Cook Once, Eat Many Times

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I have a confession to make: I am a meal planning flunky.  Yes, meal planning saves you money and yet I can’t make it work for me.  I feel meal planning doesn’t work for me because I need more flexibility in my schedule.  It is also the case that sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking dinner.  To get around this, I take advantage of the days I am feeling inspired to cook by cooking in batch and by prepping ingredient in advance.

When I cook in batch instead of making a meal big enough for 4 servings I double it and freeze the second half.  This way my husband can have some to take to work for lunch and I can have meals in the freezer for those nights when the inspiration to cook is not there.  I started doing batch cooking when I worked outside the home.  The last thing I wanted to do after work was cook dinner.  So I would dedicate Saturdays or Sundays to cooking lots of meals for the week.

Another tip to help with my meal planning mental block is to keep prepped ingredients in the freezer.  For example, I brown three pounds of ground beef and freeze in three separate storage bags.  I can use them later to make sloppy joes, spaghetti meat sauce or Shepperd’s pie in a snap.  I do the same with cooked chicken, I either shred it or cube it and keep it to make Spanish rice, chicken tortilla soup or chicken quesadillas among other things.  This summer I diced a lot of the onions I grew in my garden and froze them.  Now I don’t  have to worry about dicing onions every time I cook because all I have to do is take out a bit of the frozen onions and thaw in the micro for 25 seconds before I add them to the pan.

So, there you have it, meal planning and I don’t mix.  But I am working on it and finding shortcuts to help at dinner time.  Tomorrow, I will be tuning to Momadvice Simplified.  Amy wil be talking to Robin Miller from the Food Network and they will be giving tips to help simplify our time in the kitchen.    This podcast will air at 2Pm EST/ 1PM EST right before our radio show.  So if you think you may need some help in this area tune in and then just switch over to listening to Money4Moms where we will be giving you tips to improve your customer service experience.

What are some of your tips to get through dinner time?

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Comments

  • The Frugal House

    One of my favorite things to make in advance is meatloaf. I make 2 to 4 loafs at a time and then freeze them – they make such great “quick meals” alongside baked potatoes and frozen veggies. I blogged about it the post HERE: http://thefrugalhouse.blogspot.com/2008/12/grocery-roundup-randalls.html

    (Go there to get a non-yucky meatloaf recipe!)

  • I am horrible at meal planning also. I leave the house early in the morning and alot of the times I’m too tired when I get home to think of cooking. My dh works late several nights a week so I end up just fixing something for the kids. I do however have cooked hamburger meat in the freezer that I can grab and finish a meal. I am hoping to come up with a simple menu for the month and make sure I have most of the items on hand. This should help me out with my meal planning.

  • I like meal planning, but I think it has to be scaled to your lifestyle. Last year, I was working two jobs, and if I didn’t plan out my week of lunches and dinners in advance, I’d end up in a drive-through. I did a lot of cooking in advance, like you – I’m a big fan of freezing ready-to-eat meals/ingredients.

    Now I work at home full time, so I tend to plan my meals on a day-to-day basis. I find that planning out the whole week is just too restrictive now – I like planning according to what leftovers/ingredients need to be used up first. I have a general scenario in mind when I hit the stores, but not planning it to a T works much better for me with my current schedule.
    One thing that helps me a lot when I’m planning my day’s meals is Google, actually! If I have ingredients that need to be used, I do a quick search for recipes using what I have on hand – websites like http://www.recipematcher.com/ are a help also.

    • Hi Beeb I am checking that recipe matcher website right now. I need to jump into the google calendar bandwagon. I hear lots of people like it.

      Mercedes

  • Phil Jones

    Ha. Seems like a common ailment. Planning meals ahead is nice for convenience and having some pre-made meals in the freezer is always good. For just something for the next day I love leftovers, but sometimes forget it’s in the fridge and make something else. I also hate waste but sometimes the forgetting leads to wasting. I’ll have to organize that one a bit better.

  • Funny, I wrote a very similar post today! I love the idea about preparing extra meat or veg and freezing it. Good one.

  • One of my favorite things to do is buy a whole chicken when they are on sale and freeze them. When I roast one we have chicken salad and chicken pot pie with the leftovers. I used to hate leftovers until I became a full-time mom…now I can’t believe how much I’ve wasted in the past!!

    • Hi Jen, I used to be the same way, wasting a lot of leftovers but have gotten a lot better since becoming a SAHM, lol! I guess it makes us rethink our wasting ways.

  • I love my crockpot, that’s about as far as I go pre making any meals lol!

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  • Kim

    Repetition, repetition, repetition…that is how I plan my meals. I follow the same rules you do for ground beef and chicken – have a lot of pre-cooked in my freezer. Since my husband and I both lost our jobs in August, we have cut back on a lot of the great meats we used to buy (thank goodness I am a stockpiler – only 25 more boxes of Hamburger Helper remaining!!!)

    So back to repetition…my family has swimming lessons on Mondays: soup night – good ole Campbell’s – my kids love tomato soup – or one of the pre-packaged Bear Creek type soups where I can just add the chicken. Tuesday – some sort of hamburger meal – Hamburger Helper, tacos, goulasch, etc. Wednesday’s – breakfast night – pancakes, waffles, eggs, etc. Thursday-Saturday – I make meals based on the specials from Double Coupons at Pick N Save on Wednesdays. If Brisket is at a good price, I buy it and plan that as one of the night’s meals (and then leftovers), same with pork chops or chicken. Sundays – ham and rolls. Things will change once we have found jobs – but this is how I am able to keep our shopping low and use the stock-piles I already have.

    If you have a Dinner by Design near you, their cookbook is all about freezing meals in advance to use at a later date. I base a lot of my Thurs-Sat meals from PnS specials on the recipes in this book.

  • Steph

    One of the things that I do when I make a soup is to fill a muffin pan with the leftovers. I freeze the muffin pan, take it out the next day, and put enough “soup muffins” for one portion in a small freezer bag. That way, I can have soup as a side or a meal when ever I need a quick warm up.

  • This week I’m doing a week on freezing at my blog. I’ll also be having a giveaway to win Don’t Panic It’s in the Freezer – an awesome recipe book about how to make a meal ahead and then freeze it. I’m pumped and would love it if you’d join me in my Week of Freezing!

    • I would love that and will be checking it out Clair.

      mercedes

  • Rachel R.

    It sounds as though I basically cook like you do. 🙂

    I do make menu plans, but then I just pick whatever off the month’s list looks good that night; I can’t stick to a day-by-day menu. But then I at least know that if it’s on that list, I have the ingredients for it available. 🙂