Over the holidays my sister from NJ was at my house and complimented my (wicked) potato kugel. “How do you make it?” she asked.
“Well, you know. I don’t peel the potatoes.” She stared for a minute, so I explained. “Yeah, you know, no one really tastes the difference, and it’s healthier and a huge time saver.”
“You need to write a book about your life hacks,” she suggested. So, not a book, but a list, from me to you. All the ways I’ve saved time, money, and energy over the years. Except money. You’re welcome.
First, yeah, I quit peeling potatoes like a year ago. Omg where have I been? Why did every newlywed experience, especially when every single recipe I owned came from an Ashkenazi Jew, start with “peel potatoes?” My name is Ruchi, and I hate peeling potatoes. I am also giving my knuckles some self care and they appreciate it. Btw, my recipe is at the end of the post.
Chicken. This was always a go-to dinner. Easy, less expensive than meat, and most kids like it. So the first trick is: anything on the fire is faster than anything in the oven. When it’s a half hour to dinner and I don’t know what to do I throw the chicken in a pot and cook it with some seasonings and water and voila! Stir-fry is also perfect for that “I forgot people were going to want to eat dinner again tonight” amnesia. A time-management dream. In the oven in needs an hour-and-a-half, minimum. The other cool thing about chicken on the bone is that you can literally throw any salad dressing or bottled sauce on it, and bake. It will be delicious. Then when people ask you for the recipe you’re like “oh I threw some stuff on it, I don’t know, it’s not really a recipe” thing.
On the topic of cooking, I bought a pareve crock pot and it saved my soup sanity. See, in my judgmental mind, Real Moms Make Soup. Hot and hearty and healthy and waiting to warm up little tummies on cold Cleveland afternoons. Except I’m not actually such a soup-making mom. So, with my crock pot, I throw in stuff in the morning, turn it on, puree it a few hours later with an immersion blender, and it’s always amazing. By “stuff” I mean butternut squash, potatoes, onions, split pea, anything. Salt and pepper etc. Go.
With regard to clean bathrooms. I don’t want to get too graphic in a public forum but we’ve got a full house around here and so, yes. I keep a spritz bottle and a rag in the cabinet under the bathroom sink. When I see something, I do something. Chop, chop. Very efficient.
Laundry is always a fun thing to whine about when you’re a mom. Fortunately we live in a high tech society where children are very savvy with pressing buttons. Therefore as soon as they hit junior high school they are sufficiently tech-aware to operate a washer and dryer. I teach them how and I am no longer responsible for “I have no socks left”; “those are my tights”; “when are you doing laundry”; and, my personal favorite: “is this pile clean or dirty.” In terms of the rest of our laundry, my other hack is I don’t sort laundry by color, which is almost sacrilegious, I know. Instead I sort it by room. I throw the whole room’s laundry in together, and wash it on cold. Then the whole pile goes back to the same room. This is a sanity saver.
For more sacrilege, check this out: no one makes beds. I don’t really know why anyone has to make a bed. It’s their own bed. I like to make my bed, so I make it. Whoever likes a made bed (and these children do exist) will make it. I have absolutely zero evidence that mothers who make their kids make beds produce adults who make beds. So why stress myself, and them, out? More time, more love, more calm.
On picky eaters: I make dinner (most of the time). When I make it, someone – or more than one someone – won’t like it. So they can make themselves a sandwich. Or crackers and cheese. Or pretzels and peanut butter. Let’s all broaden our view of what constitutes dinner. Cuz I ain’t making two.
Here’s how I handle kids who aren’t ready for school on time: I wake them up earlier. If they can get ready faster, cool. If not, they clearly need more time. Since no one wants to get woken earlier, there is a neat little incentive built in. And sometimes, we all do need more time, and that’s what calms us all down. By the same token, I have been lobbied by some law-school-bound little attorneys for a later bedtime. To which I reply: if you can get up on time and not be tired, I will change your bedtime. That usually ends that.
“All my friends get to ____” – this is time-honored hoax that emerges every few months, and there is only one way to quell it: “Produce three names.” Three parents who allow it – whatever “it” is. Typically, they don’t exist, but if they do, I do call them and I usually get a very novel side of the story. Win-win.
What about bored kids? Bored kids get jobs. Like, empty the dishwasher, clear the table, fold laundry. It’s an effective vaccine for boredom. Likewise, we abide by the Eleventh Commandment which is: If Thou Complainest That Thy Dog Smelleth, Thou is Duty-Bound to Bathe Him.
When I want my kids to help around the house, I create a sign-up sheet. First one to sign up gets to choose the most coveted jobs. Last one gets what’s left. It’s a race to the finish, folks! Similarly, when we need to go somewhere, the first one to arrive at the car gets his pick of seats. Slowpoke gets the last choice.
