Baking Day – Part 4

The beans and rice are cooled and divided into bags, the pancake mix is made to have on hand for later, the two packages of chicken breasts are boiled and diced and frozen, and the double batch of whole wheat pancakes is finished and in the freezer. And whew! I'm wiped! I poured myself a glass of orange juice and made
myself a fruit salad and I'm putting my feet up until Kaitlynn's nap time is over.

Here's the end result of all of our baking/cooking/kitchen work:

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It really doesn't look like all that much, but having the makings of a number of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners already on hand and in the freezer is so helpful. If you've never tried baking ahead or cooking up meat and freezing it, I'd highly encourage you to test it out. You might find, like me, that it's a huge time-saver, money-saver, and life-saver.

There were a number of questions left in the comments section of the Baking Day posts, many which were answered by other commentors. However, I wanted to specially answer two of them since they were directed at me:

Oooo, I hope you post about the
pot of beans. It sounds silly, but I haven't a clue how to soak and
cook beans, and then how to incorporate them into yummy recipes. I'd
sure love to learn, because it sounds a LOT cheaper (and more
healthful) to not use canned beans for everything.-Katy


To be honest, it's not hard so don't be intimidated! I just take a bag of beans, dump it in a big pot, run water over it and swish it around, then drain the water. I refill the pot with enough water to cover the beans and put them on the stove to boil.

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Once they boil, I turn the stove down to medium heat or so–enough to keep them going at a soft boil. As the water evaporates, I add more. Every 30 minutes or so, I check them to see if they're doing yet and continue to add water as needed. I just keep boiling them until they are cooked and then let them cool and fill bags with them. If you like, you can add a few teaspoons salt to them while they are boiling.

I use these in Mexican recipes, in soups, when we have beans and rice and cheese for lunch, or in some of our other favorite bean recipes.

I really do try to involve my kids in kitchen stuff,
and it worked pretty well after my first turned 2. But how can you
manage to be so productive with a 1-year-old around? When I cook dinner
each night, my 1-year-old often tears the house apart. So yeah, I got
something done, but I have to spend just as long after wards cleaning
up. Do you use a playpen? My 4-year-old would be a good helper during
ONE of these projects, but she would lose interest after that and start
fighting with her sister instead or (if I'm lucky) go off and read or
play by herself.

Well, I think the real answer is that Kaitlynn is only 16 months old and she still takes two naps each day–that's usually when I get the most work done here! She is a very busy little girl when she's awake so I must always be near her to make sure she stays safe and nothing catastrophic happens!

This morning, while she wasn't napping, I had her playing in the kitchen with some different toys and objects I gave to her. I also gave her a snack and that kept her preoccupied for awhile. But things did get a little messy–which I fully expected.

Kathrynne (3 1/2), on the other hand, is usually a great help to me. This morning, she helped with watching Kaitlynn, picking up toys, dicing chicken (with a plastic knife, of course!), and making pancakes. With some training and practicing, she's learning to be a real asset to me–which I'm definitely going to need once baby #3 is here!

When Kathrynne wasn't helping me today, I gave her some special things to play with/work on nearby including foil (this is one of her very favorite things in the world to play with!), and crayons and scissors and glue which she used at the kitchen table for a very long time.

My biggest advice to young moms out there is to make sure that you put your children as the most important priority in your day. Expect that your home will look lived in and you will get less done when little ones are underfoot; it's a fact of life!

I've had to learn to lower my expectations a lot since having children. I'd rather get a lot less done in the day and have invested quality time with my children, than have gotten a huge, long to-do list done and neglected my family in the process. They are only little once and I never want to forget that fact!

By the way, if you have little ones and are struggling with how to "do it all", I love the advice given by Jennie Chancey (mom to many little ones) here. Her words and thoughts have been a real blessing and help to me in navigating this incredible (and sometimes overwhelming!) task of mothering!

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Comments

  1. christina says

    This sounds like so much fun. I’m off to clean the kitchen up and start cooking. Thanks for all the posts.

  2. says

    Thank you so much for this post. I like to cook ahead when I have the time. I don’t get it done much while working full-time as a nurse. I really like the tip about freezing bananas. I never had thought about slicing them and flash freezing on a cookie sheet first.

  3. Crystal says

    Thank you so much for doing this! I’ve been working on collecting a list of recipes and freezing prepped items lately. I always love to get ideas from other people!

  4. says

    I love the idea of cooking & dicing your chicken. I hadn’t thought of that. I do enjoy cooking ahead like with casseroles & then freezing them but I’ve never thought of cooking, dicing & freezing chicken. Thanks for the idea.

  5. says

    Thank you for all the freat posts and pictures. Definately something I should get up the gusto to try. I am sure it would save time and energy in the long run.

  6. says

    Great advice! I sometimes get discouraged with what I have accomplished in a day, but I then think about what my sons have learned and how they have laughed and smiled throughout their day and I feel much better!

