How to Eat at Home When You Hate to Cook

eat at home

Do you want your family to eat most of their meals at home?  How do you do that when you hate to cook?  Well, I hear ya.  We eat at home almost all the time.  Literally.  Like we go out once every few months.  Crazy, I know.  But I’m going to let you in on a couple of secrets for how I manage to feed my family at home all the time and do most of it from scratch.

My first secret is a practical one I learned from my mom:

Keep your pantry and freezer stocked!

I have a mental list of go-to meals that I know my family enjoys.  It’s nothing complicated and amounts to things like barbecue meatballs, various chicken dishes, hamburgers, sloppy joes, pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans, various fresh veggies, etc.  They are very traditional meals.

Rather than watch the sale fliers from the grocery store and plan my meals around that, I watch the fliers for those things that fit with our list of meals and stock up.  This gives me the ability to cook almost anything I want at any time.  Sometimes I meal plan, but most of the time I don’t.  I’ll try to plan in my head about 24 hours in advance so I can get something out of the freezer to thaw on time, but I don’t have a fancy plan, that’s for sure!

By always restocking my pantry and freezer, I never have the excuse that we have nothing to eat!

Now, you don’t have to cook traditional meat-and-potato meals like my family prefers.  This idea of keeping the pantry and freezer stocked works for any type of meal preferences!

If this is totally new to you, then sit down and make a list of meals you know your family likes.  Write down the ingredients needed to cook those meals and stock your pantry and freezer so you can make any of those meals at anytime!  And don’t just buy one of something.

For instance, if you know you’ll need tomato sauce for a certain dish, buy several so you can make that dish more than once.

By shopping and cooking this way, it also eliminates multiple weekly grocery trips.

Until our small town got a grocery store again, I had to travel 12 miles to the nearest store, so I often would go two weeks between trips!

Now I’ll let you in on another secret about me….

i hate to cook!

Yup, that’s right.  I’ll give you a bit of the back story on that and then I’ll tell you how I overcame it 😉

I grew up in a very traditional farming family.  My mom cooked two meals every day, without fail, which we called “dinner” and “supper.”  (See we were/are very old fashioned!)  Dinner was promptly at noon and supper was always at six.  During busy seasons, she would take meals to the field for anyone that was out there, but the premise was still the same.

When I got married, I did NOT know how to cook!  My poor mother tried multiple times, but I was a confirmed tomboy and farmhand and I did NOT like being inside doing domestic work!

The first year of our marriage, Jeff and I lived on sandwiches, frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese.  He’s easy going about most things, so he really didn’t care.   But after we had kids, I realized that I wanted my kids to have the same meal time memories that I had, so….

I learned to cook.

And I hated it.

But, yet, I cook two meals a day 6 and half days a week (I take Sunday evenings off and it’s a fend-for-yourself/popcorn night!).

The fact that I hate to cook, yet do it all the time, surprises a lot of people!  I’ve had close friends who will confess to me how they just can’t get their meal times together and they wish they could cook as much as I do.  And then they’ll say, “I know you like to cook, though.”  I just laugh and tell them, “Nope! I actually hate it and if I could hire a chef, I totally would!”

My secret is that I’ve made it a habit to plan and cook two meals a day.  I just do.  It’s like brushing your teeth or making your bed.  Do you like to brush your teeth?  Honestly, it’s probably not what you would consider fun, right?  But it’s necessary for your health and well-being.

Cooking meals for your family is the same way.  I don’t enjoy it, but my desire for my family’s health and well-being wins out over my hatred of all things kitchen.

On another note, my autistic son LOVES to cook, so I’m hoping if he ends up living at home as an adult he can just cook for me, ha!

What are your struggles in the kitchen?  Any tips for those of us that don’t enjoy being in the kitchen?

Feel free to share with your friends!

How to Have a Weed Free Garden

weed free garden

Are weeds getting the best of you and your garden?  Ever wondered if there was a way to get rid of them?  Is it truly possible to have a weed free garden?

Yes, it is.

But it will take some prep work.

