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Feb 20, 2014 08:10 AM

Cook on Sunday - Eat All Week?

Ok, so since I love cooking and we love good food, I noticed that I am cooking dinners at least 4 times during the week days and on the weekend. Since I also work full time and my commute is nearly an hour each way, that does not leave me with a whole lot of personal time after I cook dinners, clean up the kitchen, feed and walk the pets, etc.

So, I was looking into cooking on Sunday so it lasts at least till Wednesday. Sounds easy in theory, however, in reality I found that I am struggling with what to make and spent like 2 hours yesterday trying to come up with next week menu that won’t take all my evenings.

We are trying to eat very little gluten, so breads, muffins, pastas, etc. are a no go. Also, I do not like to freeze cooked meals – they never taste the same to me after defrosting.

I do roast a chicken on Sunday and use dark meat for lunches with a side of rice or quinoa and white meat for chicken salad (also lunches usually). I also marinate some beef on Sunday to be grilled on Tuesday. And make a large pot of some hearty soup, like borsth or beef barley, that lasts us through the week. However, I am getting really tired of chicken, soup, marinated beef routine…

What do you guys cook on Sundays that lasts you most of the week? Can you share your weekly menus? What prep work you do (chop up onions, carrots, etc) and where you use these ingredients later and finally – how do you stay organized and on track and not go out to eat?
Looking forward to your suggestions!

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  1. veg sides keep well make ahead and store in sealed container in fridge - it does not take long to grill a steak or broil piece of fish - toss a salad and there you have a meal - make your sides ahead - chop your veg ahead and choose a quick cooking protein

    meatloaf (or turkey loaf) can be repurposed cold in sandwiches (or lettuce wraps) and finally cubed as meat balls in a quick sauce (tomato, cream whatever) over rice or quinoa if you don't do pasta - nice thing about loaf is you can do any flavor way and then play with it - can be an mid eastern flavor or a curry or BBQ

    also consider the slow cooker - it is my best friend when I am busy and still want to eat a real homey meal - short prep at night after dinner - dump in crock in AM and home to a stew or braised roast

    14 Replies
    1. re: JTPhilly

      Thank you! I do have a slow cooker and use it sometimes. BUT, i am somewhat hesitant to leave it on when no one is home and for some reason, my slow cooker meals never taste that great :(

      What vegetables do you usually chop? I always have chopped, washed lettuce / arugula, but do you chop anything else?

      1. re: Allenkii

        for the slow cooker what works for me- brown and deglaze on the stove first, choose flavorful proteins - fatty beef or pork that really want to slow cook - increase your seasonings - don't include veg that gets mushy do include onion/garlic whole and remove to boost flavor- use broth/stock not water, don't try to make it do anything it is not made to do - pot roasts, pulled pork, stews, chili, beans, dal it is good at. I leave mine on, it turns to low after the set time and then I come home to a house that smells great. all I have to do is make rice add some veg and have a meal

        for prepping ahead - I don't always because I am not so organized but things like carrots can be cleaned/peeled and prepared - beets can be cooked/peeled sliced and keep. you can prep most of your veg except cucumber or tomatoes, yuck those need to be sliced on serving.

        1. re: JTPhilly

          Do you think I can brown, season and put meat in slow cooker and keep it the fridge for 3 days or so BEFORE cooking? So, brown beef roast, season, throw onions, root veggies etc on Sunday night and on Wednesday morning add some liquid and put in slow cooker? Do you think that will be safe?
          You are right – cucumbers and tomatoes need to be cut right before eating, but even carrots – I thought they will turn dark if I peel and chop ahead of time? So far, I can only imagine preparing lettuce and maybe celery ahead of time, oh and herbs

          1. re: Allenkii

            that scares me a little - with the temp changes and still raw meat - think I would in that case do the whole braise ahead of time and then just heat it up when you want to eat it - most braised meat dishes reheat well.

            1. re: JTPhilly

              Yes, that's what I thought too. I sometimes prepare Sunday night for Monday morning slow cooker but never tried to do it several days in advance...I know stews and slow cooked dishes reheat well, but then once again, I cook Sunday and by Wednesday night I need to cook again :( I was looking for ideas of what I can prep on Sunday to be cooked on Wednesday

              1. re: Allenkii

                most meats wont sit without changing that long. stir fry mix to cook with eggs? fish in freezer defrosted that day?

