Out and about, loving the outdoors
One of my runner chick friends, Stephanie Gupton, and her family, came up with this fantastic idea for working parents, or non-working parents. This “Cooking Extravaganza” idea is a fast, efficient way to cook a ton of your weekly meals, make sure those meals are healthy, plus spend quality time together. I asked her to give me the low down on how it works, mostly because I want to copy her, but also because I thought it might be a nice idea for other families who struggle to eat well during the hectic workweek.
Question: Tell me about your family’s weekend “Cooking Extravaganza”. What prompted you to start doing this, and what was the result of doing this for you, your family?
Answer: In our lives, before Abigail, Jason and I would get home from work and exercise each weeknight. Afterwards, we would make dinner together, and we always made enough for leftovers for lunch the next day at work. Both of us are really good “leftover eaters,” which was key for our “Cooking Extravaganza” to work for us. We both are really interested in eating healthy and whole foods. I wish we ate less meat, and more local… but at this point, I think we are doing well. After Abigail was born, and before I went back to work, I would prep for dinner while Abigail was napping during the day, be ready for a run as soon as Jason got home, to give them some alone time together, and then cook up dinner after the run.
Once I was back at work though, I didn’t want to lose a second of my dwindling time with Abigail after work by cooking or exercising, and neither would Jason. Thus we came up with the idea of “Cooking Extravaganza,” and exercising while Abigail sleeps. It started meekly, with just trying to cook dinner for 2 days, but this experiment quickly turned in to trying to make it so we don’t have to cook all week-long, or at least until Thursday night.
Fresh veggies, on the chopping block
Every weekend that we don’t go out-of-town, and on the lucky ones where we get back in time on Sundays, we do our “Cooking Extravaganza” on Sunday nights. This usually starts with grocery shopping as a family on Saturday, and then on Sunday afternoon, we pull everything out of the fridge. We are fairly sexist about it, Jason cooks the meat, and I do the veggies/grains, but it works, and I’m not going to try to liberate it. Normally Jason grills on the charcoal grill: a fish (usually salmon), chicken (like thighs and breast meat), and some pork (chops, tenderloin, etc). But on a rainy or cold, or lazy day, it all goes into the oven/broiler. My job is to make a salad, steam green vegetables: like asparagus/broccoli/kale/green beans, make some potatoes: sweet or russet, a grain: rice or cous cous, pasta, etc.
Sometimes we’ll do a crock-pot meal: soup, chili, pulled pork, etc. Usually there is an all-in-one meal, for instance casserole, chicken pot pie, curry, or burritos. Then we just eat everything we’ve cooked for lunch and dinner for the rest of the week. We try to pack it individually a bit so that is easier during the week as well. Abigail is getting to the age where she will help me in the kitchen. Last week she ate 10 cherry tomatoes while I was doing salad prep.
Question: Tell me the pros and cons of doing this, in your opinion. Did you feel like it was a huge amount of extra work?
Voila – almost a week’s worth of delicious, healthy food
Answer: The pros clearly outweigh the cons here. Sunday this work takes about an hour of Jason and I both cooking like maniacs, and then we all eat together, put Abigail to bed, and then clean up for 45 minutes. It is definitely more work than we want to do on a Sunday, but it makes the rest of the week so much easier. We heat up food for dinner, and only have to put dinner plates in the washer each night, not scrub pots and pans. We normally make it to Wednesday at least, but usually through lunch on Thursday.
Question: What do you personally do to stay healthy?
Answer: We have reorganized our workout schedule since having Abigail because neither of use want to lose any time with her. I run from 5:30-6:30 am, and Jason works out from 8-9 pm at night. It is hard, but well worth it for the fun times with our sweet girl that we get every day.
The Toussaints truly make the most of their work/family life, including adding in working out to their crazy hectic schedule.
It’s one of the things I love about Stephanie, she never complains about not having enough time, or not being able to find the time to do the things that are important to her. She makes it happen. What a great example Jason and Stephanie are setting for their daughter. You can do whatever you set your mind to, you just have to get up and do it!