Let me start you off with a story of my gardening history and then I’ll let you in on the secret 😉

My mom always had a garden.  And we kids always had to help her.  Which we hated, I mean, loved.  Every year we had to clean out the chicken house, dump the manure on and then later put straw over that.  It was a lot of work and wasn’t pretty at all!

In my early married life, I decided to have my first garden.  Jeff tilled a spot and I happily planted in the dark brown luxurious dirt.  And I grew a giant crop of… weeds.  I blamed it on location.

So, the next year, we tried again, this time in our front yard.  I figured if it was closer then I could take better care of it.  The idea being convenience.

It was better, but I still had lots and lots of weeds!

I remembered my mom’s method of garden, so I tried that.

And I still had weeds!

And then a few years ago, I was introduced to lasagna gardening.  You can check out this book for more details.  The problem was adapting it to my situation for my fairly large garden.  So after a few years of experimenting, I think I have it figured out.

The secret?

CARDBOARD AND MULCH!

So, let me show you….

weed free gardening
This is my garden on April 25.

OK, notice all the highlighted areas.  The green area was mulched the winter of 2016 (over a year ago) with cardboard laid down first, cow/chicken manure over that and then covered with a thick layer of straw.  I grew potatoes in that area last summer.

The blue area was treated the same way in 2016 and then in January 2017 (this past winter) I threw on a super thick layer of leaves.

The pink area was mulched in 2016 with cardboard, cow manure and straw.  It received a fresh layer of cardboard, cow manure and straw in January of 2017.

Now, look again at that green area.  See all the weeds??  I have also found weeds popping up in the blue area with the leaves.  But the pink straw area?

Nothing.

Not a weed one.

Here’s another picture of the garden so you can see how thick the straw is.

weed free gardening
Lots and lots of straw!!

Here’s what you do to start a fresh garden or rejuvenate an old spot.

1   DO NOT TILL!  Yes, that’s right.  Do not work up your soil.  All you do is invite weed seeds to sprout.  And if you have bermuda grass (which I fight) you just make it mad and it will stage a hostile takeover of your garden!

If you do have a massive weed problem all ready, then either mow or spray the area first.

Lay down thick, heavy cardboard.  I’m talking the good stuff.  I saved tons of boxes from our remodel and used those, I used my brother-in-law’s from his house build, and my husband was able to get a whole bunch of cardboard from work.  Just ask around- you’ll be able to find some.

After that put on a super thick (we’re talking 8-12 inches) layer of manure of some sort.  Now, make sure this is old and fairly composted.  A year old or more is good.  I’m lucky because we have animals so Jeff pushes up big piles of manure/hay mixture every spring that accumulates around the hay feeders and then I use it the next year.  Again, ask around and you can usually find a farmer willing to give it away!

Layer on the straw (or leaves).  Do NOT use prairie hay!  It will have weed seeds in it.  Old alfalfa is good, too.  Again, I’m blessed because we put up our own straw every year, so I always have a ready supply.  Ask around for whatever is prominent in your area.  Just remember, you want it THICK!  No measly 2 or 3 in layers.  Nope, I’m talking a foot thick or so.

Ideally, you should do this in the fall so your garden has time to compost itself until spring.  Because our falls are so busy on the farm, I usually don’t get to it until January.

I still have to pull the occasional weed, but they can barely take root and I don’t have to spend time “weeding” like I use to.

The key, though, is to be diligent about this every year!  Nature will take back over (as you can see from my highlighted garden picture) if you just let it go.

But, if you do the right kind of work on front end when it’s cold, then when it’s hot and your garden is producing over abundantly, you can be dealing with the produce and not worrying about weeding it, too!

What gardening tips do you have?  What have been your failures and successes in the garden?

Feel free to share with your friends!

Running a Half Marathon- My Thoughts and Training Plan (Confessions of a Slow Runner)

 

So, just like that…. it’s over!  I ran my first half marathon on Sunday!  After months and months of training, I can hardly believe it came and went 🙂

We had BEAUTIFUL weather for it!  It was about 60 degrees when we started and sunny.  I ran the Prairie Fire Half in Wichita (an hour from where I live).  The course was pretty flat and fairly shady.  I was a bit nervous, but my mom and I settled into a nice rhythm early on and stuck with it for the first 6 miles.  I tell ya, the first 6 miles felt really easy.  A year ago if you would have told me those words would be coming out of my mouth, I would’ve said you were crazy!  I could barely run 4 miles last summer, so to ever think 6 as easy shows how far I’ve come in my running!

