Time Saving Cooking Techniques So I Can Get Outside

Before I tell you about our family life on our little corner of the North Dakota prairie today, let me first say:
Please pause and say a prayer for both boys I have in the upper right hand corner of this blog, Daniel and Townes. I know both of their mamas from college at the University of North Dakota and cannot imagine what they are going through this week. When someone says “I’ll pray for you” or “I’ll pray about that”, it often later gets forgotten amongst our busy lives. Thus the reason my dad always keeps a detailed prayer list in his Bible. I know I was at the top of list…for years and today these boys cannot be forgotten in our prayers. They need to be at the top of our prayer lists. Thanks in advance.
 The last couple weeks of wonderful Fall weather has continued this week on the prairie. 
Temperatures have been in the mid-60’s on a cool day to the low 80’s on our warm days. We even ate supper on our deck one evening this week. But as you can see behind Miss Anika in the above picture, the leaves are falling. 
We know this stunning weather won’t last much longer which is why we have been enjoying as much outside time as possible including playtime in the park, picking the last of the green tomatoes and evening walks. After baths and the girls are in their pj’s we load them up in the double stroller and get outside for one last burst of fresh, Fall air before the sun goes down and the harvest moon rises.

 Earlier this week, Nathan and I took in another away game watching Hunter and the Mustangs beat Ellendale 56-24. The girls stayed home with Nana and Gpa Eldon which is an ideal football game night routine for them. Miss E even had a sleepover.
 In order to juggle our jammed packed schedule while extending our outside time, my new cooking technique is to make two of everything or double a recipe. One batch is for our evening meal and then I freeze the second batch.
Every night I am feeding a teenage boy who eats the equivalent of a three average grown men and a husband who eats at least the amount of two average grown men. When my work day ends I need a meal that is easy and ready to go. On busier and more hectic days, I can pull out a pan from the freezer and pop it in the oven.
Last night my doubled recipe was two pans of the classic Midwest staple food of TaterTot Hotdish (casserole…if you’re not from these parts) and Hunter said it was the “best”. So easy to impress. I always laugh that he loves TaterTot hotdish. As a (very) broke single mom I got beef from our farm (at no cost to me…thank you family), bought frozen vegetables, canned soups and TaterTots when they were on sale for next to nothing. It was a hot meal I could pull off for a few dollars and still is. Of course Hunter did not know that money saving aspect and just loved the yumminess of the non-gourmet hotdish. 
I don’t follow the recipe I linked you to above but instead use 2 lbs of extra lean hamburger (beef or turkey), Campbell’s cheddar cheese, cream of celery and cream of mushroom condensed soups, 2 cups of skim milk and a bag of mixed vegetables or whatever is at the top of my freezer. Every church cookbook across the upper Midwest must have at least six different ways to make TaterTot Hotdish. The only hotdish recipes I don’t like are the recipes that call for raw hamburger going directly into the pan to cook and bake in the oven. I always brown and cook through ground beef, turkey or pork ahead of mixing it with the additional ingredients to bake. 
 Today over the noon hour while on a conference call, I made not one but two lasagnas…following my mom’s “Busy Day Lasagna” recipe. Hunter put one in the oven for me while I was on (yes another) conference call. He is having a rare day home after school as their is a home varsity football game tonight and he doesn’t have junior high practice. The other lasagna is safely tucked away in the freezer for another family meal in a few weeks. Save yourself some time. Buy double the ingredients and get yourself organized. Double the recipe and fill your freezer. A couple other of my most recently doubled recipes include Pan fried pork chops and Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers (using jalapenos from my now well-picked garden, add green onion & shredded cheddar cheese to your cream cheese and before I made these I read this must read Pioneer Woman advice.)
 The greatest advantage to my new time saving cooking technique is it offers me more time to chase after the girls each late afternoon when my work day wraps, more time to watch weekly football games and…
more time to play while sipping on my coffee in the morning ahead of my work day. 
The particular above moment was before 7AM this week…after Miss E had already exercised with me at 6AM. We watched the Wiggles, not exactly inspiring when working out but occupied time for Miss E. Then she went to play in her room while I showered. Daddy got her dressed and she ate breakfast with him. By the time I came downstairs for my first cup of coffee, she was “going on vacation” with her many friends on the stairway. I was happy for a morning vacation to “California”…Miss E’s favorite pretend destination and a frequently real destination for me.
But I haven’t been on a plane since July 9th and to the real California since late June. Indeed it is true. My break from airline travel will change this month but in the mean time I am getting back outside now

 to enjoy moments like these.
What are your time saving techniques?
Please share. 
This crazed, tired but happy mama would appreciate reading your insight.


  1. I wish you lived closer so we could do a freezer day together. Time saving tip…don’t sleep;)

  2. I so need to get more organized so I can plan ahead and double recipes to freeze one for later. My biggest time saving tips are have a cleaning lady and like Leah, I often am moving on very little sleep. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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