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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?

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: othervoice

      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

    2. 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.

      Books
      http://www.amazon.com/Frozen-Assets-H...
      http://www.amazon.com/The-Freezer-Coo...
      http://www.amazon.com/Fix-Freeze-Feas...

      Website & Articles
      http://organizedhome.com/freezer-cook...
      http://onceamonthmom.com/
      http://www.30daygourmet.com/FreezerCo...
      http://www.30daygourmet.com/FreezerCo...
      http://lifeasmom.com/2010/02/freezer-...

      1. do you guys think making two dishes is enough to cover the 5 days of the week, this includes sides as well.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Dexinthecity

          I make one. chili, chicken soup, something like that. to each their own.

          1. re: Dexinthecity

            I think it could be done but the two dishes would have to be changed weekly to avoid boredom. Changing the side dishes would help, too.

            1. re: Dexinthecity

              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.

            2. 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.

              1 Reply
              1. re: sweethooch

                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>

              2. 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.

                1. My sister has been making salads in a jar for the week, I haven't tried them yet, but she loves them. In a canning jar she layers vinaigrette, hard veggies (celery, peppers, sliced carrots; they are marinated in the dressing), a protein like cubed chicken, then shredded lettuce. You can either dump into a bowl to eat, then the lettuce is on the bottom, then protein, then the veggies, and the dressing moves down through the protein and lettuce. She makes several on Sunday night and has quick meals (lunches) for the week.
                  http://www.newlyweds-blog.com/2011/11...
                  http://foodies.blogs.gadsdentimes.com...
                  https://www.google.com/search?q=salad...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: wyogal

                    Oh wow I like that alot where can I get some jars like that

                    1. re: Dexinthecity

                      In the canning section of grocery stores, sometimes a good hardware store, a big whatever-"Mart" store.

                  2. So as far as reheating what I've made do you guys say microwave or oven or? I know sometimes reheating something in the microwave makes the food taste not so good.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Dexinthecity

                      I use the microwave whenever possible. I'm sure there are some foods that taste better reheated in the oven. I just can't think of any right now. Really... I'm not being funny. I'm sure some others will mention some.

                    2. Try buying a large dutch pot. Really helps if you want to make like 10 portions of something and freeze it in seperate containers. Good things to make are stews, curries and pasta sauces. That way you can reheat them in the microwave for 10 minutes and cook your sidedish at the same time like rice, pasta or potatoes. Keep a range of them in the freezer so you don't have to eat the same thing all week. My favourites are Hungarian goulash and Jamaican curried goat.

                      If you feel like eating something a bit lighter, try making a few pre-mixed bags of stirfry vegetables with your favourite sauce (oyster, teriaki, sweet and sour) and freezing that. When you want to eat it, fry up your favourite meat or fish and then add the stirfry pack.

                      Warms salads are great too because they are so speedy. I make one with flash fried pollock fillet, crispy chorizo, grean beans, asparagus, potatoes, lettuce, avocado and a lemon dressing.

                      I hope this helps! Apologies if I've repeated the same things from other posts!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: greedywhiskers

                        I am so stealing that flash-fried fish salad of yours!

                      2. Another thing you can do to speed things up is to prepare things the night before you are planning to make them. Last night I made these Quick Chicken Fajitas. If you take 10 minutes out the night before, you can cut the peppers (recipe says 1 pepper but I use 2 or 3) and the onion the night before and store in a ziploc. You can even use leftover chicken or steak which is sliced thin. I never serve chopped tomatoes or avocado, just salsa (I like salsa verde). As it was cooking I made some corn on the cob to go with it.

                        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                        1. I find it handy to roast a variety of vegetables for the week. Adds a nice depth of flavor and variety to quick meals. Some examples:

                          *Roast zucchini, tomato, onion reheated with feta and fresh shrimp, herbs. Serve over orzo.
                          *Any roast veggies, chicken broth (make in crock pot while you work) and your choice of sausage or left over meat for a quick hearty soup.
                          *Roast eggplant can be stacked with ricotta and served with red sauce.
                          *Components work well for composed salads.

                          Consider a pressure cooker. Cuts the time (and energy use) for many items which require long cooking. Lorna Sass has fantastic books on the subject.

                          1. I have found that I really like cooking during the week, as long as I do simple and easy meals. It's a nice stress reliever after a day at the office. The key is to plan the meals out and do the shopping over the weekend, and most importantly, to have someone else willing to do the dishes!

