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Old 10-21-2014, 07:13 PM   #1
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Cook once per Week? Month?

Okay, so we have had fish sandwiches and tater tots twice this week. I love fish sandwiches. I do! However, I am thinking that I need healthier meals than what is landing on the table some days.

I've seen places like "Let's Dish" that allows you to make meals that can freeze/keep until you cook them. I've also seen some websites that say they have freeze-ahead meals. (I even saw one website that says you can make a week's worth of meals in an hour - but the recipe sample looked really lacking.)

I have a wonderful cookbook that allows me to put a meal on the table in 15 minutes and they are good. Truthfully, my rump is dragging today after yet another 12 hour workday that the mere thought of washing a dish makes me want to cry.

I want some ideas that are healthy and delicious, and can be ready to be tossed in an oven or microwave...or even on a stove without too much effort on my part when I have weeks such as this one. Things that could be made up on a weekend and enjoyed through the week (or month) to come.

My question is does anyone cook for a day on the weekend or freeze meals for later dates? If so, what are your ideas?
Cooking challenge, anyone? How about the "How to cook for an hour and eat all week when you realize that you have the career you always wanted and now just want a healthy, yummy meal and a paycheck...and mebbe a blanket" challenge?

Thanks for any ideas!
~Kathleen
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Old 10-21-2014, 07:50 PM   #2
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Kathleen, BJ's and Costco both sell those aluminum frozen food trays. (Think Swanson Dinners) I used to buy them when the kids were small and any leftovers I would make up a tray and pile the food high in them. Enough as if they were going to go back for seconds. A sheet of heavy foil over the tray, mark with a black marker, and into the freezer. I had one side of the freezer set aside just for them. They stacked real nice. I always kept a couple of jars of gravy in the pantry in case there wasn't enough left over.

Then if like you, I didn't feel like cooking, I let the kids take their pick out of what was in the freezer. I used to make baked beans every Saturday. While they were in the oven, I was going to spend most of the day in the kitchen anyway, so I would cook up a boiled dinner. One of the family's favorite. Slice the meat off the bone, lay out the trays and fill them up. Saturday was always cooking and baking day. The trays in the freezer, time to make cookies for the big cookie jar. The baked goods never lasted as long as I had envisioned. But I have never been in favor of too many sweets in the house.

But Saturday was always when I made up a lot of the food for the week. Sure does save time. Sunday was time to make the "Sunday Gravy" for whatever pasta dish we were going to have. Meatballs were made on Saturday and popped into the oven with the beans. Then come Sunday, just drop them into the gravy. Any leftover gravy was poured over leftover pasta and into the freezer. Any time I cooked, I always made enough food, even if for just one tray. It does take some discipline, but after a while you get into a routine and it works out just great.
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Old 10-21-2014, 07:55 PM   #3
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Thanks, Addie. Discipline, I have. Time is the issue...so a cooking time on the weekend would work well!
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Old 10-21-2014, 08:27 PM   #4
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If you're only cooking on the weekends, it will take time to build a stockpile of dishes to eat during the week. Meals I cook in quantity and freeze in meal-sized portions include the standards. Pasta sauce with meatballs and sausages, soups, stews, chili, meatloaf, lasagna, pizza sauce and dough (not together), bean dishes such as Cuban black beans and red beans to go over rice.

When I lived alone between the exorcism of my ex and meeting my SO, I managed to have dinner on the table 30 minutes after I walked into the kitchen most nights after work. It required some planning in freezing meal-sized amounts of meats that could be defrosted overnight in the fridge and quickly cooked in a skillet or oven. Quick starches like egg noodles, potatoes or rice and frozen or fresh veggies. You can freeze cooked rice including pilaf.
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Old 10-21-2014, 08:35 PM   #5
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I try to go with a once a week feast that uses the leftovers in some other meals during the week. I do it to save money, it also saves time. An example would be roast chickens with the trimming for a Sunday dinner and leftover chicken to make white chili, chicken taco's, chicken salad, Cobb salad, chicken with gravy over something, chicken soup and on and on. If you cook one thing and then use it 3 or 4 times through the week you just need to have a couple of quick fillers on the odd nights. Things like breakfast for dinner, grilled cheese and tomato soup, cheeseburgers, hotdogs, etc... I layout a rough plan and freeze some of the leftovers if they won't be used within three days.

When I was working I often cooked tomorrow nights dinner while I was cleaning up the kitchen from tonight's dinner. I let things cook while I was watching the tube, doing laundry, etc... That works great with things that require long cooking and not much attention. Things like the Sunday gravy that Addie mentioned or a pot of soup beans, a meatloaf or pot roast.

