for less! As such I am sure you will find below a few little tips to apply to your own routine and make your life easier. These tips are not only about kitchen efficiency but also about cooking on a budget because as you can guess when you cook for twelve a little additional spend can add up to a big bill.
- Presentation changes everything
- Review and optimise constantly your family favourite recipes so as you spend less time preparing them but also doing the washing up – she recommends sticking to one pot preparation/meal e.g. lasagne with integrated béchamel sauce, cake without stiff egg whites, simplified tajine
- Stick to dishes with no more than 10 or 15 minute preparation time for everyday cooking and cook more elaborated dishes on the week-end
- Meal planning is key
- Always keep basics at hand to make a last minute packed lunch (ham, cheese, bread…) or cake (flour, egg…) – you can’t really rush to the store with twelve children, can you?
- Use some already peeled frozen vegetables to save time, they are great for sides, soups and gratins
- Get children to cook. She explains that when children turn 15 years old they need to be able to cook themselves a pasta dish if needed and if they want to get a quiche or a cake for such and such, let’s make it together so as they know how to cook it on their own next time
- When shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, go for the ones in season, they are cheaper and tastier
- Spend two mornings a week to prepare 4 or 5 meals ahead, which you will only need to warm up or complete with vegetables e.g. boeuf bourguignon, tajine, goulash…
- Try to only shop every 10 day or so, on-line with home delivery or pick up to save time
- Buy in bulk when you can, she only buys potatoes twice a year (!) and found a way to buy meat at wholesale price through a friend working in the restaurant industry
- Prepare in bulk. When she peels and cooks potatoes she uses them for several dishes at once e.g. as sides, in tarts.
And a little bit about cost savings…
- Own labels for basics e.g. flour
- More expensive alternatives where price has a big impact on quality e.g. butter, chicken, ham
- Resist fancy marketing ;-), individual pots/small bags, gondola-end promotion, processed soup/baby food but make the most of price promotions when you buy meat close to the expiry date and cook it as soon as you get home
- Go for natural yogurt and flavour them with homemade jams or fruit purees
I personally cannot resist my current favourite passion fruit yogurts (in individual pots of course), which everybody in the house want to steal from me (!!!) but I find myself using a lot of her other tips.
What do you think of these kitchen organisation tips? Please do not hesitate to add any other tips you may have that make your everyday cooking easier. Let’s put our brains together… it’s really worth it!
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