Advanced Prep – Working Mother’s Life Saver in the Kitchen

My daughter recently started middle school and has been busy with friends, homework and cross country practice.  Helping me make a meal is pretty low on her list of priorities lately, although she would rather take on that job than put away the piles of clean laundry that litter her bedroom floor.  Maybe that’s why I was so surprised when she offered to help me prep veggies for dinner this weekend.

food storage

Now that I have returned to work full time, my time is more precious than ever.  I only have the occasional chunk of time (between 4-H events, laundry, pet-care, chauffeuring children etc) to plan and cook meals.  While we were driving around on Saturday, my daughter pointed out a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie from the most recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine that looked good.  Although we didn’t have enough time to make it that day, I thought it would make a fantastic Sunday supper.  The challenge? Finding enough time on Sunday to get it all ready.

I can be pretty Type A, which serves me fairly well every now and again.  In this case, I have learned the benefits of prepping ingredients in advance, squeezing in some chopping and washing between other activities.  That afternoon, she and I peeled potatoes, chopped onions, carrots, scallions and mushrooms and stored them in some boxes that I purchased at a great deal from a small cafe that was closing.

food storage box

This box is big enough that I can store several prepared ingredients in it together, separated by an internal bowl.  I grouped the ingredients that I would need at different phases in the recipe, so that it would be easier when I cooked the dish.

Most of the time, we store our food in glass lidded containers because I am concerned about BPA found in plastics.  Both types of boxes are clear, so I can see what is inside, and they stack neatly, preventing clutter and tumbling chaos when we open the door.

The verdict on this recipe was a full round of thumbs up!  My daughter was especially smitten by the mashed potatoes that smothered the top of the pie, but my son gobbled up the entire dish, digging on his plate for extra carrots.

What types of ingredients do you like to prepare in advance?  Do you have snacks ready for the kids to grab-and-go or do you focus on make-ahead meals?

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