Anyway, after the first 6, we started slowing down, but still kept a good pace from 6-9 miles.  And since I’m going to be very honest about my slow running, by good pace, I mean about 13 minute miles.  We were running 12:30 for the first half.  It seems like every running blog I read, they’re all about “Yeah, I only ran a 9 minute mile” blah, blah, blah.  If that’s you, well, I admire that!  If I ever get that fast, I will be beyond thrilled!  But, this post is to encourage all of you out there who are not fast 😉

From 9-13, we had slowed down to about 13:30 or so.  The hardest parts were between 10.5 and 11 (I thought that water station at mile 11 would never appear!) and between 12.5 and the finish line.  My phone told me “You are at 12.6 miles” and I thought, “Dang!  Where is that finish line????”  The last mile was also asphalt, with zero shade and it felt downright HOT!  But, I’m happy to say, I crossed the finish line upright and running, lol.  I did take some walking breaks during the last 6 miles.  I have longer legs than my mom, so I would gradually pull ahead and then power walk to let her catch up.

running a half marathon
I’m crossing the finish line! In case you’re wondering, I’m holding a handkerchief. I use it to wipe my nose and my sweat. Gross, I know 😉

You know what was the sorest part of my body on Monday?  My JAW!  Yeah, seriously.  My quads were a bit sore, but nothing bad and all of my joints (knees, hips, ankles) felt perfectly fine, but my jaw!  I always chew gum when I run (keeps my mouth from getting dry) but it’s not use to chewing gum for 3 hours straight, apparently.

Our finish time:

3 hours, 1 minute and 24 seconds.

We were VERY pleased with that!  We were not out to beat any particular time and based off our 11 mile training run, we figured it would take us about 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the race.

So, would I do it again?

Well, two weeks ago after our last long training run, I would have said absolutely not.

Now?

Yeah, I think I would 🙂

I love the fact that I did something that not many people can do and that I pushed my body to do something that I didn’t think it was capable of!  It’s a high that I wouldn’t mind repeating.

OK, so here is what my training looked like from January to race day.  First off, I mostly trained using the Galloway method (running walking intervals) with an interval of running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute.  Well, the last couple weeks of training, I started running the first 3 miles, then doing looser longer untimed intervals.  When we actually ran the race, we ran to each water station (about every two miles), drank our water (my mom drank gatorade) walked for a little bit (maybe a couple minutes?), then ran to the next station.  Like I mentioned before, I took some walking breaks to let my mom catch up, but they weren’t timed.  My mom pretty much ran the whole thing.

Week 1 (first week in Jan):  ran 3 times of about 2 miles each time.  I was just trying to condition my body to running again after a 6 month break.

Week 2:  ran 2 miles twice, then ran 3 miles on the weekend.

Week 3:  took 2 30 minute runs (approx 2.5 miles) then ran 4 miles on the weekend.

From there on out, my training was one week, running 3 times for about 30 minutes each time and then the next week, run 30 minutes twice with a long run on the weekend, increasing each long run by one mile.

So, every two weeks I took a long run and every week I ran three times.  Does that make sense?  I kept that up until my 9 mile run.  Then because of scheduling, we decided to skip the 10 mile run, run 6 miles instead and take an 11 mile run 2 weeks before the race.  Also, the last month before the race, I took a 6 mile run once a week with 3 mile runs in between.  The week before the race, I took a 6 mile run on Tuesday (race was Sunday) then rested the rest of the week.

Training for a half is definitely a time commitment, but only taking long runs every two weeks helped.  I felt like I kept up my running fitness in between just fine with those 30 minute/3 mile runs (it actually takes me 35 minutes to run 3 miles).

Since I wasn’t particularly sore after running the race, I think that my training paid off.  This isn’t probably the training you’d want to do if you were serious about breaking records, but for a busy mom and farmwife, this was quite doable for me!

Any additional thoughts about finishing a half marathon?  Would you do another one?

 

Feel free to share with your friends!