For at least the last decade, Novembers in my house have been crazy-time. Between NaNoWriMo, holiday prep, and running my shop, there’s no time to think, no time to clean, and, certainly, no time to cook.
Luckily, I’ve developed some coping strategies to keep the family fed, with at least a modicum of nutrition.
- Cook in October. Start now. Double every meal you make this month and put half of it in the freezer. Not every recipe freezes well (potatoes are notoriously bad), but a surprising number taste even better when they’re defrosted and warmed up for a second go. I have a Pinterest board full of recipes that work, if you’re stumped for ideas. A well-stocked freezer is the number one weapon in war on cooking in November.
- Supplement with ready-made sides. Prepared foods are generally full of sodium and preservatives, but if you can pull a homemade meatloaf out of the freezer, the potatoes from the refrigerated section at the grocery store should do just fine as a side dish. Deli salads are good, too, and I’m not above picking up some biscuits and corn from KFC.
- Two words: rotisserie chicken. Need I say more?
- Crockpot meals. Okay, so cooking in the slow cooker is still cooking, but it doesn’t feel like it. Somehow, it’s easier to throw a bunch of ingredients together in the morning than it is to face fixing a meal at six o’clock when you’ve been working all day and still have a million things left to do. Pull together a few easy crockpot recipes in October, so you’ll have them ready when you need them.
To get you started, here’s one of my favorite November recipes. Not only can it be prepared in the slow cooker, it also makes a huge amount and freezes like a dream.
Freezable Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes
- Cooking spray
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 lbs. lean ground beef, browned
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 can sweet corn, drained
- 1 ¼ cups ketchup (I like the balsamic vinegar kind, but plain will do)
- 5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 4 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- Hamburger buns
Spray crockpot bowl with cooking spray. Layer in all ingredients (except buns) in the order listed. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Stir, spoon beef mixture onto hamburger buns, and serve.
To freeze, divide mixture into meal-sized plastic containers, leaving an inch open below lid. Remove from freezer the night before eating, and microwave to reheat.