Good luck!
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Old 10-21-2014, 08:49 PM   #6
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Costco (or others') rotisserie chickens can make a couple of meals. Roast chicken one night followed by tacos or enchiladas another night. Bones to make a stock for soup another night.
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Old 10-21-2014, 09:15 PM   #7
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I cook everyday, three times a day, everyday!
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Old 10-21-2014, 09:38 PM   #8
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@ Andy - I cook on weeknights when I'm not pulling 12 to 16 hour days. On weeks like this one, I just want to pop something in the oven. Lasagna, chili, meatloaf, etc. are awesome ideas. I'd love your TnT recipe for the Cuban rice with beans.

@ Aunt Bea - You and I are on the same page with the using one item to make others. I could use the baked chicken and make up some chicken enchiladas, which I bet would freeze up nicely. Add a salad and dinner is done. I love chicken and gravy, but never think to make it. Thank you!

@ K-girl - Wow. Perhaps I can make packets of food to cook on the engine of the car as I drive to work come morning.
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Old 10-21-2014, 10:04 PM   #9
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Kathleen, I understand your frustration, fatigue and dilemma. When I was a young mother, raising 8 children, and holding down more than one job most of the time, cooking might have become a real problem.

Yes, I did use my weekends to prepare multiples of some of the family's favorite dishes, particularly ones that froze well.

As time went on and I discovered that when I was cooking any time, I could make more than one quantity of the dish I was preparing for that night's meal. After all, I was already chopping and browning, etc. for the one meal, why not double the ingredients and have another day's meal completed, too.

I still do this even though it's only the two of us. Currently, there are probably a couple of weeks' of evening meals in the freezer. They're nice to to have on days when good old "Arthur" controls my day or we've been out all day running errands, doctors' appointments, etc.

One old cookbook I relied on "back in the day" was one entitled Make It Now, Bake It Later. It is falling apart it was used so much. I checked a book site I like, thriftbooks.com, and discovered there have been many subsequent publications of the book, with more recipes and updating them. The version I have wasn't available but, if you want a shot in the dark, you could order one of the newer editions. All the more recent editions are very inexpensive and the site ships for free regardless of what is purchased.

Just hang in there and try not to be overly stressed. You'll get there.
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Old 10-21-2014, 10:04 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathleen View Post
... I'd love your TnT recipe for the Cuban rice with beans...

Here it is. I hope you like it.

http://www.discusscooking.com/forums...ml#post1394409
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Old 10-21-2014, 10:30 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Kaneohegirlinaz View Post
I cook everyday, three times a day, everyday!
Full time jobs make that kind of cooking impossible.
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:19 AM   #12
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True PF, and it sounds like Kathleen is working 1 1/2 "jobs" per day right now. ~ Heck, we don't even eat three meals a day!

*********************

Kathleen, on the nights you do have time to prepare one meal, just make sure you make (at least) double. If it's something like mac & cheese, I'll split the prepped food between two or three casseroles, then I decide if I want to bake all 3 (goes quicker for a fast meal later) or just that night's dish while freezing the unbaked two. Freeze the Bonus Babies for another meal.

Going with Aunt Bea's idea of cooking more protein to make different meals later, I'll roast an entire boneless pork loin when they're on sale (sometimes as low as $1.99 a pound), have roasted pork for dinner plus save a chunk for another meat-and-gravy night. The rest is thin-sliced and heated in BBQ sauce for sandwiches, or cut into strips for something like pork lo mein or to add to an Asian-inspired soup, or to use on something like a Cuban sandwich.

Good luck, relax. And, on the really tough nights...cereal.
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:44 AM   #13
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I would cook up a couple pounds of hamburger with onions, garlic and salt. Divide into 4 meal portions. With this you can go Italian, Mexican, Asian, etc. selecting an appropriate starch and veg for each meal.
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:08 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathleen View Post
Okay, so we have had fish sandwiches and tater tots twice this week. I love fish sandwiches. I do! However, I am thinking that I need healthier meals than what is landing on the table some days.

I've seen places like "Let's Dish" that allows you to make meals that can freeze/keep until you cook them. I've also seen some websites that say they have freeze-ahead meals. (I even saw one website that says you can make a week's worth of meals in an hour - but the recipe sample looked really lacking.)

I have a wonderful cookbook that allows me to put a meal on the table in 15 minutes and they are good. Truthfully, my rump is dragging today after yet another 12 hour workday that the mere thought of washing a dish makes me want to cry.

I want some ideas that are healthy and delicious, and can be ready to be tossed in an oven or microwave...or even on a stove without too much effort on my part when I have weeks such as this one. Things that could be made up on a weekend and enjoyed through the week (or month) to come.

My question is does anyone cook for a day on the weekend or freeze meals for later dates? If so, what are your ideas? Cooking challenge, anyone? How about the "How to cook for an hour and eat all week when you realize that you have the career you always wanted and now just want a healthy, yummy meal and a paycheck...and mebbe a blanket" challenge?

