1. Plan in advance (time efficiency.) We both work, and on some days, we both work at the same time and at the same place. On this particular day, we were both teaching classes. Before we left for work, I took a few minutes to get a little water boiling in two pots, and I dumped a frozen pound of chard stems in one pot and a frozen pound of chard leaves in another. I let them simmer just until hot, then turned the heat off and let it sit, covered, on the stove until we got home hours later. I'm sure I spent less than five minutes on this, as I did other things in the kitchen to get ready for work.
Was I worried about food safety? No. These two pots had just boiled, and the lid was left on. I started with clean, organic produce that:
2. I grew myself in my garden (money saving.) That is the best way to get cheap organic produce, but not everyone has the land to do so. Don't give up on the idea, though. When I was a kid, my folks owned a small house in a tightly packed suburban neighborhood north of Boston, and there was not enough sunlight for enough hours to effectively grow even a tiny garden in that teensy yard. So they teamed up with an older gentleman a town over and we spent a few hours once a week at his house, working alongside him in his huge garden that was now a bit much for him. My two siblings and I were rather young during these years, and we were not with a sitter or in daycare. We were in that garden, or playing nearby on the grass.
I strongly recommend this. You will learn how to grow stuff much more successfully with the help of an older, experienced local gardener. I discovered this when we lived in an apartment and had a small garden....and an older Sicilian neighbor named Santa Malta. She was so tactful in offering suggestions.... she'd often start with, "I was reading an article in the paper on...." There was no article in the paper. She was just trying to help me avoid gardening disasters but in a way that was oh, so gentle. I miss her.
Back to the casserole....while the chard was simmering, I put a hunk of raw corned beef brined myself, recipe here, from our side of beef....saved hundreds of grocery dollars!) in a crock pot and turned it on high and left it for several hours while we taught our classes. I also put a casserole dish on the counter, ready and waiting to be filled. Here is what I did when I got home, in just a few minutes: