The Kitchen, The Heart of My Home
Crystal Miller

I say that the kitchen is the heart of the home because food has such an important role to play in our lives and it is a large job to tackle feeding a family.  It is a challenge to prepare 3 meals a day to a hungry family and to do it in the most nutritious and frugal way possible. I look at time spent in my kitchen as a challenge to be embraced and as a way to tremendously bless my family. They can all be blessed by the many ways food and eating is a part of their life.

There is something so wonderful about the smell of bread, muffins or a cake baking in the oven. Something is so satisfying about sitting down with my family all present and enjoying a pan of homemade lasagna, salad and fresh bread. Nothing warms the heart of a husband like the smell of dinner cooking as he walks in from a hard day’s work. I love how a meal can call the family together for a time of sharing and discussing life.

Food can build traditions and memories. It has its’ own seasons and familiarities such as barbecues, pot lucks and picnics, in the summer, and hot bowls of soup and fresh bread or a warming stew in the crock pot and cups of hot cocoa for the fall and winter months.

Food is a wonderful way to help and reach out to others and bless them in a meaningful way. A meal given to a new mommy, a sick friend or a neighbor who has had a rough day.

In order to be able to meet this challenge and bless my family and others it requires being prepared and that requires good planning and thought to keep the kitchen running smoothly.


 

These are some of the tools I use to be able to accomplish these goals:

1. Plan Meals – it is very important to plan out my menus in advance. Sometimes this is a just a few days and sometimes it can be weeks in advance. But, I try to always know exactly what I am making for the next day. Do I need to do anything the night before. Do I need to get meat out of the freezer to defrost, do I need to put beans in crockpot. Also I use several very basic recipes that I know my family loves and rotate these over a several week period. If you are not big on variety you can just have the same thing each Monday night, Tuesday night and so on, perhaps leaving Friday night as cooks choice or eat the leftovers night etc…. No matter what method works for you, planning is a must! When you have your recipes or meals planned out then you can make your grocery list and shop once a week or every other week. Whatever will work. Check my family's favorite MAIN DISH RECIPES page and the CROCKPOT COOKING page for meal ideas, and MENU PLANNING for additional helps.

2. Make A Master Pantry List – once you develop a routine of certain meals then you can use the commonly bought items to be able to build up your pantry. This is good to do when those items are on sale. Buy in quantity because you know this will be used. Click on PANTRY LIST to see my list.

3. Make a Master Grocery List – this takes time in the beginning but saves you tons of time later on. Make a list of the common weekly and monthly items you buy. Keep it on your computer. When it is time to grocery shop simply print the list and circle needed items. If you keep a running list on the fridge you can then circle the items on your list and any other things you may not have thought of. It is always a pain to remember the laundry detergent AFTER I get home! I have 3 master grocery lists. Here is an example of my COSTCO master list.

4. Keep a Price Sheet – know what you are spending on food items. One way to be a blessing to my husband is to work at getting the needed food items at the best possible prices. Using a small notebook I carry in my purse, jotting down prices as I shop and then keeping a master list on the computer. Many commonly bought items I have committed there price to memory. I do not run all over town getting these items, but instead alternate on a weekly basis where I shop. Costco one week, Winco (a local grocery store where you bag your own groceries) another week and then Azure (a supplier for things like my grains, herbs and other health related food) is delivered to one location and I pick it up monthly. This in my mind is wise shopping.

5. Use The Freezer- I can’t say this enough…. Use your freezer! ~smile~ Even if all you have is the one above your fridge. When you cook a meal try making a double batch and freeze one for the next week or for that new mommy or neighbor or for you on a stressful day when nothing went as you had planned. This will prevent you from running out to fast food and deli foods. Not only are these foods expensive but there nutritional value is so bad. My favorite things to have in the freezer are…. spaghetti sauce, soups (meat, bean, vegetable), stews, lasagna (you can freeze these in aluminum pans or buy extra pans at garage sales), casseroles, rice, precooked hamburger or chicken (this can quickly be warmed up to add to tacos or mixed with rice or potatoes and cheese for a fast filling casserole), meat that has been frozen in a marinade for stir fry, etc… the list of possibilities is endless. Check out my FREEZER COOKING page for more info.

6. Finally Keep The Kitchen Clean - It is so much more motivating to work in a clean kitchen rather than a cluttered one. Clean up as you work. I will often fill my sink with warm sudsy water while I work. I can put the used dishes and utensils in there as I work. They are then ready to be loaded into the dishwasher when I am done. Also teach your children to help in the kitchen. Teach them to wash dishes, chop vegetables, open cans and work side-by-side with you. You will be able to pass on to them the value and importance of the heart of the home, the kitchen.

As with anything in life it is best to take small steps to improve this area of our lives. I would urge anyone wanting to improve the way the shop and plan to start small, make a menu for a week, go buy the groceries and then perhaps start a running grocery list of commonly bought items to begin the next steps. Maybe try a double batch of spaghetti or soup the next time you make it and put it in the freezer. I have spent the last 20+ years developing my style and what works for me. Take time and see what will work the best for you!

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