Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Used Success

A while back I wrote about wanting to purchase more things used. I just wanted to report a major success, which was buying a used portable dishwasher. I found the dishwasher on Craigslist and was able to find someone who could deliver it as well. Even including the cost of delivery, we saved a few hundred off of a new purchase, and I was able to get an EnergyStar dishwasher. We got the dishwasher hooked up and it works great (but we still have to figure out how to fix some leaking from our faucet -- leave a comment if you have any ideas).

Next projects involving used items: get rid of the (working) washer in the basement, buying a used bed frame for our queen-sized futon, and try to rent a birth pool rather than buying one.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The evening scramble

Rush from work to daycare and from daycare to home; cook dinner, eat dinner, put child(ren) to bed -- do you recognize this scramble? In our house the whole routine starts when I leave work at 5-5:15 (I usually do daycare pickup) and ends when H is in bed at 7pm. H and I get home between 5:30 and 5:45, Dorea is home by 6pm, and we try to have dinner on the table by 6:15 in order to start our bedtime routine between 6:30 and 6:45. How is it possible to make dinner and eat it in just one hour with a toddler underfoot? And can you do it eating food that is cheap, homemade, and healthy?

We have three main strategies.
  1. We often start meals the morning or night before so they are half-made when we hit our nighttime rush. This takes advanced planning, and we almost never arrive home in the evening without knowing what's for dinner.
  2. Inspired by the folks over at Addition Problems, we have prepared a "master list" of two weeks worth of meals. This saves us time shopping, but it also saves time in preparation. When you make a meal over and over, you get better at it. As we cook our two-week repertoire repeatedly, we've alter meals so that they are easier to prepare, and we get faster at preparation. We are also able to reduce food waste because we know how much of each dish we need.
  3. We use time saving devices. Our pressure cooker allows us to make brown rice in 25 minutes and vegetable broth from scraps in a half-hour. We use a crock pot to cook beans from scratch painlessly (soak-em the night before, then put them on low during the day). Our baked potato night always features microwaved potatoes.
We are also trying to get in the habit of cooking a big meal on Sunday that gets used for leftovers or stuck in the freezer, but we often don't end up cooking quite enough. Sunday is our time to test out new recipes or make some old favorites. This Sunday we made a lentil loaf from Laurel's kitchen, and then we discussed ways that the preparation could be streamlined. It may go into our regular rotation at some point.

In case you are interested in our two-week meal plan, here it is. Another note about our particular meal plan: Dorea is home on Tuesdays and I'm home on Thursdays. On Tuesday's, Dorea cooks a somewhat more intensive meal, and on Thursdays I prepare food for Shabbat (for Friday night and Saturday).

What do you do to save time in the kitchen? Any other two-week food planners out there?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Xtracycle shopping

True confession time: I have no right to be writing this post right now. Between illness and bike problems, it's been far too long since I've done a good shopping trip on a bike. In fact, thanks to the generosity of our friends, I've borrowed a car for several in the past couple of months. Yes, we're going to change the name of this blog from "Car Free with Kids" to "At Least We Aren't Driving a Minivan with Kids." With my shame out of the way, I want to share with you a trip from the glory days of last December.

My usual grocery shopping trip consists of a short bike ride (~2 miles) from our place to Market Basket. These days I buy two weeks worth of groceries at once, but at end of last December I was just doing a large weekly shopping trip. The trip usually takes about two hours all together, unless something tragic happens like I forget that I'm shopping on Superbowl Sunday in which case I may never get home.

On this day in December I pulled up back home in a timely fashion, with the bags loaded. I also filled the kid seats with groceries and use a couple of bungees over the top.

Here's all of our food, in its full glory. This trip cost us $101.02, thanks to Market Basket being the cheapest grocery store around.