Merging two lives into one is complicated for a whole host of reasons. There’s different schedules, different habits, and of course different food likes and dislikes.
The gifts are unwrapped, the dishes are unpacked, and the supermarket bags are sitting in the kitchen. Sounds like the party is over and real married life has begun. The question begs to be answered: what’s for dinner? (And to be frank, what’s for breakfast and lunch and snack…?) Merging two lives into one is complicated for a whole host of reasons. There’s different schedules, different habits, and of course different food likes and dislikes. When I first got married, I routinely served my husband anything and everything made with ground turkey. He ate it with gusto, until one day he broke the news. He hates anything made with ground turkey! How was I supposed to know?! We had “the conversation” and slowly started working on meal planning together.
Ten years later, I’m prepping and cooking three meals a day. It’s gotten to be second nature, but the daily grind never ends. (Hello, I buy k-cups in bulk for a reason!) I figured out a list of tips and tricks for the Shana Rishona (first year) crowd and beyond. Some may apply, some may not, but I recommend filing away all the tips and tricks for later. Because you never know when Mr Ground Turkey becomes Mr Never Ground
- Turkey Life Hack #1: talk it out Remember that first date where he said he’ll never eat salmon? Discuss it now. Talk about your likes and dislikes for meals. Maybe you don’t eat carbs for supper, maybe lunch isn’t complete without a sandwich. Allergies, must haves, food aversions, meal requirements – hash it out and write it down. Tape it to the fridge along with a master shopping list. Whenever you’re close to out of a favorite item, write it down. No one likes to wake up to no milk for their coffee.
- Life hack #2: do the splitFamily packs of beef, chicken, fish, and sometimes vegetables are cheaper than a single piece. But two people don’t need four pounds of ground beef. Shop smart, split smart, and both of you (and your wallet) will be happy. The freezer and strong zip top bags are your friends here. Portion exactly what you need for each meal into a bag and label it with the contents and the date. Use a straw to suck out the air. Ground beef/turkey/chicken is easy to work with- prep your meals and freeze them so they’re ready to go. Make Korean Beef Bowls tonight, prep some meatballs, burgers, and kabobs for the freezer. When the dinner bell is an hour away, the meal is prepped and ready in your freezer. No last minute “omg, I forgot to defrost the hunk of meat!”
- Life Hack #3: stay out of the warehouseWho doesn’t need 25 pounds of rice, 10 boxes of pasta, and a lifetime supply of toilet paper? Oh wait, you don’t. When shopping for two, keep in mind you’re only two! If it looks like enough to last a family of eight for six months, you don’t need it. Variation is key and so is storage space. A small home doesn’t have space for enormous quantities of food and no one wants to sit down to the same thing over and over. (Unless you’re like that, and feel free to laugh and skip this section!) When making your shopping list, keep in mind staples that typically go on sale in regular supermarkets. Pasta, grains, canned goods, eggs, dairy, cereal, and paper products go on sale often.If you live in an area where kosher meat is hard to come by, stock up smartly. Buy the meats and poultry you eat the most, not what’s on special. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, because you won’t cook it. (Hello, large warehouse size box of chicken nuggets gathering freezer burn.) The internet is your friend. Amazon, Walmart, and Target all have user-friendly websites to order your staples. There’s no need to be home, since there’s no perishables being delivered.
- Life hack #4: meal prep the right wayYou get home at 7, drop your keys on the table and grumble about cooking. One who plans smart, eats smart. Make Sunday your game day. Buy your perishables and prep them. Separate your proteins and freeze what’s not needed right away. Wash your lettuce for the week and wrap in paper towels. They key to meal planning: using what you have in the most timely matter. Make a list of your “meal hopefuls” and compile them in the order of most to least perishable. So shop Sunday, cook the fish on Monday, beef on Tuesday, chicken on Wednesday, and use pantry items or frozen protein on Thursday. Follow the same logic with fruits and vegetables. Use the most perishable first, saving the heartier stock for later in the week. When shopping and prepping, keep in mind what you’re both eating for lunches. Takeout or restaurants are quick for lunch, but not so much on the wallet or waistline. Prep and chop greens for salads, cook grains for bowls, grill or bake some extra proteins. Like mom always said, pack your lunch from the night before!
- Life hack #5: outsource it!Love zoodles, don’t love the spiralized mess? Let the store do it for you. Crying non stop from chopping onions? Buy them pre chopped and frozen. Terrified of hacking up a mango? Pre cut is your friend. Touching raw meat creeps you out? Sliders and burgers come pre-formed for convenience. Make a list of the foods and ingredients you want to eat but are nervous to prep. Start small and buy them, and slowly work up to prepping them yourself. And keep it a secret between us- I won’t tell anyone if you buy frozen garlic and basil cubes! If you have a crockpot, let it do some of the work. It’s great for full meals, soups, and stews, but no one wants to eat something resembling chulent every night. Use it to cook components of your meal- like beets!
- Life hack #6: KISS! (Keep IT simple, silly!) The recipes on the next page are simple, quick and easily adaptable. Scale up or down depending on how hungry you are and what you need for lunch and future meals.
Sylvia Fallas is a Brooklyn-based cooking instructor & recipe developer. Her focus is real, healthy, and simple food. Many home cooks are flustered when it comes to meal prep and shopping. Sylvia’s goal is to teach inventive and simple recipes while having a great time! Contact: Sylvia.email@example.com
ZOODLES & TURKEY BOLOGNESE
This is super adaptable – use chicken, turkey, or ground beef. Add mushrooms if you like them, subtract carrots if you don’t. For the veggie averse, use a food processor to purée the vegetables before cooking. Plus, no stirring means downtime for the chef! Leftover sauce can be frozen for another meal. (Just remember to label the container, no one wants mystery sauce)
- 1 lb ground poultry or beef
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 15oz can crushed tomatoes
- 8oz water
- 2 TB tomato paste Red pepper flakes (optional)
Zoodles (zucchini noodles) or cooked pasta for serving.
In a pot, stir together the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, water, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and basil.
Peel carrots, celery, and onion. Finely dice into 1/4” pieces. Peel garlic and mince. Alternatively, process in a food processor until desired texture. Add to pot with tomato mixture and stir to combine.
Add in poultry or beef to the pot in one large piece. Don’t break it up or it’ll dry out! Turn flame to medium and bring to a simmer. Let the sauce simmer covered for about 30 minutes. Uncover the pot and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Let simmer for another 30-35 minutes until sauce is thickened.
Serve hot over pasta or zoodles. Top with red pepper flakes if desired.