I've been reading articles and talking to friends, and have found a few ways to simplify your time in the kitchen. Here are my 5 favorites:
1. Use your crock pot. In years past, I have only used my crock pot for making roast and potatoes. That's one of my least favorite meals, so my crock pot has rarely seen the light of day. However, after looking around online and talking to some other ladies, I have found many other ways to use it. From beef stroganoff to spaghetti, to potato soup, to homemade barbecue, the crock pot cooks the meat while you're out, and makes the meat much more tender in the process.
2. Use online cooking websites. My favorite is allrecipes.com but there are several others. What I like most about allrecipes is that you can search for a dish (Fried Chicken, for example), and then sort by rating, and you're virtually guaranteed a recipe that is fantastic. There is also a tab called "Ingredient Search" which allows you to search for recipes by the ingredients you have on hand, or would like to use for that particular meal. I use this all the time, especially during harvest time when veggies are plentiful.
3. Buy meat in bulk. I have been doing this for a couple of years now, and am thankful every time I open the freezer. I buy 5-10 lbs of beef, chicken breasts, or whatever meat is on sale. Then I cook it, bag it by the pound, and freeze it for later. When you want to make a dish of beef stroganoff in your crock pot, just grab the already cooked beef from the freezer and throw it in the pot. Easy.
4. Sign up for an online cookbook. I've signed up for both free and paid versions of this, and my favorite version is TasteBook. You can copy and paste recipes from any website, email, or document, and keep them all in one place. And if you're ever at your parent's home and want to make a special dish, all your recipes are accessible. I love this. I use it all the time, and can now t hrow away all those random slips of paper in my makeshift recipe book.
5. Buy frozen veggies. I don't always do this, because they are sometimes more expensive than fresh. However, during winter and spring, this is a very time-saving and affordable way to keep those vegetables in you menu. Corn, peas, green beans, spinach...all the frozen varieties contain the same vitamins and minerals that the fresh version have, and are usually already chopped and diced in the package.
So, get out your crock pot, grab a couple bags of frozen veggies, a baggie of ground beef from your freezer, add some tomato sauce and have some veggie soup tonight.