We are on the edge of the holiday abyss. That time of year when there is so much happening and so much to do that we can easily lose track of our own self-care. Ironically, it is the time of year when we most need to be feeding ourselves well in order to fight off colds, flus, and other nasty bugs and yet we often find ourselves grabbing take out an extra time (or two or three or five) a week or falling back on convenience foods that we know don’t make us feel that great but are easy and comforting when we are feeling stressed. Yup, we are on the edge of that time. Ugh.
In years past I have shared recipes (like this, this, this, and this) and tricks (like these and these) that can help to boost ourselves up at these stressful times, but this time around I want to get super practical, people. I want to share with you what I decided was going to be the most helpful for me and it isn’t sexy or glitzy, but I am pretty darn sure that it is going to save my butt in the weeks to come… I am organizing and stocking up.
As I prepared myself to undertake this task I first realized that I had to change my attitude about it. I couldn’t go into this undertaking feeling as if it was a burden, so instead I have tried to think of it as a seasonal right of passage. I have thought back to our ancestors who had to be much more reliant on their pantries in the winter than we do. Traditionally, this is the time of year for canning and preserving foods, for taking stock of what we have and what we need to get more of. Once I looked at it that way it felt much more natural (and kind of fun! Yes, it’s true, there is part of my that will always romanticize the lives of people in times past thanks to Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and Little Women).
But don’t worry, I am not advocating for you to suddenly start canning your own fruits and vegetables or curing your meat or anything like that, I mean there are a whole lot of benefits to living in modern times, but I think it can be very helpful to just take a little time to get organized so that 1) you know what you’ve already got on hand, 2) you can do a little bulking up when you are already cooking, and 3) you can fall back on those supplies when things get really busy and stressful in the coming months.
So, practically, what does this look like? Well, I think there are only three steps to take:
1) Take stock of what you’ve got. Take 30 minutes to an hour to go through you pantry and freezer to see what you’ve already got on hand and get it organized so that things are easier to see and access.
2) Think of what you’d like to have. Would having some dishes ready to go in the freezer be helpful? Maybe some soups, stews, sauces, or easy breakfast items? Make a list of what you’d like to stock up on.
3) Start making those dishes for meals and double them. Now that you’ve got that list of things that would be great to have on hand, start making them for regular meals (maybe on the weekends when there is a little more time), but double them so that half can go into the freezer. Extra tip: make sure everything is well labeled so that you can find it easily 6 weeks from now when you are crazed and hungry and trying to find something to throw on the table for dinner.
What does this look like for me? Last week I made a big batch of bone broth to have on hand for quick and easy soups. This week I made extra breakfast and snack options (like this no sugar banana bread) and two batches of beans. This weekend I will make a double batch of chili, using some for a hearty and quick dinner on Monday before trick-or-treating and the rest will go into the freezer for another week. Next week I plan to make a double (or possibly triple) batch of my basic tomato sauce to use with pastas and on homemade pizzas.
So as you can see, other than taking some time to go through my pantry to see what I’ve already got, I am just using the time I am already spending cooking to cook a little extra to squirrel away—nothing too demanding or complicated, just nutrient-dense dishes that will serve my family well in the coming months.
Does that sound easy enough? I’d love to hear how it goes for you and/or what you think you’ll stock up on!