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So many times people ask me “how do you do it?” There’s lots of answers — and not answers — to that question. Most the time I don’t feel like I “do it” — I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. All I’ve got to do is hold on. Life does the rest.

But that aside — a large part of how “it” all works is figuring out time cuts — ways to maximize time for other things. I don’t particularly like cooking (at all — it reminds me of chem lab…which I also didn’t like…at all…which is why I’m not a doctor, but that’s a story for another time), but everyone’s got to eat. So I’ve developed some “recipes” that work well, cost little, and don’t require me to hover over the stove uninterrupted (apparently that’s why soup burns).

For some of you, this is going to read like a comedy routine. Feel free to laugh — laughing is one of my highest values! For others of you, this is going to be the start of a whole new life — you’ll wonder where you got all that time!!

Okay, so here it goes. And as I think of more, I’ll add them to my blog.

1. Lentil Soup. 2-3 cans of lentil soup (I prefer the light version, and less expensive options are at Wal-Mart or Target when they’re on sale). Add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a pot, throw in a chopped onion, heat til onions are soft-ish, then add cans of soup. Once it’s warm, serve with some crumbled feta on top.
A couple slices of toast with butter go well with it, too, as do Pillsbury frozen rolls or their refrigerated flaky biscuits (the BEST)! This is Niki’s favorite.

2. Chicken Noodle Soup. Couple cans of good old fashioned chicken noodle soup (I far prefer the generic versions with thin noodles) and toast goes a long way. This is the kids’ favorite.

3. Campbells Hearty Soup and Rice. Pick your favorite Hearty soup flavor and serve over a pile of white rice. Amazing.

4. Macaroni ‘n Cheese. Kraft Mac N Cheese with a can of tuna fish mixed in. Classic. If I ever become super rich and can afford a chef, this will still be a staple for me.

5. Costco Italian Sausage Lasagna. Frozen, put it in the oven and let it cook. Has a little bit of a spice kick to it, but it makes it better than your average lasagna and the kids don’t mind. Set the oven timer and you can’t mess it up! Add a Pillsbury biscuit and can of green beans, and voile!

6. Chicken Pot Pie. A universal Tshibaka family favorite. Marie Callender’s makes these individual pot pies that you can heat up in the microwave. The kids love them. And so do I. I get them at Costco. I prefer the giant Costco-made pot pie that they offer seasonally in the fall. But the kids don’t… And it frustrates me that it’s only offered in the fall.

7. Pumpkin Pancakes. HANDS DOWN the best pancake mix is Hungry Jack. Just add water! And the pancakes taste sweeter than other batters. I just love them. Add a can of pumpkin pie filling and they taste amazing. This is a Family Day (what we call our Sabbath) tradition and favorite. But this just in: I discovered Krusteaz mix for pumpkin pancakes — even easier and better than the Hungry Jack + pumpkin pie filling ones. If I could buy a pantry full of these mixes, I would!

8. Sides. Gotta have the fruit and veggies sides in order to round out the meals. Some of our favorites–canned green beans, canned corn, unsweetened applesauce. Also, totally love the beer bread mix at Target (their brand). And the Penguin cornbread mix at Costco. We keep a supply of Clementines and Gala apples in the fridge for easy snacking. Oh and Kettle Corn popcorn or light popcorn.

9. Desserts. Oh goodness we’re sweet eaters! Some secrets–Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies. Anyone who has stayed with us has probably been offered fresh baked cookies. They’re a regular tradition — because EVERY day is special, right? Pillsbury, all the way baby. And Kirkland vanilla ice cream. And Trader Joe’s mini oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Amazing. Hot chocolate and marshmallows goes a long way, too.

10. Have Guests? Keep a container of hummus and pita chips or salsa and Tostitos with lime (yum!) on hand. Salsa has a much longer refrigerator life than hummus. Gotta love mixed nuts, too, and mango juice with a splash of ginger ale for a fun drink. Mango juice lasts longest in the box–you can get it in the international section.