Eight weeks into practicing the Personal Chef Approach™, wife, mother, author, and premium member Lane Morris Buckman has generously updated us with her experiences, obstacles, and ultimate victory in using the

PCA™ – showing us exactly what does, and does not work for her. Oh, and did I mention this wonder woman also has a full-time job on the side?

You might remember that I blogged about my first time trying the Personal Chef Approach™.  I was facing the challenge of a wee, tiny kitchen, a freshman selection of cookware, and beginner level cooking skills, but with Julie Anne’s excellent instructions and encouragement that “if I could read, I could cook,” a little creativity with my space, and a surprising amount of sweat, I managed to cook up my first week’s worth of food.  I was elated and very proud of myself.  And tired!  I have an even greater respect for the Iron Chefs now.

I did really well for two weeks, staying organized, making sure I had studied my menu plan for the week, purchased and put away my groceries before Saturday, and had my kitchen ready for action.  Then Life ate my plans with as much gusto as I ate that flank steak of Julie Anne’s, and the rhythm dropped entirely.

Having had success already, I thought, “I’ll just throw my meals together before bed.  Then everything will be fine.”  And I learned a great new lesson:  Never, never on a Monday.  At least not after an eight hour day at the office, swimming lessons, grocery shopping, and getting the little guy to bed.  I made a lot of silly mistakes, and I ended up with half a mess, a couple of burned fingers, and one grossly undercooked chicken.

It was more of the same the next week, though I had learned my lesson about trying to Wonder Woman my way into a week’s worth of pre-cooked meals on a workday.  I emailed Julie Anne and shared my woes, and she wrote back reminding me that the PCA™ was about making your life easier, not adding stress.  There wasn’t a right or wrong way to do it.  There was just the way that would work for me.

Freed from perfectionism with her words, I got back to it.  It is work, and it does take time, but so is cooking every night.  For the last couple of weeks, I have worked the PCA™ into my schedule, and it is starting to feel natural and comfortable.  This past week it actually felt a little easy.

Here is what is working for me:

Since my son wakes up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, I am getting up with him.  When he is fed and started on his weekly allotment of Wii time, I go to the grocery store.  I have found that if I follow Julie Anne’s lead and split my grocery list into 4 groups (Aisle, Dairy, Produce, Meat–I actually use a separate page for each group) and shop in order of one heading at a time, it goes faster and I don’t forget things.  I am back home and unpacking my groceries by noon, and while I unpack, I start doing some ingredient prep.  If I am separating out meats, I go ahead and put them in their marinades before refrigerating.  I even lump my vegetables together if I know I am going to cook them in a group.  By the time I have that done, the family is hungry, so I cook a big lunch.  Last Saturday, it was cedar plank grilled salmon and fresh greens.

While lunch is on the go, I put together the ingredients for my chicken soup, which is what I eat for lunch all week.  I go ahead and prep my vegetables for roasting then, and when I pull my salmon out of the oven, I just slide in the tray of veg for roasting.  It takes just about as long to roast the veg as it does to eat lunch, and then I clean up the kitchen and spend the rest of the day with my family [checking the soup as needed, and turning it off to cool], until it is time to cook dinner.

While I make dinner, I portion out my soup to freeze and work on extra side dishes for the week.  I hate side dishes.  They are my least favorite because my family is so crosswise of what I think makes a decent dish, and I am always tempted to just steam a bag of something, or open a can of beans.  But, by the end of the day, I have all my side dishes prepped, and my lunch for the upcoming week.

I don’t think about it again until Sunday, and while I am cooking breakfast, I start cooking all my main entrees for the week.  When you get the hang of it, it’s really no more trouble to have a couple of extra pans on the stovetop, or in the oven.  This past Sunday, I was finished cooking and cooling a huge lot of Tandoori chicken legs, BBQ chicken breasts, beef skewers, and beef satay by noon.  After lunch, as part of cleaning up the kitchen, I portioned out the meals and put them away.  My refrigerator looks like a ziplock container farm!

It sounds like a lot of time in the kitchen, but it really wasn’t.  It was time I was spending in the kitchen anyway, to produce that day’s meals.  But, using Julie Anne’s PCA™ method, I am using that time more wisely and getting a lot more accomplished with less stress, and with more time left over to pretend I am a monkey astronaut chasing down Sith lords in my son’s  bedroom.

Thank you so much Lane for giving us all an example of how you can take the approach and custom tailor it to fit your own schedule. It should work for you, rather than the other way around. There are no PCA™ undercover police lurking around waiting to bust you for not cook everything on the menu all at once, or swapping out ingredients or recipes for family favorites. The Personal Chef Approach™ is there to help guide you, not enslave you. With practice we all find our own groove. Have you tried the PCA™ yet?

PS. Less than one week left to sign-up at the low introductory rate, and be entered into our t-shirt give-away drawing. All premium members will still enjoy the considerable introductory rate savings for as long as they allow their memberships to renew without interruption, but the full price of $9.95 per month or $99.50 per year goes into effect at midnight PST on Friday July 1st, 2011.

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