So that’s how I manage – hope you like! Would love to hear your best hacks! Oh, and here’s my potato kugel recipe:
7 UNPEELED POTATOES
3 onions. Please peel them.
1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp. salt
a few shakes of pepper
Please note: this is the only thing I make that has more than 2 steps so please don’t get the wrong impression. I use a food processor and do this:
- Preheat your oven to 400. Drizzle oil generously at the bottom of a pan (I could lie and say “use pyrex” but I often just use a disposable tin and it tastes great) and put it in the oven.
- Combine the eggs, oil, and seasonings in a bowl.
- Process the potatoes and onions through the shredder blade.
- Moving quickly to avoid “greyage” of shredded potatoes, dump out the shredded potato and onion into the bowl that has the other ingredients. Change the blade in your processor to the really sharp one that goes in the bottom of the machine and looks like a really violent “S”. Dump all the stuff back on top of it and process, only till blended. Now STOP! Any more and you have mush. No pressure.
- Dump mixture into your preheated pan. It’ll sizzle…. ah.
- Bake on 400 for one hour, then 350 for another. Or more. Whatever. Till crispy.
LOVE it. Shared it!
Thank you Nina!
Ruchi, this is absolutely brilliant!! Love it.
This is amazing, and making me feel better about the one child (or more) who eats cereal for dinner most nights of the week :).
So happy to validate. Honestly the inner comparing is toxic. That’s why I like to put my shortcuts out there.
You don’t need to peel apples and pears for compote, crisps and pies either. You might want to buy organic fruit and you certainly should buy organic potatoes. (Some one I trust told me after potato fields are sprayed with pesticides and other stuff to protect the potatoes, no one is allowed to walk on the fields for a couple of weeks. The stuff is that toxic. I started my kids on doing boring tasks like peeling potatoes and emptying dishwasher when they were too young for kindergarten.
I love your ideas, and coincidentally have them as some of our “rules” too, but my question is HOW exactly do you get the kids to do the chores when they complain of being bored (mine just throw all-out tantrums), or washing the dog (or even just letting him outside…again, full-blown-screaming-and-flailing utter meldown), or how do you get them to NOT hit each other and yell at each out about the seats in the car? This is my biggest problem…implementation without adding to the screaming! (and there is already SO MUCH SCREAMING)
Screaming? I don’t hear it… After awhile it sort of becomes part of the wallpaper
I am mamesh in love with this Ruchi!!!!
Thanks dear 🙂
Wow, I love this list! Please keep on going and expanding! I’m pregnant with my first, so I feel I should pin this for later use. In the meantime, any hacks for pregnant / new moms? And dads?
So exciting, bshaah tova! Be very nice to yourself and don’t think about losing weight.
LOVE the bed making rule, thats so validating!
definitely need more details on the bathroom thing – maintenance with a house full just cant be that simple…?
would love to hear your money-saving hacks too! 😛
Oh I have regular cleaning help. The bathroom thing is in between maintenance. And I’m much better at saving time than I am at saving money. Big families are expensive. There’s really no way around that.
awesome. I am ALWAYS on the lookout for a decent potato kugel recipe— I’ll try yours, thanks!
so here’s my mashed potatoes recipe— very similar! No peeling!
wash hands well.
microwave a bunch of little red potatoes. DO NOT PEEL THEM.
wait for them to cool.
plop some margarine in a bowl with them. plop some pareve milk in a bowl with them. plop in some garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
pray for the phone not to ring. Mush well—- WITH HANDS. The phone WILL ring. Answer by pressing the speaker button with your toe.
Wash hands. taste. add more salt or pepper if needed. taste again. and again. now hide them until you’re ready to warm them and serve otherwise you’ll become a potato.
i completely love your, “do what works for you and your family “ approach. i agree whole-heartedly and have always felt when my stress/anxiety level is low, so is that of the kids…and dog!
I must report that today I tried something new from this: Do laundry by room. What an idea! It does mean that the hardier stuff like jeans gets mixed with gentler stuff like my nice tops, but it made it much less onerous to get started than sorting EVERYONE’s laundry and feeling like I have to do all of it. I’ll let you know how it works out. The dryer is different–I will sort for gentle-dry vs. regular-dry vs. hang to dry.
We also don’t require bedmaking, not out of principle but out of overwhelm. I’ve been ashamed of this, but if YOU ignore this then I feel better about ignoring it.
We’re a big failure on kids’ chores. It periodically makes me really mad, at myself. Maybe with a bigger pile of kids it would be easy to do the signup and get a swarm action going.
I am kvelling.
Ok, so the best thing about this room-by-room laundry system is that I start with MY room. MY laundry is done. I find myself suddenly experiencing all the other laundry as less urgent (apart from son’s sports gear). This is good!