Or something like that.
First things first: what’s the hurry, anyways? What’s up with all the short cuts and schemes that allow us to live our hectic, busy lives while getting even more done? In truth, slowing down, making room, spending more time off-line, and taking the time for these things is its own reward and its own path to being a super eco-groovy human being.
Still, some of us work. Some of us want to make art or take walks or go to school. Some of us have children that are tired of a mother whose idea of playtime is rolling tortillas.
I’m writing this post in response to folks that mistakenly think that living the way we do is a full time job…for me, the housewife. I do think of it as my work–my bread labor. But I’ve found that it doesn’t take much extra time to do the basic sustenance part of life. In fact, sometimes I feel like a hunter gatherer with plentiful leisure time. Even when I worked outside the home I cooked pretty wholesome meals everyday. I don’t spend much more time at it now. It’s taken practice, surely, to get to the point where so much cooking from scratch is just part of the rhythm of our days, so go slow if just starting out. In fact, go slow no matter what.
Anyways, for what it’s worth and off the top of my head–
::Choose one or two of the things that you currently purchase to try your hand at making. This might be bread, yogurt, crackers or tortillas, granola, cheese, body care items, or any infinite number of ordinary items from greeting cards to sweaters. Start with one and as it becomes familiar and effortless, add the next one. These are all pretty much way easier than I ever imagined back when I was convinced they had to be store-bought.
::Don’t go it alone. Combat isolation and fragmented communities by inviting a friend to teach you a new skill, to learn one you’ve mastered, or to fumble your way to success together when both figuring something out for the first time.
:: Dedicate a morning each week to prepare the staples needed for that week. After the busyness of the weekend, I love spending Mondays at home, messing around the kitchen doing whatever needs doing.
::Invite your girlfriend and her brood over to share that kitchen morning with you–talk and talk, and before you know it everything’s done, including clean up. Remember to make enough for both families. Alternatively, each of you could choose an item or two to make at home, and then swap yogurt for bread for sauerkraut.
:: Make double or triple batches of everything. You knew that! Make yogurt two quarts a time. Freeze cracker and cookie dough and pie crust. I often make extra brown rice and beans, two slightly more time intensive staples around here, and freeze them in meal sized portions in a tiffin. We don’t rely on them regularly, but when we need a quick meal, they are infinitely helpful.
::Don’t ever, ever, run out of flour. Everything else you can live without, but keep that sack handy and half full! In fact, try to keep ingredients on hand, but don’t run to the store until you really need to. Amaze yourself and your family by what can be made out of cabbage, frozen chicken stock, and an onion.
::The popular no-knead / 5 minutes a day bread making method isn’t for everyone. But if you have some kind of thing against buying bread products in plastic bags, as we seem to, you might consider putting a picture of it’s creators up on your kitchen altar. I always double the recipe. It keeps fine for two weeks in the fridge, though no matter what I do ours runs out after a week. It is lovely to have the dough on hand for bread, rolls, naan, english muffins, or whatever the occasion calls for. All it takes is a little time to rise before cooking, and for naan not even that. This might seem like one of those short cuts that deprives us of the simple pleasure of kneading, and the flow of traditional bread making, but it is, frankly, awesome.
::I’m not the most sophisticated menu planner, though I see how helpful it is to plan ahead just a little when it comes time for the grocery store. I think more in terms of two major meals each week, and aim for ones that will provide versatile leftovers that can become either a repeat or a whole new thing. The roasted chicken is a great one for that–come the end of the week there’s soup to make from the carcass. Alternatively, I also do a pot of beans or dal most weeks, and that provides a good basis for lunches or simple week night meals that I can doll up in minutes. I’ll make the tortillas for the week while the rice and lentils are cooking, and call it dinner.
::Cook a little bit all throughout the day rather than saving everything for 5:00. If you’re making quiche, do the pie dough in the morning. If you’re making enchiladas, make the sauce or tortillas in advance.
::While I love preparing complex meals from scratch, simplicity is so, so delicious. Save the fancy stuff for Sunday dinner. And then go all out.
::When you run the oven, pack it. On my baking day, I make sure to have as many of the following as I can reasonably do: bread, crackers, pies, chicken, potatoes, squash, etc.
::When putting away clean dishes, set the table, even if dinner’s hours away. I used to wonder what napkin rings were for, but love Soulemama’s idea of having a different one for each member of the family so that napkins can be used repeatedly by the same person until truly in need of a wash. I suppose if you don’t have napkin rings, a mismatched set of napkins would work, too.
::When Adrie started washing her family’s laundry by hand I was blown away. I have no desire to follow in her footsteps, but I am much, much more aware of whether something is really dirty before throwing it in the hamper. Like, I have to see/smell it and it’s bad before I wash it.
::Always hang laundry on the line. This is a time saver because it gets you outside, twice, and from there it’s no trouble to just keep on walking.
::If you have just one little one, stick her in the shower with you. Yes, this does eliminate the eco-friendly possibility of shaving with a straight razor, but saves water and time. Unless you savor the time to knit beside the bathtub while someone splashes water all over. Then do a bath everyday.
::Hair brushing: I think once a day is plenty. Do it five minutes before being seen in public.
::Unless there is no alternative, avoid using nap time for housework or cooking. That time is for you alone, Mama. Don’t give it up to the endless tides of sweeping the floor and washing dishes.
::When the house is clean, leave. Go away. Go make a mess somewhere else. Come back only when you can’t stay away any longer.
How do you run your household without letting it run you?