            2. re: Allenkii

              why would you prepare lettuce ahead of time? a chop or two, and a couple of rinses in the shower spinner takes 2 minutes, and freshly rinsed greens taste better to me and need little dressing more then a bit of rice wine or balsamic vinegar or lemon, and a fresh crack of salt and pepper. There's really no reason for all that oil in most dressings. (although I love some oil or fat laden dressings now and then)

              1. re: Bellachefa

                I find if I wash, chop and dry lettuce in the spinner it keeps wonderfully for 5 days or so. I do it to make my week night meals preps shorter. So, for example, now it takes me only 2 minutes to make salad (add tomatoes, cucumber, onion and dressing) instead of 10. I can use 8 minutes for a shower or to unload a dishwasher. I really do not have lots of free time once I get home and I really want to have some time to read a book :)

                1. re: Allenkii

                  I agree on pre-washing the lettuce. I think it keeps beautifully washed and layered in zip locks with a paper towel or two.
                  Sometimes lugging out the salad spinner midweek is enough fore to say eff the salad!
                  -I have an 8 month old so I'm irrational at times, admittedly. Seriously though, ten minutes is ten minutes. I'm watching this thread for tips to make my week nights less stressed.

                  1. re: rabaja

                    I buy Romaine lettuce hearts and wash and chop ahead of time. It keeps well.

                2. re: Bellachefa

                  you are absolutely right... but sometimes when I am throwing together dinner after a long day at work - and need to walk dogs, feed cat, get lunch together, respond to some emails, pay a few bills etc I look at that head of lettuce and those carrots and peppers and think "UGH, I really *should* make a salad" if it is all prepped - like a salad bar - and I can just assemble - it is more likely salad is going to be part of dinner and not just wilting in the fridge - is it the best way?- no, but its one less dirty cutting board - one less dirty knife and one less salad spinner taking up space on my drain board. Sometimes the accumulation of small tasks adds up. Prep once and several salads can save much time especially if you are only cooking for 2

                  1. re: JTPhilly

                    Yes, exactly! I think this weekend I will also pre-wash my cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. Small tasks do add up and they add up quickly! So do unhealthy take outs and lunches if I don't feel like cooking...We only eat "healthy" take-outs - sushi, soups, etc, but they are still not the best ingredients and they are pricy as well... So, I am trying to get more organized. I find menu planning is a 1st step, but things like pre washing, pre cutting etc will be a huge help as well!

            3. re: Allenkii

              I noticed the other day that Trader Joe was selling bags of chopped Brussels sprouts, which I had never seen before. Small enough to stir-fry. Intriguing. Maybe mix them with TJ's frozen little baby Pearl Onions.

              1. re: Querencia

                I love those shredded brussel sprouts!! I've used them just sauteed, added to soups, and for this amazing salad- just make sure to really massage the dressing into the kale and shredded sprouts since the recipe doesn't say so:

                That salad is better the next day and keeps great for several!

          2. also.. while eliminating pasta removes many quick dinner options - adding Asian noodles like Rice or Udon brings a whole new array of fast/tasty/healthful dishes into play if you did some prep ahead will go even faster

            1. Japanese curry or stew can last 3 days and can be used with whatever grain or gluten free noodle you want. Nabe lasts us at least two dinners and can add eggs and gluten free noodles to change it up the second day

              1 Reply
              1. re: TeRReT

                I had Japanese curry for dinner yesterday and for lunch today with coconut rice :)

              2. I rarely cook during week nights and mainly "assemble".

                Like you I prepare components or dishes that last a couple of meals. Roast vegetables, curries, lentils or other grains that can be combined with other components for sides or mains.

                I stock proteins that are quick to prepare: fish, seafood (defrost in AM), tofu, eggs, thin cuts of meat.

                I use techniques that don't take a lot of time: stir fry; blanching (greens), steam fish and vegetables in microwave.

                6 Replies
                1. re: jadec

                  Lentils is something I cook quite often on a weekend and they last 2-3 days after until we get sick of them :)

                  Do you ever chop celery, onions, carrots on the weekend? Do they last ok?

                  What kind of vegetables do you roast? I can only think of potatoes, squashes, beats...anything else i can roast ahead of time?

                  I also try and stock protein that's fast to prepare, but I cannot lie - I get tired of same thing, even if that same thing is a steak....I am trying to have menus where I do not repeat a meal more than once in 3-4 weeks...

                  1. re: Allenkii

                    Roast: turnips, cassava, plantain, sweet potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower, tomato, Brussels sprouts, onions, shallots.

                    I recommend prepping the veg ahead of time and then doing a version of the ATK (or CC?) one-pan chicken dinner. They used a cut-up chicken, sans wings. I prefer all thighs but the main thing is the pieces need to be the same size. Cut carrots and potatoes into roughly 1-1.5" chunks. Halve Brussels sprouts if they are large. Ditto shallots (or cut small onions into wedges). Mix them gently with oil, S&P, your choice of dry herbs/spices. You can mix the chicken with the same, or brush the skin with melted butter and season on top. Arrange everything on a sheet pan - if using Brussels sprouts and chicken breasts, put those at the center of the pan to shield them from the most intense heat. Skin side up for the chicken. Put the dark meat chicken and the firmest vegetables toward the edges of the pan. 450F for 40-45 minutes. No basting, no turning. Dinner's ready - and it's triffic! I always manage to go overboard on the veg and having to do a second pan but roast veg are great for later in the week. I've done the same thing with pork roast, including firm apples, quartered.

