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Old 01-12-2010, 01:20 PM   #1
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Making time to cook/Cooking efficiently

Despite my best efforts and planning, I never seem to be able to cook efficiently. I suppose I do make time to cook but when I do, that means not eating dinner until 9 pm (or later!), which doesn't work when the BF leaves for work at 6 am. I'm a busy college student living (FAR) off campus in my own apartment with said BF, which also cuts free time at home as it takes me anywhere from 30-90+ minutes to commute into school every day. I work on campus too, so when classes are in session, I could be gone from 6:30 - 7 am to 7 - 8 pm or later. Take-out and frozen dinners can be great lifesavers in a pinch (such as finals week) but I personally value cooking from scratch as it tends to save a lot of money and is more nutritious and, obviously, more often than not tastes better.
We do tend to make enough to have leftovers, but we get sick of them after a couple of days and they end up going bad in the fridge..

So I'd like to ask everyone, what are your tricks and tips for staying efficient (not just with cooking but clean up too!) on a busy schedule? When you have a slew of leftovers, do you have a way of jazzing them up to make them stretch?

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Old 01-12-2010, 01:26 PM   #2
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When you have free time, cook up a big batch of food and freeze it in meal-sized portions. I do this with chili, stews, soups, casseroles, pasta sauce, lasagna, etc.

Once you build up a nice variety of stuff in the freezer, it's easy to have some variety in meals.

In addition, find or develop meals that you can do fast. There was a thread not too long ago about what do you cook when you have no time. As much as I am not a fan of Rachel Ray's TV show, her concept of 30 minute meals is great and others have said her recipes are pretty good.
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Old 01-12-2010, 01:29 PM   #3
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I tend to freeze left-overs, so I'm not eating the same thing for days.
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Old 01-12-2010, 01:33 PM   #4
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Actually, we have a Meals in Minutes forum that could be a big help.
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Old 01-12-2010, 01:34 PM   #5
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Life will get easier, I promise You might condsider spending some time on a Saturday or Sunday preping for the coming week. Pick up a roasted chicken at the grocery, several carrots, celery,mushrooms. or any veggies you like and get a pack of perpared pastry crusts and some pot pie tin foil pans.Make and freeze them out of part of the chicken. The rest of the chicken can be diced for soup or a nice big salad, or even used on top of toasted corn tortillas and topped with black beans,lettuce,a little red onion,cheese,and a dressing of lemon juice,whisked with Dejon mustard and a little cilantro and honey. That would give several meals. Use as much disposable things as you can afford for awhile. this should cut your time some.Good luck
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Old 01-12-2010, 01:46 PM   #6
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That's a very good question!

For myself, I approach cooking three with phases in mind, and I've gotten two out of the three fixed.
First, I employ "mise en place", a French culinary doctrine of "everything in its place." For instance (just as an example): All ingredients are lined up and if possible, opened; the oven is preheated; tools are ready (measuring cups, rolling pin, scrapers, etc.); the kitchen sink is cleared and able to be used for hand washing; kitchen towels are on hand.

During cooking I consolidate trash, putting vegetable trimmings in an empty can or meat tray; I use a digital timer, not just for the oven, but even for things on the stove (cooking pasta, steaks, rice, etc.), I try to keep up with cleaning, by wiping up while waiting for something to come to a simmer. And I often hand wash utensils as I go, and then put them on a sink-side drainer (folded kitchen towel). At the end of cooking, I often have very little clean up to do in the kitchen with relation to cooking.

My downfall is after the meal... I'm tired by that point and after hand rinsing the dishes in preparation for the dishwasher, most make it into the left side of the sink and that's where they stay for a day or two.

I have definite room for improvement and look forward to the answers from others.
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Old 01-12-2010, 03:48 PM   #7
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Thanks guys :) it never dawned on me to freeze leftovers! I guess I always assumed that freezing a finished product will ruin it, which I guess it could alter the texture of some foods but would be fine for soups (and could have saved the incredible but now pitifully awful beef stew that I found in the back of my fridge last night... uh, last time I made beef stew was sometime in December... whoops.) I also had not seen the meals in minutes forum and will check that out.

Kades... I'll hold ya to that promise ;) and thanks that sounds quite good!
Selkie, my BF is always griping at me trying to get me to do just that (clean as I go), heh. Not my strongest point in the kitchen but I'm getting better at it every time I cook ;)
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:14 PM   #8
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Buy a little white board to stick to your fridge. One day, you and your BF sit down and decide what meals you are going to have during the week. Make sure you have all the ingredients you need on hand for the week or put them in your Shop for category.

If I can figure out how to show you my menu I'll post it.

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Old 01-12-2010, 07:01 PM   #9
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When you cook, plan leftovers (DH says I must buy them at the store). If you are making a beef (or pork) roast get one big enough for hot beef sandwiches one time and BBQ beef for another. Three meals with one big cooking event. Same with chicken; roasted chicken breasts work nicely in a hot pasta dish later. I think it saves time if you can always think of two or three meals you can spin out of one dinner prep time. And, of course, freeze the items that will be used later. When I cook beef or pork I slice the meat when it is cool, then wrap well and freeze. If you want BBQ some other day defrost overnight in the 'frige, then pop into a crock pot with the sauce and know dinner will be ready when you get home. That's if BF saves some for you. ( Just realized if I froze the sliced meat in the sauce/gravy I could just pop it into the crock pot!)
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:09 PM   #10
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Here's an example of my menu
Attached Files
File Type: pdf menu.pdf (24.4 KB, 89 views)
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