Saturday, January 16, 2010

Anyone Can Cook!

"Anyone can cook!" says  Gusteau from Disney children's film Ratatouille.  This is a cute movie that we have watched a few times over the past few years.   Dad was out of town and the kiddos and I sat down (on a cold winter's night) to this flick.  It is a very appropriate movie for us right now.

One of my new years resolutions is to cook more.  Now I did say resolution.  I have heard others rename this tradition to creating goals or dreams for the year.   I myself have goals but I am trying to add a tad more meaning to what I try to change about myself.  They are not just dreams about a new me but something that I have committed to.  They are resolutions after all and according to Wikipedia the definition is:  "A New Year's resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to a project or the reforming of a habit,  often a lifestyle change that is generally interpreted as advantageous. The name comes from the fact that these commitments normally go into effect on New Year's Day."

So I resolved to try to be more organized when it comes to feeding my children .  I also resolved to learn more about cooking.  My motivation for this resolution is two fold.  The first being financial.  I spend too much money running to the store for that nights meal or even worst running out to get something fast.  With a family our size a quick trip to even the cheapest fast food place is an investment of around $40.  I want my children to enjoy the treat of eating out every now and again but I certainly don't want it to be the norm.  The other aspect is my desire and need to learn more about cooking.

I say need because my husband is traveling more and more with his job leaving us at home for longer periods of time.  I used to think that he cooked just to help a busy mom out but as I try more and more I just think that he likes his own cooking.  It isn't that he doesn't like mine but that he cooks when his mood is and so he is needing to adjust the my whims more.  That will not hold true if we get better at organizing ahead of time.

Where to begin?  This has proven to be the most difficult part of the entire endeavor.  I quickly became overwhelmed at the end of last month while I tried to prepare for this change in my life, actually our lives.  I turned to the best source I know about, my homeschool mom friends.  We started a mom's meal planning club with our very own yahoo site.  We met and just shared ideas.  I must admit that half way through that meeting I realized that I was not leaving with a super year plan but some great ideas that I can work to incorporate.  Like any other resolution this will not be one that I can say I am working on or not working on in any given day.  I am pushing myself and my family to a complete lifestyle change.  Maybe not complete, everyone will still eat.

I will talk about some of those ideas as I proceed but for me the first place to start was realizing that cooking doesn't mean everything has to come from scratch.  There are a few foods that might be cheaper already prepared or that the time involved is so great that it is worth the extra money.  I needed to really redefine my resolution before even getting started.  Even though I loved the movie "Julie and Julia" I don't have the time, the money and the knowledge to dive into Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1.  Maybe next year but for now I am starting off very simple.

The mom's helped me define my thoughts on thinking.  We chatted about differeent methods and different staples that I know little about.  I need to learn.  They would begin talking about adding a specific spice to something and I would think, "How do they know that?"  I will dive into that in February.

January's portion of the resolution was to try to adapt how I shop.  I need to be smarter about this.  One mom shared a wonderful resource that she has created for herself.  She organized a shopping list by what they normally purchase and it is laid out according to where the item in located.  She has more than one version for the different layouts of the places she shops.  I love that, thank you Katie.  My older kiddos want to create our own list as our needs are a little different from her family's needs.

Another idea that these ladies shared was that planning should come in small burst not a month at a time.  They also being open to waiting to see what is on sale at the store.  Another idea is to make about 5 or 6 weeks worth of weekly menu's then rotating them.  Friends have winter sets and summer sets depending on the weather.  Another friend can not do that because she likes more variety.  She prefers to write a schedule then fill in with old and new recipes.  So her plan might look like: Sunday - Italian, Monday - Sea food; Wednesday - soups; or something like that.  I can use this idea the most as I try to learn more about "real cooking".  If you have any others words of wisdom or ideas that you use please feel free to leave a comment.  I am trying to learn here and I can use all the ideas you might have.

If you have made a similar resolution and don't have a little rat to help you in the kitchen then know that I have said a prayer for you.  I do believe that "Anyone can cook" but I also know that it takes skill, knowledge, work and practice.   I will never be Julia Child but when I need inspiration I plan to pull out the movie about her.  

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