                            That said, it's always nice to have something already prepared in the fridge for one or two meals. I like to make pulled chicken in the crockpot on Sunday afternoons (throw boneless skinless chicken breasts, a cup of bbq sauce, and a bottle of beer in the crockpot, cook on high 4 to 5 hours or low 7 to 8, then shred with forks when done) to eat later in the week. You can use it for bbq sandwiches, taco filling, quesadillas, etc.

                            1. I like to cook either rice or pasta ahead on Sunday then reheat as needed. I also will use the cooked rice/pasta in cold salads. I will make a stir fry 1 night of the week & it will be good for 2 weekly meals or lunches. I will also bake a package of chicken breasts on Sunday - I have no issues with it being reheated.

                              1. I work 5 nights a week and most nights we're eating within 45 minutes of getting home. I make a weekly menu and grocery list to go with it on Saturday or Sunday and do the shopping one of those days. (I first look at what's in the freezer and pantry for dinner ideas and then move on from there.) Sunday I make a nice dinner for that night along with Monday's dinner and usually most of, if not all of, Tuesday's dinner. I wash lettuce if we're having salad that week (btw, I love that idea of salad in a jar! neat!!), blanch vegetables and wrap them in tea towels--they keep nicely in the vegetable bin for several days. Then while Monday's dinner is reheating (depends on what it is whether it goes in microwave, oven or stovetop), I can prep Wednesday's dinner. I usually plan one thing like a quiche, strata, tuna casserole, etc. that can make two meals and one night a week is often clean out the refrigerator night. Lunches are generally leftovers taken to the office. If we decide to go out one night or some other dinner idea pops in to my head I'm fine with that and am not militant about sticking to my weekly menu, but I do find it's a big help to keep me from wondering what I'm going to make for dinner when I'm still at the office. Plus it cuts down on multiple grocery store trips.

                                Good luck with the new job!

                                1. Have you considered a crock pot. Prep the night before, put it in the pot in the morning, and let it cook all day, and you come home to a fresh, hot meal. Plus, left-overs for lunch during the week. With dinner and lunch, you are looking at 10 meals a day just for the work week. Assuming you have no issues with left overs, you still want about 6 different hot meal options. 4 unique dinners, 1 night of left-overs, 3 lunches of left overs, and 2 days of sandwiches. That is the type of rotation I would look at, because this way if you redo some of the items the next week, they will not get boring.

                                  For the crock pot, I would do stews, curries and roasts, probably 2 items a week. I like pastas, so I would definitely do a noodle casserole or a lasagna every week. Simple pastas are easy, so just doing one for dinner is not going to be a time killer. You can roast a large chicken on the weekend and use the left overs for a salad, pasta dish, or sandwiches. I really like tri-tip, and it cooks fairly easily, so I would do one at some point during the week and use the left overs for tacos for dinner and sandwiches or a salad for lunch.

                                  Personally, with 5 days of work, I would not want to take 1 of the 2 days I have off every week and spend it working to make food, that by the end of the week I may not be all that enthusiastic about in the first place. Cooking simpler meals 3-4 nights a week would be my preference.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: ocshooter

                                    I need to get a crock pot then, crock pot or Dutch oven?

                                    1. re: Dexinthecity

                                      Both. Slowcooker while you are away from the house, dutch oven for when you want to cook larger batches, braise a larger cut of meat, on the weekends. Also, NYT bread is great, easy to prep the night before, plop into the preheated DO and bake quickly to go with whatever you've cooked all day in you slow cooker.

                                      1. re: Dexinthecity

                                        Most people have both. Each has its purposes. For your stated application, the crockpot is very nice for cooking while you are at work. Unfortunately, there are some problems with crockpot cooking. Some things degrade over 8 to 12 hours of cooking. It may still be worth it. The convenience compensates somewhat. Stocks, soups, chili's and beans do very well in a crockpot. You can do a search for crockpot recipes. If you are just cooking for a couple, you may not want to buy the 6.5 quart slow cookers that are available, you may want to go with a 4 or 4.5 quart size. Interestingly, you may want to watch the garage sales and get an older one. I mean older like early 80's. Somewhere along the line, the manufacturers started worrying about their liability if their slow cookers took too long to get to 180 degrees. Anyway the modern crockpot cooks at closer to 300°F. That sub boiling temperature on the old ones cooked better. So go get yourself a $10 version off craigslist.