  7. says

    This was great! I had just wrote a post asking for info on what you can and can’t freeze. I never thought of doing so many things before hand. Thanks you for sharing. Do you use any special tips for freezing to preserve quality? I have heard that cooked meat after frozen can be dry, do you know of a way to prevent that before I start my process? Jenni

  8. says

    Thanks so much for answering my question. You are obviously really good at this mothering job. I think you are also _very_ lucky with your kids’ temperments as well — the way they will go along with you to three or four stores really amazes me.

    Hope the third one is equally patient and helpful!

  9. cynthia says

    Hi,, just one quick question which brand of whole wheat pancakes do you make ??? and does it taste good??? i’ve tried a couple of brands and my daughter hates them she says they taste like cornbread..

  10. says

    You got a ton done! That will make the next few weeks much easier for you. I tend to have bursts like that too.

    Oh and I used to love going to my grandmother’s house when I was a kid because she let me play with foil.

  11. Jennefer says

    Do the bananas turn brown or black when you freeze them? I tried freezing bananas once, but they looked disgusting after they were frozen. Did I miss an important step?

  12. Kristen says

    I have a few questions about the stuff you froze. I have heard people that freeze stuff but they never say how long they freeze it for or how long you can? So I was curious how long you can freeze all the stuff you made.
    Thanks!!!

    *********************
    Money Saving Mom here: We usually use everything we freeze within 2-4 weeks at the most. It could likely keep longer, but I like to rotate the stuff in our freezer often to make sure everything gets used up in a timely manner.

  13. Honey says

    Speaking of baking, Krispy Kreme just sent me an email saying that on Nov. 4 they are giving away a star sprinkle donut to those who voted. Call your local store to see if they are participating.

  14. Maggie says

    I’m amazed that you did all you did with two kids and one on the way and then you BLOGGED with pictures. Thank you for sharing. I love both your blogs.

  15. says

    Question for your mom more so than you I guess…

    I am a homeschooling mom to 4 rambuncious boys 13,10,5,1. I would love to do baking days. But with homeschooling I just don’t feel I have any days to do this with??? I find I am barely able to get my general housework done on top of homeschooling the various ages. My older boys do a lot on their own, but still, we have to discuss things and review intense subjects. Math takes a good hour between the two, language, compositon work, science, history, etc. Then add to that teaching phonics and reading to my younger son. There never seems to be enough hours in the day.

    Since you are from a big homeschooling family..did your mom having “baking” days each week? If so, how did she do it!

    **********************
    Money Saving Mom here: My mom had us take over the baking/cooking when we were rather young–maybe that’s her secret to getting so much done?! She started us out with making or helping make one meal a week when we were around 8-10 years old and within a few years, we could usually cook an entire meal from scratch with no help.

    From the time that my sister and I were both 14-17 or so, we did the majority of the cooking/baking for the whole family, often including the meal-planning and sometimes the grocery shopping.

    My brothers all learned how to cook, too, and are just as good of cooks, if not better, than most of us girls. They never had to take over complete kitchen duty like Mom had the girls do, but they certainly made dinner for the family many nights or helped out in the kitchen.

    My mom’s advice to you would likely be to involve your boys in the cooking and make a homeschool project out of Baking Day. If this is something totally foreign to them, start out small. Pick one or two of their favorite recipes and let them help you make it. Gradually teach them how to do some of the work by themselves until they’ve learned how to make something from start to finish.

    Pretty soon, you could likely assign each of your older two boys a recipe or two to do themselves while you make 2 or 3 as well. Have your little guys help for some of the time and then give them busywork to do nearby for the rest of the time.

    Of course, this might not work for you at all, but if this is something you’d like to try, I’m guessing that’s what my mom would encourage you to do. :)

  16. says

    Wow – you did so much today! Amazing! I’m just curious how you heat up your beans and rice after they are frozen? Never tried that before. What is the best way to defrost/heat them up?? Thanks!

  17. says

    Wow – you did so much today! Amazing! I’m just curious how you heat up your beans and rice after they are frozen? Never tried that before. What is the best way to defrost/heat them up?? Thanks!

    **********************
    Money Saving Mom here: Nothing scientific, it just depends upon what I’ll be using them for or whether I remembered to pull them out of the freezer in a timely manner. You can thaw them in the fridge for a day or two before using. Or thaw them on the counter for half a day or so before using. If you’re really in a bind, you can thaw them in under hot water and then plop them in a sauce pan.

    If we’re using them in a recipe which will be cooked/baked, I’ll just stick them in thawed. If we’re eating them plain, I reheat them in a saucepan or microwave. I prefer not to use the microwave, but sometimes I get in a hurry!

  18. Betsy says

    Looks like a lot of food! Did you know you can cook beans in a pressure cooker for quick results that are gas free? As per Graham Kerr: Boil one cup of beans in 2 cups water for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover for 1 hour. Drain off liquid and follow your pressure cooker’s instructions for cooking dried beans. Be sure to follow your pressure cooker’s de-pressurization instructions!Cooking times vary per variety of bean, but larger beans like kidney beans take 20 mins (after my pressure cooker starts to hiss).

