When a military spouse takes on a new role as a caregiver, they are faced with new challenges and priority overhaul. Between providing care to their veteran by assisting with daily living activities (ADLs) like bathing or dressing, running errands, administering medicine, traveling to appointments, and advocating for them to ensure they are getting the care they need and deserve, caregivers have to creatively and strategically plan to squeeze time to maintain their own health and upkeep their home.
One of these tasks is cooking… something we all know the struggle of doing after a long day. Cooking… the copious amounts of groceries needed, and meal planning is often a new challenge for those who find themselves in the caregiving role.
When we surveyed the Hope For The Warriors caregiver community about their cooking habits, the average number of meals they said they prepare at home is between 17 and 21 each week.
That means that a large percentage of veterans and their caregivers are eating exclusively at home for almost every single meal, which is great when it comes to saving money, but definitely makes the task of cooking and preparing meals a large undertaking.
From finding economical ways to shop and source groceries and produce, to making tasty and healthy meals with a revolving menu, to finding the time to get it all accomplished are challenges caregivers face.
But have no fear, caregivers are proactive, creative, and are known for facing challenges head on, so we know they have the best tricks and tips for saving time, money and energy when it comes to cooking.
A number of our caregivers report using appliances like crock-pots or air fryers to help lessen their time in the kitchen. One caregiver swears by preplanning freezer meals for her crock-pot. Others plant gardens or shop at farmer’s markets to get fresh produce at lower cost than grocery stores.
Additionally, a few of the caregivers find that shopping at the commissary helps because they can find things meats and dairy at lower costs than public grocery stores. Some buy in bulk at discount stores like Costco. One caregiver mentioned that she only shops on certain days of the week when markdown prices are posted at her local stores.
When you think of all the time required to plan, shop, and prepare meals, a few
caregivers have noted online ordering and pick up services that are now offered at grocery and mass-market retailers. In some areas, these stores even offer home delivery!
While the cost may be higher, a few caregivers find ordering meal kits or home delivered meals a cost worth paying. Sometimes the ease of having meals ready to go or ready in under a half hour well worth the price if it doesn’t take them away from their loved one and duties at home.
CAREGIVER TAKE-AWAY TIPS FOR SAVING YOU TIME IN THE KITCHEN:
- Plan, Plan, Plan! Have a meal plan but have easy back up options to include for lunch, snacks, or times that you simply can not devote to cooking full meals in the kitchen. Soups, sandwiches, or freezer meals to toss in the oven and leave for a while are great. When you make a plan you save time later, your food won’t go bad because you’ll have a plan for eating it before it does, you’ll take away the stress of putting something together last minute, and you eat healthier meals because you are paying attention to what you eat.
- Shop Wisely and Eat Well! Shop for produce in bulk or at farmer’s markets to reduce costs. Consider planting a small garden, even if it is in a patio planter!
- Use a grocery store pick-up! Utilize online ordering and pick up to reduce time spent in the store and eliminate those impulse purchases that run the total up at the register.
- Order Online! Do you have Amazon Prime? You may want to consider an occasional meal or grocery delivery service or grabbing take out from a local restaurant. Sometimes the convenience may help eliminate some stress.
- Prep those meals! After you plan out your meals for the entire week. Spend the time to prep them before the week gets started. Pro tip:prep easy to grab, healthy snacks and put them in a bin in your fridge. That way if you’re running to an appointment or getting home from work, you have a healthy option until it is meal time. Use meal prep containers where you can to give yourself the opportunity to get the week prepped out.
While not all caregivers are professional chefs, they sure know how to get things cooking. It may be hard to implement all of these tips, and some may work better for others. The easiest way to get started is to start planning and prepping your meals.
The week doesn’t have to be perfectly planned out. In fact, planning out one day at a time can make a difference. Each meal and each week it will get easier to plan and prep as your new, life-altering habits begin to form.
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Do you have a way to save time in the kitchen that we didn’t mention above? Share your tips with us in the comments below! We would love to hear from you!
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