Thinking Outside of the Box

Guest post from Julie:

Living in a household with two full-time working parents can be a struggle. There simply isn’t enough time in the day. We have approximately 2.5 hours from the time we get home to fit in homework, reading time, dinner, bath...never mind if any other extra-curricular activity comes up. So something’s gotta give. And frankly, we usually find ourselves grabbing what is convenient for dinner. Pizza/Tuna Helper/Mac & Cheese have all made the rounds in our house come 6 pm. Now, we do add frozen peas, green beans, fruit, or a salad to each of those meals...almost to assuage any guilt we might have. And each time we put the plates on the table, we know that there is something more we could do for our family dinners.

Fast forward to the present. My new mantra is NO MORE EATING OUT OF THE BOX!!! Our house is now on a crockpot/slow-cooker mission. Since there is no time to prep & cook the meals in the evening, we now do our prepping in the morning to let the food cook and get all yummy while we are slaving away at our computers. has always been my go-to for great recipes. I typed in slow cooker and HUNDREDS of recipes popped up. I had a few requirements...nothing too salty, nothing that could not be modified to be a bit healthier, and especially, no recipes that could not hang in the crockpot for less than 8-10 hours. We are basically gone from 7:30am-5:30pm and the last thing we want to come home to is either a dried out piece of meat or a pile of mush. Going with these constraints, I selected 10 to get cooking. Last night, I went to HEB armed with a 3 page grocery list (furnished by allrecipes) and filled my shopping cart (and my SUV trunk!) with spices, veggies, protein, pastas, name it, I probably had it! I spent close to $150...which works out to $2.50 per person per meal. Not bad!

I spent 30 minutes this morning prepping...browning chicken breast strips, defrosting spinach, cooking pasta al dente...all while hanging with my girls while they ate breakfast. I threw all of the ingredients in the lined crockpot (do NOT forget the liner...saves you an infinite amount of time later!!) and turned it on low.

I am truly determined to make it work. I really don’t want to be known for my excellent Ramen-making skills. And if this is a way for us to get home-cooked meals on the plate at dinnertime, so be it. But don’t judge me...grilled American cheese sandwiches & canned tomato soup is still a Friday night favorite, and I don’t see that one going by the wayside anytime soon. :)

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