Cooking for the Week Ahead
Quick background: I've been a single dad for 16 years. I liked to cook in my youth, but I HAD to cook when my son came to live with me.
Over the years, I've learned to do as much cooking on the weekends,especially Sunday, as possible.
It makes it so much easier to feed us well during the week if I already have a lasagna or enchiladas ready to bake, or a curry or stew ready to heat. Make a salad, steam some green beans to go on the side, and we don't have to rely on cold cuts or frozen pizza if I don't get home until 7 pm.
Yesterday, (Saturday), I bought a pork loin, six boneless chicken breasts, and 3.5 lbs of ground round, (all of which was on sale by the way).
So yesterday I made 24 good sized Italian meatballs with half of the round and a half pound of Italian Sausage. Those are now in the freezer and can be heated for spaghetti or meatball subs on a whim. I made chili with the rest of the ground meat and will save it for another half dozen of those delicious Alamo tamales I picked up last weekend that are also slumbering peacefully in the deep freeze.
I processed the pork loin and put away three one-inch thick chops into the freezer, made three double-sized chops which I stuffed and we ate last night with a buddy; (that is, he ate *with* us, not as a side dish!). The rest I have seasoned with satay seasoning, ginger and a wee bit of curry powder and which I will be grilling for lunch this afternoon, along with...
Two of the chicken breasts which I will also cube for satay. The other four chicken breasts will be cut up for a masala which I will cook today and we will eat tomorrow.
Since we have a longstanding tradition of eating sushi on Wednesday, my dinner week looks to be Monday: Chicken Korma, Tuesday: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Wed: Sushi, Thurs: Tamales & Chili, Fri: Maybe in, maybe out and Saturday we start over again. Of course, weeknight dinners are all accompanied by the appropriate side dishes and almost always a large green salad.
So, what do YOU do to prep for the coming week?
In addition to cooking a Sunday lunch, I usually make two meals to have for warming up during the week. I work 10-12/hrs a day so being able to come home and have supper on the table in less than 30 minutes is essential. Thank goodness for my crockpot.
I can almost always use some cooked/shredded or cubed chicken, so sometimes I'll pick up some chicken on sale or if I'm feeling indulgent and happen to see a rotisserie chicken marked down (lol, these last all of MAYBE an hour after they are marked down, so when it comes to finding them timing is everything. I swear people can smell those markdown stickers), and cook/shred it to keep in the fridge for a quick casserole, tacos, sandwiches, stirfry, or salad topping (toss meat on a salad, add a sandwich and it's a meal).
Pre-baked potatoes are another one I try to keep in the fridge. Since they are already soft, they are very quick to fry (I just fry them at really high temps for a couple of minutes to crisp the outside of my chunks) for hash or a side dish.
Popkin, the potato idea is really a good one! When using my oven, I do try to economize and use the heat for *other* foods...so invariably, the sweet potatoes and white potatoes get thrown in there for use during the week. I can just grab one (or 1/2 of one!) and bring to work to combine with broccoli or whatever to have a fiber-filled and nutritious lunch...same for my son...if I choose not to have any starch with dinner, he can have that pre-baked potato in the fridge...great stuff!
**DobbieWah...have you tried cooking up a pot of dried beans on the weekends for use during the work/school/week? That's another great idea...take a pound of dried black/kidney/pinto/whatever beans...soak overnight...cook up the next day and save in small/medium bags for the week ahead.
On Saturday mornings, I go to the public market, where I, essentially buy as much produce as I can fit in my little wheelie-cart. :) Then I come home and usually spend the rest of the morning cleaning and otherwise processing the vegetables and stuffing them in the fridge. (I find that if they're not already cleaned and ready to go, it's a lot easier to "forget" them!)
Sunday morning, we sit down and plan the menu based on (A) what's in the freezer that has to get used, (B) what I got at the market that has to get used, and (C) what's on sale. We always have pizza on Friday (Tuesday, I feed the sourdough, hubby comes home and makes the crust, then it slow-ferments in the fridge until Friday) and some kind of soup on Wednesday (that's the night we take the dog across town for his swim class).
It helps that my husband is usually home by noon - and often with either fresh bread or fresh bread dough, and I'm often home by 4 - we do have the time (if not always the inclination) to do a bit of fussing, though not much.
We both eat salads every day for lunch, so about once every week or every other week we trek to the "Farmer's Market" and stock up on salad veggies. While there, I also pick up other veggies to supplement my meals for the week and process them on Sunday - today is wrinkled fresh green beans, roasted veggies and steamed broccoli.
Once a week I also bake a package of chicken breasts, hard boil some eggs, and make a batch of rice.
Luckily, the wife and I both had a schedule change recently and we're off by 4:00 during the week. Makes it great for dinner because we always cook together on the weekend and now we can do some better things during the week, too.
The weekends are still used for smoking brisket/ribs/chicken and then using that stuff throughout the week for various meals.
We normally set a list of meals and shop for ingredients. We don't really set a schedule because our tastes change so much during the week, but at some point we'll go out for dinner and another night we'll feel like cooking something off menu, so instead of shopping for 5-6 meals, we'll plan on 4-5. If there's a night we don't want to eat out and we've already burned through out meals, we'll just head to the grocery store and get something easy like salad stuff.