                                        1. re: Dexinthecity

                                          Dutch oven for sure. I'd consider the crockpot extremely optional. A pressure cooker would be more useful than a crockpot and the electric ones now have timers and a feature to keep the cooked food in the safety zone for hours until you get home. The problem with the crockpot/slow cooker is that for the best flavor in meat and poultry you will need to sear first.
                                          Only the top-of-the-line models have a removable insert that can be used on a burner. Otherwise you've got to sear in a pan or Dutch oven, then transfer to the slow cooker. Often the latter is too airtight so there's no evaporation and rather than the nicely reduced juices of a Dutch oven braise, your cooker contains meat swimming in watered-down broth.

                                          1. re: greygarious

                                            I always feel desperate when I see people posting that you have to sear meat that goes into a crock pot. You don't, really, and insisting that you do scares people away from great convenience. I use a generic recipe that begins with putting about half a cup of flour and all other dry ingredients (curry powder, paprika, garlic powder) in a dry crock, slowing stirring in an 8-oz can of tomato sauce then whatever other liquid (water, stock, tomato juice, wine, beer) then adding the solids. If you are making a curry or African Chicken or Beef in Beer or any other sort of stewy thing, the result will be delicious. There's a mental continuum with Gourmet at one end and Convenience at the other end, and juggling a job and a commute an other household responsibilities and possibly children often finds Convenience being the favored end of the scale.

                                      2. I would like to keep these meals as healthy as possible

                                        1. I have adopted the cook on the weekend for the week strategy. Vegan meals lend really well to leftovers that can last that long and oftentimes taste better once the flavours have melded.

                                          Good ideas are soups, stews and curries...
                                          Make a batch of grain (rice, quinoa, etc) for the week
                                          Make a salad dressing that you add to greens and veggies

                                          I usually make 2-3 meals for the week.

                                          __
                                          http://tastespace.wordpress.com

                                          1. Stews, braises, curries are all good choices. No need to freeze. Put leftovers in the fridge and reheat the whole thing in the oven then refrigerate leftovers again. Do this for two weeks or more and as long as you reheat to boiling every 3 or 4 days it will stay toxin and microbe free. Do not reheat in the microwave. Things like short ribs or lamb curry or oxtail will get better every time you reheat. You can cook one big dish a week and have two different dishes in the fridge that way you don't eat the same thing every day.

                                            1. Make this: http://www.grouprecipes.com/34424/eas...

                                              It's uncooked pasta, sauce, some water and cheese (you could always add meat and/or veggies). It cooks in about an hour total - makes a 9x13 pan. You'll have dinner and a ton of easy left-overs.

                                              1. 1) Make a double or triple recipe of meatloaf then divide it up. Part becomes a meatloaf, part is used to stuff green peppers or roll up in cabbage leaves, part could be a shepherd's pie with mashed potatoes on top, part could be meatballs to go with spaghetti---just be sure you have several jars of marinara sauce on hand when you undertake this. The shepherd's pie one gets frozen until the next time you make mashed potatoes, which you make double of to accommodate the shepherd's pie. 2) If you eat ham, bake half a ham on the weekend. Cooked, it becomes ham & eggs, macaroni & cheese with ham, baked beans with ham, scalloped potatoes with ham, ham & sweet potatoes, ham stir-fried with pineapple, and a lot of sandwiches for lunch all week. Next weekend, the bone becomes split pea soup or Cuban black bean soup which will keep you going for a few dinners if you add sandwiches and a salad. Freeze the ham skin to put in the crockpot with a lot of fresh green beans next time you have them and there's your dinner vegetable for several nights. What you do, basically, is develop a chain-reaction approach to cooking. 3) Get in the habit of setting up tomorrow night's dinner when you are cleaning up from tonight's dinner. What you do NOT want to do is fall into the habit of coming home from work when everybody is tired and hungry and pissed off and then having to originate the entire idea of your dinner. Take care of your kitchen and your kitchen will take care of you: plan ahead. Also, when you first get home, before you look at the mail or sit down for a while or do anything else, do something to activate your dinner plan eg turn on the oven and put the potatoes in to bake, or put in the casserole you set up last night. That will give you an hour to change your clothes, unwind, play with the dog---while dinner is already cooking. 4) Take seriously the poster who suggested that you buy a crockpot. It's like having a maid in the kitchen.