And if you'll allow me one digression before I get on with the tips I'd just like to say that I find nothing more depressing--nothing more truly disheartening--than a discussion of a woman's divine role that includes cooking and cleaning.
And now, some tips. These are serious tips and I hope they help. If they strike you as obvious that's good news for you--you are probably better than not very good. You should write more advanced tips for the rest of us.
- An expert housewife will know the prices of everything so she can tell if something at the grocery store is on sale. I wish I had this information, but it eludes me. Here's something that is easy to remember: Stock up on pasta and jars of spaghetti sauce when they are 99 cents. That's not a bad price and you can remember it. Maybe you like to make sauce from scratch--good. So do I. Even not-very-good homemakers can make sauce from scratch. But you still need the jars and here's why: With pasta and a jar of sauce you can make a meal with one hand. It won't be the best spaghetti you've ever had but it is often surprisingly delicious and when you are carrying a screaming baby and can't mince garlic or even manage the can opener, you will thank me.
- The following recipe is very, very good and even famous among foodies for it's simple deliciousness. It is basically a one-hand meal--but you do have to use the can opener (which I can't do while holding a baby) and cut an onion in half (which is much more feasible than chopping it). Simmer a 28 oz can of whole tomatoes (Muir Glenn are some of the best you'll find. They never go on sale, but you should buy cans of them anyway) with 5 tablespoons of butter and an onion that is peeled and cut in half. Then cook it on low for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and crush the tomatoes against the side of the pan. Throw away the onion and salt the sauce. Serve it with cooked pasta. You'll be surprised at how good it is. Let me know if you want an even more awesome and gourmet pasta recipe that includes bacon. (Ouch! Bacon grease burns baby's legs.)
- Another thing to buy on sale is those cans of crescent rolls. I can't remember what a good price is but if there is a sign by them that says "sale," get some. And get hot dogs to keep in the freezer. Maybe these items disgust you. That's OK. They're not for you. They're for your kids in two specific situations: 1) You've had an awful day so your husband is bringing home dinner for you but not the kids because you are too poor to buy them all salads from Cafe Rio. You make "pigs in a blanket" which are more festive than hot dogs and seem like a treat. 2) Your 12 year old has friends over around dinner time and you want to be a fun mom and feed them but you sort of begrudge ordering pizza for the whole gang so you make "pigs in a blanket" for them or even let them make their own--it's hard to mess up. You wrap the hot dog in the roll and put it in the oven at 350 for 12 minutes. I actually think pigs in a blanket taste good. But the main reason to have this on hand is that those crescent rolls are made almost entirely out of preservatives whereas the hot dog buns you might think about keeping in the freezer for these two specific occasions will get stale eventually. There will be times when you don't begrudge ordering your kids pizza. In this case, just go ahead and do it. But still: keep the pigs at the ready. And if you never begrudge it? I guess you're better than not-very-good. Congratulations!
- If you have a gallon of milk that is going to go bad in a day or two and you know there is no chance of it being consumed, it's a good idea to make a bunch of pudding with it. You can make instant pudding but what I like to do is make rice pudding. Everyone in my family hates it except for me, so it's almost not worth the trouble, but my mom made it for us and for my grandpa when we were growing up and I think it is a real treat. It is at least a good way to use up milk before it goes bad and there may come a day when you have to take a meal to an old person and this will be just the thing. Take 3/4 cup rice and 1/2 cup sugar and stir it up with a handful of raisins and some milk until the sugar dissolves. Then pour in more milk (1/2 gallon) to fill up a a big glass bowl. Give it a dash of nutmeg and cook it at 350 degrees for about an hour, stirring occasionally. It's done when it is browned on top. If this recipe sounds gross to you it probably will be gross to you. I love it--especially for breakfast. And milk on the verge of going sour is transformed into a treat that will last for a week in the fridge (especially at my house because no on eats it but me). You can use normal fresh milk, of course. (But, I mean, that's REALLY obvious.)
- And one final tip, remember: Toast is a meal. Anyone who disagrees with this doesn't deserve dinner. Don't believe me? Ask a Brit.