CINCINNATI — Megan Johnson is a working mom with her own photography business and two children under the age of 4.
She says with two young kids, dinner often meant the microwave, using the Door Dash app or going out to eat. And that got very expensive very quickly. A home cooked meal is something she and her husband could do on a Sunday, but midweek, it just wasn't happening.
“I don't really enjoy cooking, it’s not my thing," she said. "Some people love to cook, but it’s something I just can’t make time for.”
And when she did, her long days stretched into longer evenings.
“There’s not only the mess that comes with making the meal, but also the mess that comes with cleaning up after two toddlers," she said.
Frustrated, Johnson sought advice from a Facebook page she belongs to.
“I just asked a question on there, 'Hey I need some easy ideas,' and a lot of moms answered my question," Johnson said.
Finds dozens of simple meals
For several months, she began experimenting with the recipes forwarded to her. She also found meal ideas on BudgetBytes.com, which features more simple, one pot meals.
Many are slow cooker (electric) or Dutch Oven (stove) recipes, and many can be sped up in the Instant Pot and similar high-tech pressure cookers.
"I am now making all sorts of soups and Crockpot meat and chicken dishes that are very easy to put together for busy moms,” she said.
The key, she said, is finding meals that can be made in one or two pots, and don't require constant attention or hours of prep time.
For her, a Crockpot is now her best friend in the kitchen.
”I love it. You throw it in there and forget about it," she said.
She makes stews, soups, meatballs and other dishes, then freezes half of it and has a meal for a second day.
"You can save the sauce and meatballs and just freeze it, bring it back out, make fresh noodles and sometimes it's better the second time around," Johnson said.
And it's a real money saver, too.
While we were at her home, Johnson put together a chicken tortilla soup dinner in less than five minutes.
She placed four raw chicken breasts at the bottom of her Dutch Oven slow cooker. She added a can of beans, a can of chopped tomatoes, a packet of green taco skillet sauce and chicken broth. The soup cooks on low heat for three hours at a slow boil so the chicken is fully cooked and ready to be mixed in to the soup.
“You take it out and shred it and put it back in the soup," she said.
Five minutes of prep time at the beginning, another five minutes at the end, and her family had a healthy, delicious meal.
“I have some tortilla chips on the side and dinner's ready," she said.
Some of the meals she has been trying, with the help of
Beth Moncel's Budget Bytes,
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Giant Slow Cooker Meatballs
- Slow Cooker Jambalaya
- Roast Chicken Breasts
- 20 Minute Honey Mustard Chicken
- Slow Cooker Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken
- One Pot American Goulash
- Easiest Burrito Bowl
- Slow Cooker Chili
Not only are the meals good, she says, but they have slashed her family's dining budget.
“Every time we do takeout it’s at least $20, but you can make very easy meal for $6 to $8," Johnson said.
As for laboring over a skillet for hours? Johnson says she just doesn't have the time, but with a slow cooker and a lot of chicken based recipes, she can now turn out a good, healthy dinner, with plenty of time left for her two busy toddlers.
As always, don't waste your money.
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