I start working part time next week. I totally had this semi-single mom thing down after being a military wife for so long. But a working semi-single mom?! I’m not sure I’m ready for this. The kids tell me I’m going to be fine.
If you are new around here you might be a little confused about the semi-single thing. You can check the Meet the Family page for the whole story but the short version is that my husband, working for the railroad in South Dakota, recently got furloughed. He was able to quickly pick up work in a lumber mill, but it doesn’t quite cover everything comfortably. The kids and I are traveling full-time and got the furlough news while in Oregon. I’m going to work part time to pick up the difference until the railroad calls him back. And if that isn’t confusing enough…home is actually Texas so we’re all floating around out here with just each other. But back to the story…
I will be fine. We will be fine. We’ve rolled with weirder punches than this. It will be the first time the kids don’t have a parent home full-time though so that’s new. In preparation we’ve spent all week learning life skills. I know my teenagers can handle this. They know how to cook and clean and keep Littles on track with school when I’m busy with something else. My teenagers are phenomenal.
One of them did ask me the other day though, “Mom, when you’re gone…how do we know what to make for dinner?”
Dude. I’m almost forty and still don’t have that figured out.
What’s for dinner? You got me.
So we started brainstorming. What are some easy to make, quick, versatile meals that we can semi-plan out but the kids can still prepare according to what everyone’s tummies say? I guess we’re going to meal plan like we lesson plan. Thankfully we don’t do a lot of casseroles or overly sophisticated (read complicated) dishes. We also don’t do a lot of meat so no one has to worry about oogy naked chicken.
They came up with three things.
Quiche. Fried Rice. Quesadillas.
It sounds simple enough. It definitely lends itself to variation. And they can spice it up however they like. Mexican. Asian. Italian. Indian. And they already know the basics of all three dishes.
Knowing that you’re going to make quiche, stir fry, fried rice, and quesadillas is one thing. Having the correct ingredients and not using those ingredients on a whim in another dish is something else entirely.
We decided to make Meal Kits. And Y’all. This might be the most brilliant parenting hack I’ve discovered so far.
First we went to the grocery store. Abby is super go with the flow when it comes to food. She’s been mad scientist-ing her way through the kitchen since she was old enough to crawl in and pull snacks off the shelf. Bishop is more logical, needs a step by step premeditated plan. I decided he needed to be the one to go to the store and get a feel for the process of winging it.
What? You don’t think Winging It is a legitimate meal planning, shopping, cooking method?
We started by meandering through the produce section. That’s right. Meandering. I didn’t pick up anything. Instead we talked about the vegetables…what looked good. What didn’t. We compared prices. If I can get organic for the same price as conventional, oh yeah it’s going in the cart. We circled the fruit a few times. I’m pretty sure it drove him crazy.
But once we started actually talking vegetable combinations and spices he perked up. Or maybe he was just amused that he had to keep getting bags for me. He always forgets how short I am since I have what he calls intimidation height. I wish I could intimidate whoever designs the produce section. Why do they put those produce bags so high?
Anyway…we got home and immediately started prepping the produce. As we chopped, we went over again how we were going to use the vegetables and portioned them out into labeled baggies.
One zucchini chopped into crescents for the quiche. Two zucchinis diced for quesadillas.
Kale, spinach, baby bok choy, bell peppers, leeks, green onions, sweet onions, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, butternut squash…it all got the same treatment.
Then all of the ingredient bags were put in larger bags. The gallon size bags have cooking instructions on them as well as ingredients that need to be added but aren’t in the bag. I don’t portion mushrooms. And I don’t put meat or cheese in the veggie bags either. I also didn’t bag the quesadilla ingredients. There’s just too many of them and the kale is already in a big bag because there is just so much of it. All of that just went into a bin that takes up the bottom half of the refrigerator.
Now they can just pull out whichever bag catches their fancy and cook a healthy, veggie based dinner for themselves whether I’m home or not.