This posts will share my favorite tips for saving time on the never-ending task of cooking.
College was amazing for several reasons. I lived where the weather was terrific, my dear friends were always around, my jobs were a blast, our apartment had a pool, and I didn’t have to cook if I didn’t want to. I would eat a can of pineapple out of the can as a meal and not think twice about it. And maybe I might have a side of popcorn. Ah, college. Let’s all just take a moment to remember that wonderful phase of life that involved late nights, cold drinks, few obligations, tons of laughter, and NO required cooking.
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I like to cook, don’t get me wrong, but I HATE that I have to. I really hate that it forces me to plan, which is something I’m not naturally good at, and I hate how much time it takes. If I can remove some of those negative aspects, then I’m a much happier girl. Wife. Mom. Cook. Whatever.
It wasn’t far into my wife live that I realized I REALLY needed to start making the cooking experience for me better since I wasn’t going to get a cooking break anytime soon. And no, my husband doesn’t cook. He can fry eggs and that. Is. it.
At about the same time I started realizing I needed to improve my cooking game, I was pregnant with my first child. When before I’d feed myself the supremely unbalanced meal of popcorn + canned pineapple, I was suddenly very focused on healthy eating.
I was really in a tight spot. I dreamed, simultaneously, about cooking less but also dreamed about feeding my unborn babe homemade everything. I wasn’t going to feed my little darling prepackaged junk, no sir-ee, I was going to feed Baby homemade applesauce.
Does any Wildflower out there feel that way? Pregnancy makes you think some pretty difficult things so no worries if that’s you. This too shall pass 🙂
We cook what we cook because of our mothers, usually, and my mom and grandmother had gardens and canned. With the idea of standing at the kitchen stove for an hour a day, three times a day, looking like an imminent domestic hangover, I decided to resolve this desire to cook less AND to make more homemade food with canning.
Well, I resolved to try. I had watched Mom and Gram can as a kid but as soon as I could drive I was focused on life outside the home; working, school, friends, and cute guys. I hadn’t watched canning actually happen in a long time (I was pregnant for the first time at age 28) and while I thought I could do it, I had no idea of what it was actually like to can alone.
Well, can alone I did. I got a good canning book, which actually steps number one in saving time cooking. Flying by the seat of your pants works in the movies (and in cooking shows I guess) but in real life, following directions actually speeds things up. I got this book, and read it like a suspense novel. I devoured it, and read it again. I got lucky because that was actually a really dang good canning book and taught me a lot.
I got all set up at the kitchen stove, now with my tummy large enough that I had to stand sideways, and was stressed to the max. I didn’t know how long each step would take, what to do when, what could be done simultaneously if I was doing it right, and of course the heat combined with the pregnancy made me certain I was going to make my whole family deathly ill. It wasn’t fun. I’m not exaggerating; canning sucked. I broke more than one jar IN the processing pot, which is pretty much the worst mess (boiling applesauce + shards of glass) I’d had (I hadn’t enjoyed a diaper blow out yet) in my life. I burned my fingertips, I had jars that didn’t seal (bummer) and didn’t know what to do about it (even bigger bummer). And I wasn’t even clueless! I actually had helped do this many times but the years in between clearly blurred my memory significantly. I actually didn’t know about adjusting for altitude (I must have skipped that paragraph…whoopsie) and then later read after the fact how important it is to do that (shoot!). In short, I had no idea what I was doing, despite life experience and a great book. It was awful.
As you gals who have had a baby know, that metaphorical clock while pregnant is ticking ever louder for you to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. Some women nest by painting baby rooms, I nested by making applesauce. I kept standing sideways at the stove, sweating bullets because my kitchen is the tiniest room in the house, no joke, with a window the size of a chicklet (almost). I kept reading, kept calling my Gram and Mom, kept making stressful mistakes but by the time Baby S was born, I had applesauce in jars, sealed, on the shelf.
I continued to self-educate and read while I was glued to my breastfeeding chair and by the time summer was around, I was ready to tackle canning tomatoes. Because I had to eat too, I realized. And, my infant hadn’t eaten her applesauce, because babies don’t eat that much other than milk. Fancy that 🙂
I called my dear friend Anna to come over one exceptionally hot summer day and she and I canned flat after flat of tomatoes. We had to work fast because naptime only lasts so long and I wanted to be done by the time Baby woke. We successfully canned well over 2 dozen jars of tomato sauce and while we were canning, we talked, drank cold beers, and had a great time. We didn’t break any jars, we didn’t have a single no-seal, and the end product was delicious. I’m not kidding you, that tomato sauce was FRESH TASTING if you can imagine that, rich, and versatile. In one afternoon, we had successfully reached several significant canning milestones and made enough tomato sauce to last us months.
And just like that, I didn’t have to spend as much time cooking. Learning to can means you have COOKED IN ADVANCE. Canning is the homemade version of a prepackaged meal. Tomato sauce, for example, IS ALREADY COOKED when you open the jar. Not only is it cooked, but it is also a blank slate onto which you can add anything you want and nothing you want. Tomato sauce can be transformed rather quickly into tomato soup, or enchilada sauce, or the filling in stromboli, or as any iteration of pasta sauce or a base for the beef stew…the list is endless.
Not only is it already cooked, but it is also HOMEMADE. Homemade food is less expensive, tastes a million times better (okay, well at least twice as good), AND HAS NO MYSTERY INGREDIENTS. How much time do you want to spend reading labels? Oh, none? ME EITHER. Whether you are worried about cutting artificial ingredients, colorings, toxic chemicals, or just eating less sugar or have specific dietary concerns like you are eating gluten-free, or maybe you just don’t like a surprise onion flavor. Canning lets you control ALL of that, for less money, in less time.
I want to invite you to the Start Canning Course.
In the Start Canning Course you and I will tackle together the pantry items (what’s the difference between pickling salt and regular salt? Can I use these canning lids that my grandma used? I’ll explain all that in the course videos!), the safety concerns (important temperatures to keep in mind, WHY canning works (hello acid + boiling water + vacuum seals!), and how to know you are doing it right. You’ll determine which pots & pans you already own that will work perfectly (probably lots!) and which you need to borrow or buy, and I’ll explain what gear you definitely can skip (no giant pot for you!). You will feel like you are learning from a new best friend, hanging out in my kitchen with me.
Sign up now at this special price and finally have more time to spend doing what you LOVE instead of standing in the kitchen!
Guys I cannot WAIT to see you there. In my “day job,” I’m an English teacher and it is my favorite thing ever to explain what people think is complicated to show how simple that “complicated” thing is, and how capable YOU are.
This blog and this course, in particular, is devoted to helping you see how achievable, easy, and time-saving old-fashioned things like canning are and how they can work FOR you to help make your life better.
So sign up, bring a friend, and see you in the course!