Bella says, “Take the shortcuts!”
- Make a reasonable plan.
- Find shortcuts.
- Spread out the work.
- Dry run.
I can be my own worst enemy because I want the best stuff, every time, even if I have to make it all myself! I tend to make BIG plans without considering the real cost in terms of time and energy; therefore, I need to scan my menu again and see where I can get some help.
Today is all about making your reasonable menu even easier! Shortcuts are the way to cut time off your prep schedule and there are three that I use frequently.
Shortcut #1 – Let someone else make a dish
On a normal week you might make everything from scratch, but this is not a normal week. Is a bakery pie acceptable for your dinner? Can a local meat-and-three restaurant make a side or the rolls?
- I pick up cornbread dressing from a meat-and-three restaurant near my parent’s house that we have eaten at for years. They have good dressing and it is not worth my time this particular week to make it all from scratch when I’m the only one who really wants this dish. I get just enough for me to have several servings.
- I buy sweet tea from a BBQ restaurant right down the street from us. Around here, BBQ restaurants make really good macaroni and cheese and sweet tea. I know they have great tea and I get BBQ while I’m there for a bonus meal on Friday. Win, win.
Shortcut #2 – Spring for a grocery store shortcut (semi-prepared foods)
- This is another one you can rely on even if you are doing all the cooking! What takes you the longest or could be very difficult to produce in a small kitchen? I love to make homemade rolls, but my family also likes Sister Schubert’s brand frozen rolls in the round metal pan. They will not be disappointed at all if I purchase those and I will save time. That’s a win for both of us.
- I often buy prepared crust even though I am a baker and have the ability to make pie crust. It’s not about ability this week. It’s about sanity and easy prep days. An enjoyable holiday. Look at your list and see what shortcuts you can take that no one will notice. Other things to consider: gravy packets, prepared pie crust, diced onions.
Shortcut #3 – Let a guest contribute to the meal
Is anyone coming to your meal who has offered to bring a dish? Can you ask anyone coming to bring a dish? If the guest makes a great side dish or dessert, ask specifically for the item you want. “Can you make your famous sweet potato casserole?” If the guest doesn’t cook, you could ask them to bring some bakery rolls or a gallon of sweet tea from a particular source. If they accept, then cross that item off the list. This shortcut can occasionally bite you if the guest forgets or cancels the night before. If you want the help, there is a trade off of reminding the guest a few days before the dinner. I rarely use this particular shortcut in tiny kitchen cooking, but I used it all the time when I hosted much larger events. One side dish missing or one dessert missing would not ruin a meal so this is effective if you are trying for a really large meal.
Before moving on to step three, your goal is to try to take 2 items off your list with a shortcut, but remember our goal: a homemade meal with shortcuts no one will notice.
- Call the restaurant/bakery now to order your item and record the pickup day/time with your menu. Try to pick them all up on the same day around the same time, if you can. By the way, Tuesday would be a great day for these pickups!
- If you are using a grocery store shortcut, write down the items you might normally not purchase, but that you are giving yourself permission to purchase this week.
- Text your friend/mom/cousin and ask them to bring a specific dish. If they say yes, write their name by the item and remember that you will need to send a reminder.
Once you have shortened your menu, let’s go to step 3 on spreading the prep.