                    You can make a large amount of rice that will be good for at least 4 days in the fridge, and use it for stir-frying.

                    You say you don't like reheated frozen meals. I suspect you're freezing the wrong things. Reheated frozen meat loaf, chili, soups, and stews (without potato - cook those fresh) are indistinguishable from just made. Granted, you don't want these month in, month out, but they are good default frozen meals.

                    1. re: Allenkii

                      It's only 2 of us, but I cook a whole pound of lentils or beans at once. When we get tired of it, after a couple of days, into a Ziplock freezer bag they go & get frozen for a heat 'n eat meal somewhere down the road. Really saves on time, and gives us a decent meal when those Desperation Times hit, aka, "what on earth can we eat tonight?"

                      Same for rice--cook lots more than you need, then portion out bags to freeze for zapping later on.

                      1. re: pine time

                        i'm lucky that there is a Trader Joe's near me and they sell pre-prepared frozen rice.
                        you just pour out exactly the amount you need and nuke it.
                        it always comes out perfectly, and there is NO waste whatsoever.
                        they sell a few varieties of this stuff: brown organic, jasmine, and, i believe some sort of spanish version.
                        the brown rice has become a staple in my home.

                      2. re: Allenkii

                        Beets, turnips, celeriac, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, onions, celery, leeks.

                        1. re: Allenkii

                          Carrots and celery keep pretty well when submerged in water. - Quite often I will put a few "prepared sticks" of each in a glass of water in the fridge - good for both snacking and having ready for my next salad.
                          I try to avoid doing onions ahead of time.

                      3. I can absolutely relate to your commute/life's demands! I tend to cook for two nights at a time so that I don't get sick of the main ingredient.

                        I don't do a chicken every week; when I do, I use it as you suggest (as roast chicken, as chicken salad, to make stock for future use etc).

                        Sometimes I'll cook up a big batch of ground beef and use it in a couple of different ways--a shepherd's pie, in burritos, etc

                        I will also cook and clean a bunch of shrimp. I'll use shrimp one night over wilted greens for a shrimp salad, and the next night in a stirfry.

                        If I do a London broil, I'll use leftovers on a steak salad.

                        I'm a big fan of eggs for supper; any leftover veggies/meat bits get thrown into omelets/frittata.

                        On Sunday, I always make at least 6-8 hardboiled eggs for grab-n-go.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: pinehurst

                          My menu for next week (which only took me like 2 hours to come up with yesterday lol) includes: 10 hardboiled eggs (boil on Sunday to use for breakfasts, in salads and as a snack), Shepard pie (large one – make on Sunday so it lasts to Monday night as well), hearty filling soup, hummus all to be made on Sunday. It’s a good idea though to cook up more ground beef and use it in something else. Thank you
                          When you cook shrimp – do you not reheat it after? I have never left cooked shrimps for next day

                          1. re: Allenkii

                            Hi Allenkii! About the shrimp-- I treat it like meat. I'll cook a couple of pounds, say...and if it's winter, I'll use some that night warm over a wilted salad, and the next night in a stirfry or over spaghetti squash. But if it's summer, the next night I'll use it cold, in homemade cocktail sauce, or chopped into a shrimp salad. No worries about cooked shrimps the next day.

                            1. re: pinehurst

                              Thank you - I will have to try that. So far, all leftover shrimps made my dog VERY happy ;) He will be sad. lol. Usually, I buy jumbo shrimps and my husband stir fries them with butter and garlic or some jalapeno peppers and serves over rice and salad. But I will definitely try using shrimps like you do. OH! One of my favorite shrimp recipes for summer is saviche :)

                              1. re: Allenkii

                                I would definitely not cook the shrimp ahead of time. If you've cooked them you know they take no time to cook. Have them cleaned and ready to cook in whatever you want - simple.

                                1. re: Jeanne

                                  Most weeks I have some leftover shrimp in the fridge...I live at the is a great light summer supper. Or a grab a snack. Tonight after pool time we had pimento cheese and crackers, some melon and leftover steamed shrimp!

                            2. re: Allenkii

                              imho, shrimp does not do well as a re-heated ingredient:
                              the texture changes, the smell changes.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                I've never had a problem reheating if the original critters were fresh, raw shrimp (frozen is another story)...I'll give credit to the fish market!

                                About shrimp---just found this thread on what to do with cooked shrimp leftovers.