Cooking for the Week
My gf and I have a busy lifestyle, well not me but soon to be as I start my new job at the end of the month. I do most of the cooking in the house, I just love cooking however once I start my new job I don't think I'll be able to cook dinner for us every night on top of that we have to make lunch for ourselves too. I've read about taking a day to cook food for the whole week. However I don't know where to start, like how do I know they will be good for a week? What kind of recipes should I follow, would like recipes that are healthy?
Are there any websites that might help me on my mission?
One thing I try to do is to cook a couple of roast on Sunday.....The usual Sunday dinner and then sandwiches, or just fix a container of meat and veggies to reheat at the office. If you make a marinara sauce on the weekend, you can use it for several meals, such as, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, raviolis, American Chop Suey. Endless possibilities. I have found frozen meatballs are a godsend during the week. They make great subs or dinners. Also Swedish meatballs, The crock pot should become your friend. (Check out several brands, some are terrible and way too salty, spicey or not spicey enough.) Start early on a Sunday morning and leave it on low for the day. Invest in some good storage containers that work well in the freezer and make up several ahead and just pull one out, before work and by luch time it's just heat and eat.
One thing I try to do is to cook a couple of roast on Sunday...
This is basically what I do....but what I roast is decided by what's on sale when I do my shopping at any given time......so the protein could be beef, pork chicken or turkey. The first roast is the meal.....Then for the week's lunch or dinners, there's enough for leftover meals, prepared frozen meals, sandwiches, salads or soups.
When roasting beef, pork or turkey....usually only one roast at a time......small beef roast or chicken....then I prepare two of each
What most books and websites promote is freezer cooking. Cooking a lot of dishes and freezing them. A lot of them promote cooking 1 day to make enough frozen meals for a month.
By approaching it on a weekly basis gives you the freedom to only freeze some of the dishes. You can, also, supplement your weekend cooking with 30 minute meals.
A pre-made soup will store for 4-5 days. You could make a salad bar in plastic containers (lettuce, chopped onions, grape tomatoes, cubed ham, etc). Soup, salad and french bread will make a very nice meal.
A casserole made big enough for 2 meals works very nicely. A braise like Swiss Steak can be made big enough for 2 meals is great.
You could do all your chopping on the weekend and store those for midweek use.
You can use a Foodsaver to store partially prepared foods and store them in plastic bags with the atmosphere sucked out. I have stored pre-blanched veggies so all I had to do was saute them quickly. I have store pealed and chopped potatoes to make mashed potatoes during the week.
You could even make mashed potatoes and store them in a bag and use it like a boiling bag.
If you don't mind the expense (cheaper than take out), steaks and fish saute up very quickly.
If you were to make a soup and a casserole big enough for 2 meals each, that would take care of 4 of the 5 nights u have to worry about.
Here are some books and links that you might enjoy.
Website & Articles
There are some dishes you can make very quickly. Spaghetti and jarred pasta sauce and some french bread and salad can be done within a few minutes. You could even suate some ground beef and add it to the sauce.
Canned soup and french bread is good especially if you stay with the high end canned soups like Progresso.
I would suggest having the above options in your pantry for back up just in case the idea of what you planned doesn't sound any good.
Swiss steak and lasagna taste even better as left overs.
Stir frys are very quick, especially if you have most of the ingredients pre-made. Keep cooked rice in the fridge, a jar of pre-made stirfry sauce in a jar in the fridge. A baggy of frozen chunks of meat can thaw in only a few minutes in the sink.
One way to speed things up when cooking ahead is to sauté a large amount of vegetables in one pan, then split it for two different types of food. I saute onion, garlic, carrots, and red pepper (all diced) until cooked through with some browning. Then split it into two pans and add Italian sausage, canned tomatoes, and Italian spices to one for a red sauce (cook and drain the sausage first to cut down on the fat, or just add it and deal with the fat later). The second usually gets lentils with Indian spices. Both simmer on the stove for however long they take, but you basically get two big pots of food (that re-heat nicely) in just a smidge more time than it would take to do one.
The same concept could be used for many soups or stews, eg start with just onions and garlic (maybe red pepper); add canned beans, sliced sausage, tomatoes, and a bag of spinach or chard in one; cubed chicken with leeks, mushrooms, some dry sherry, a little chicken broth in the other (maybe potatoes if you want your carbs included for a one-pot meal).
And of course when you’re doing a lot of veg, it makes more sense to break out the food processor than for a small amount. I would eat any of these even after 4-5 days in the fridge, although I do be sure to re-heat thoroughly if it’s on the older side.
Along the same lines, I posted about onions today in the currently active "Dad needs recipes" thread. Before I retired, I did the cooking a lot on Sunday thing, but rarely enough for a whole week because I like to retain room for spontaneity and inspiration. So often I'd reheat something for dinner, then later in the evening cook a few portions of something for the NEXT day's dinner, and subsequent meals. I make a 3 qt pot of soup just about every week and freeze in 1-2 portion containers. It only takes 20 minutes to make a fresh batch of drop biscuits to go with.
There are lots of CH threads on this. Search using several phrases relating to make-ahead or freezer meals, and expand the search to ALL YEARS>
I would try making one or two big batches of freezable stuff [spaghetti sauce, chili con carne, chicken tomato stew, beef or pork based stewed dishes, lasagne, etc] each weekend, and freeze in single meal portions. That way, after a few weeks you'll have a good variety of dishes, and can cycle through them over the course of a month or two. Some types of soup freeze well - ones based on roasted, pureed vegetables particularly. Rice freezes beautifully, as do beans - try a chickpea curry, beans and rice, etc. Filled pasta and dumplings freeze well, and are best made on the weekends - use pre-made dumpling wrappers to make ravioli or tortellini.
Then you can make a variety of stuff for keeping in the fridge for that week. Pre-wash and peel vegetables for salad (lettuce, cucumbers, celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes, green and red peppers, etc). Make some vegetable dishes, making enough of each for at least two nights [eg, roast beets, sauteed green beans and mushrooms, creamed corn, marinated mushroom salad, stir-fried spinach, roast squash, sour cabbage etc]. Make a pot of soup (without a lot of noodles, as they will absorb all the liquid over night), cook some mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes, and so on.
Doing a big roast on the weekend is a good idea. You can freeze this too - one trick is to slice your roast chicken or beef or pork, and layer the slices with a bit of gravy or stock before freezing. That way, you can microwave it to heat, and it will be juicy and flavourful.
Pasta can be boiled the night you need it, and bread can be picked up as needed. Rice cookers are great - you can start the rice as soon as you get home, and then go about making salad, setting the table and heating up other stuff, and eat as soon as its done, without having to pay attention to it. You can do things like cumin rice (add whole cumin, a bit of tumeric, salt and butter), tomato rice (substitute some tomato juice for some of the water, and add some chopped green onion and pre-cooked bacon).
You can augment your pre-cooked stuff with very fast dishes - steaming vegetables in the microwave, chilling a can of diced tomatoes to use as a side dish, silken tofu salad, pan frying sausages, etc.
So you can eat the pre-cooked meals earlier in the week, do a fast cook yourself one night when you have more time (egg based meals are great for this), and eat the frozen main courses later in the week.
There are some things that don't work well for cook-ahead. Anything deep fried is much, much better the day of. Crispy roast stuff will taste okay the next day, but loses the nice texture (eat all the chicken skin the night you roast it). I find some salads, particularly dressed ones, go slimy after a day or two. Baked potatoes taste fine the next day, but the texture is inferior. Things like scrambled eggs or pancakes need to be freshly made.