  19. says

    Hello!

    I routinely cook ground beef and chicken to store in the freezer. Having precooked meat in the freezer saves me so much time when preparing meals!

    Here’s how I do it —

    When our grocery store runs a great sale on ground round or chuck I pick up anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds. I will brown up about half. Sometimes I add chopped onion to the meat as well, since most of my recipes call for it.

    With the other half I make up a huge batch of Meatloaf. I form most of this meatloaf mixture into meatloaves and bake them right then.

    If you don’t have the luxury of knowing there is a fully cooked meatloaf in your freezer at all times– you are missing something! Pair it up with some baked potatoes and a salad or vegetables and you’ve got a complete meal that’s ready in minutes! Also there will be less trips for expensive takeout on nights you don’t have time and/or don’t feel like cooking.

    The part I set aside is used to make meatballs. I roll up 1 or 2 pounds of meatballs and bake them at the same time the meatloaves are cooking. Once they cool, I package them up into freezer bags. We use these in spaghetti, meatball soup, meatball sandwiches and to serve with swedish style in a sauce with noodles or rice. Delicious!

    Want to read more about my cooking ideas, menus and grocery buying tips? Stop by and visit me!

    Take Care,

    Trixie
    http://farmhomelife.blogspot.com/

  20. Dawn S says

    Hi, Crystal! To the person who asked about how to soak beans, I just wanted to add to make sure that before she soaks and cooks them that they need to be sorted through for foreign objects – rocks, etc.

    Love your blog!
    Dawn

  21. amy says

    I also like to bake/make extra and freeze some, but if you grind your own wheat it is a trade off because it isn’t as nutritious as fresh. Valuable nutrients are lost, even in the freezer. The wheat has the most nutrients within the first 72 hours after the kernel has been opened. After that, it looses up to 75% of the nutrients. There are some benefits to making “daily bread”!

  22. Betsy says

    “Do you freeze the beans after you cook and bag them? How long will they stay good?”

    Today I made Huevos Rancheros with beans I cooked and froze in August. Zipper bags work fine.

  23. says

    As a homeschooling mom to 4 little ones (ages 7,6,23months and 4.5 months), I wanted to add to your comment to the other homeschooling mom. Cooking is a great way to incorporate math, science, and nutrition (not to mention basic life skills) into your homeschooling. Measuring, adding fractions, reading labels, the science of cookery, etc are all skills that can be put to use in the kitchen. The little one will learn the importance of handwashing and can help wash the veggies before using them (at least for a few minutes). Cooking days are a favorite at our house and my older two (7 and 6) are pretty adept at preparing several foods by themselves. They are capable of making decent breakfasts and lunches if necessary (when I was pregnant I was on strict bed rest and they helped with meal prep a lot) and as they grow older they will make complete meals for the family. Try it once, if it works, continue doing it and if it doesn’t then try to do it when the kids are doing independent work. Just my 2 cents.

  24. says

    I didn’t take the time to read the rest of the comments here, so maybe someone has already posted this, but I cook our beans in the crock pot. I put them in with a good amount of water, set it to high and leave it. A few hours later I may need to add a bit of water, but they always cook up great.

    I also save time by cooking our brown rice in a rice cooker in the microwave. Can you tell I’m not big on using the stove? I can get very distracted with five little ones and I’ve found that it’s much easier just to use the crock pot or microwave whenever possible.

    As for cooking with beans, I have a little secret: I buy ready-made rice mixes on sale, then mix brown rice and beans with it. It makes them much more healthful, but also stretches them and makes them more affordable.

  25. Gabrielle says

    Crystal,

    As always I LOVE reading your blog. You have such helpful information. I want to try freezing the beans. I couldn’t really tell from the post and comments . . . are you draining them after they are cooked and freezing them?? Or do I freeze them w/the water??

    Gabrielle

    *************************
    Money Saving Mom here: Usually by the time they are cooked, there isn’t much water left on them. But if there were, I’d drain most of it off before cooling and freezing. Hope that helps!

  26. Tausha says

    Wow, I never thought of cooking and freezing diced up chicken. I’m trying to learn to cook with the cheaper chicken, like leg quarters. Normally I would cook up a chicken breast and dice it up in so many of my recipes and I’ve been having a hard time making the switch. What a life saver and money saver this will be.

  27. Tausha says

    I thought of a question. I know this is an old post but maybe you can answer it on your next baking day. I assume you don’t cook with minute rice since it is more expensive. How do you cook rice? I have heard you can freeze rice too.

  28. says

    You can also cook dried beans in a crockpot. You still need to watch the water level but this way you still have the top of your stove to do other things. Or, as in my case, when the weather is very warm, I try not to turn on our gas stove since it heats up the kitchen so much (great when it’s cold out, but not so great when it’s hot out).