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New job leaves me crunched for cooking time. I need time management tips.

Hi everyone,

I recently took a new job that involves a bit of a commute. I went from having lots of time to plan and cook meals to having very little time. I know what I need to do is make better use of my freezer and free time on the weekends, but I'm not quite sure how to do this. I'm quickly falling into the take out hole and I want to stop that from happening. What are your best tips for eating well all week when you don't necessarily have as much time as you would like.

--Laura

P.S. I can't decide how I feel about leaving a crock-pot on all day when I'm not there.

P.P.S. My apologies if this has been discussed in other threads. I did a preliminary search, but couldn't find any. Links to relevant threads would be much appreciated.

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  1. Congrats on the new job. Here's a recent thread on freezer meals.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8071...

    ETA: here's a comment from a firefighter/fellow chowhound on the safety of leaving a crock-pot running all day. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7601...

    ~TDQ

    1. Frozen seafood defrosts and cooks really quickly. I'll make a large batch of a sauce, then freeze it in individual portion bags. Defrost a handful of shrimp, warm up a pre-made curry sauce, throw them in, and you're done. I also like to make patties out of ground chicken, which can be defrosted and either grilled or pan-fried quickly. I think you'll need a few weeks to make large batches of things and freeze in individual portions. Once you've got a bit of a stockpile, you'll have enough variety that things won't be redundant.

      1. One of the ways I deal with this is spend time on Sunday and cook basics, then I can throw different flavors spice and quick cooking items with them for a quick late night meal. I will make say a london broil with just salt and pepper. Then for lunch make a sandwich and for dinner slice it up and serve with or over rice, pasta or a salad with different flavorings such as balsamic vinegar or what have you. Towards the end of the week then it is usually frozen shrimp or scallops, mussels that as stated defrost quickly.

        1. I think it helps to identify what you like to eat. Is pasta a favorite or are you a meat and potatoes type? Are stews perfect or last minute seafood cooking? If you don't want to cook ahead, you can certainly shop and prep ahead. That means cleaning produce before putting it away, slicing/chopping those things you use in lots of dishes, maybe making a basic sauce (that would be a marinara for me) that you can modify throughout the week by using some plain, some with lots of herbs/olives, the rest in a cream sauce. But I go back to thinking about what you like to eat first because having a freezer full of food that doesn't really appeal to you will still turn you toward fast food.

          1. I've got pretty crazy hours too, but we manage to eat home cooked dinners almost every night. We have a chest freezer, so I'll make doubles of casseroles (enchiladas ... dare I say vegetarian "shepherds" pie), soups, tamales, etc. Lasagnas are always big enough for 3 meals, so I bake and cool the entire thing then split off the other two thirds for later dinners.

            We're members of a CSA so vegetables are abundant. Things like greens get washed and dried immediately, to be used for meals later in the week. Excess greens get frozen, as do eggplant and zucchini. Those I freeze together in equal portions to combine with onions, bell peppers, etc for a quick ratatouille in the winter.

            I buy large bags of beans and rice, cook the entire bag and freeze in 1 cup portions. Rice reheats well in the microwave on low, still in the plastic bag. Lentils cook quickly, so I don't pre-cook those. But if you have time and think about it, leaving lentils to soak in the morning will cut cooking time down to about 15-20 minutes.