Thanks for any ideas!
~Kathleen
I live alone and making one portion of stew or mac'n cheese or a chicken pot pie is a no-no every day is a waste of time and fuel, so I make a beef casserole or lasagne to divide into portions or several chicken and mushroom pies (just as examples) and freeze what I don't want on the day of making. Sometimes I spend a day batch cooking or I just make a casserole when I fancy it on the day.

The thing about this sort of cooking and freezing is to remember that the freezer isn't a morgue. The dishes aren't corpses to be stored until our grandchildren get too old to cook their own meals!

Some of the things I cook and freeze are soup, lasagne and other baked pasta dishes, casseroles (the long cook meat and veg ones not the tuna casserole type), pot pies, cottage and shepherd's pies, etc., but there are lots of other "ethnic" recipes. I tend not to freeze very highly spiced dishes such as curry or chilli for longer than a few days as the flavours seem to go a bit dull. If I make anything with a cooked filling and a pastry topping I put the cooled, cooked filling in the pot, cover it with the raw pastry and freeze, cooking it off when ready to eat it.
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Old 10-22-2014, 08:38 AM   #15
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Cook once per Week? Month?

Some great ideas here! When you work full-time plus, it's impossible to cook 3 scratch meals a day. Even though it's just the two of us, I tend to go big, and freeze portions. Chili, soups (split pea, chicken, tomato, mushroom, wild rice). This is a good one and makes a lot and freezes very well: http://www.topsecretrecipes.com/Oliv...at-Recipe.html). I make taco meat and pizza sauce in big batches and freeze, and keep corn and flour tortillas on hand, along with various cheeses, and frozen bags of presliced pepperoni. There's also meaty ham bones, rotisserie chicken carcasses and smoked turkey parts in the freezer to use in soups and stocks. A real timesaver for soup is to finely chop and freeze big ziplocks of a mix of carrots, celery, and onions.
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Old 10-22-2014, 11:31 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Kaneohegirlinaz View Post
I cook everyday, three times a day, everyday!
I cook one meal a day. Dinner.
I eat left overs for lunch and eat no breakfast. My wife and MIL are on their own until dinner.
They eat lots of cereal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessFiona60 View Post
Full time jobs make that kind of cooking impossible.
I agree and really cannot see cooking so many meals.
But if she has the time and the energy, I say go for it. I guess she's doing the dishes too? I sure hope not.
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Old 10-22-2014, 11:50 AM   #17
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There are many times I come home from work exhausted and just don't feel like putting a lot of time or thought into dinner.

For the last several years, I've always made up a batch of beans on Sunday mornings. I then eat those for lunches and sometimes for dinner as well. I try to mix it up a bit, alternating between black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, red beans, etc. I also do different seasonings, including Mexican, Cajun, and Caribbean (one of my favorites!).

Beans are good for you and can be served in many different ways: over rice, in tortillas, over eggs - the possibilities are endless.
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:25 PM   #18
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The beans are a great idea!

A bowl of beans and greens on a cold dreary night is a fast, healthy, comfort food that can be on the table in 10-15 minutes!

Olive oil
Minced garlic
Hot pepper flakes
Escarole
Chicken broth
A can of cannellini beans
and a handful of grated cheese.

Heat oil in a large deep pan, saute garlic and pepper flakes, add greens and toss to coat with oil, add chicken broth simmer for 5 minutes, add the drained beans and simmer 5-10 minutes more, drizzle in a little olive oil and serve with grated cheese.

You can make it dry or soupy. If you don't have chicken broth add the bean liquid and a little water.
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:38 PM   #19
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Thank you all for the awesome ideas and support. I think making several dishes on the weekend is a great plan for busy weeks/months like this one/October. Plus it is feasible.

My job has three "crunch months" and this is one of them. Then I will have a crunch week about every four weeks or so. During crunch weeks, 14 to 16 hour days are the norm. During non-crunch weeks 10 - 12 hour days are the norm. Honestly, I love the job, so don't mind the hours most of the time until it feels that I don't have time for the basics...like food and sleep. This week, it is a combination of the two, so I am a bit frustrated.

Last year, we got a freezer to help, and it is nicely filled with raw ingredients for food. Now, the raw ingredients simply need to be assembled and cooked. The catch is that I never learned to make meals that freeze. Like I know what raw meats, etc. will freeze well, but I really am not sure which cooked foods are easily frozen. I've learned through trial and error that potatoes often turn out mealy when frozen...or at least when I have frozen them. On the other hand, I've had decent luck with pasta. I've frozen some kinds of soup with mixed results.

I love beans! Beans and greens sound great! Beans and anything sounds great! (Not everyone in this house would agree, but hey! Soup and sandwiches work too.)

October is thankfully nearly done. Come April and May, everyone should buy stock in paper plates and bowls because that will be the next crunch months.

Freezing advice or favorite freezer recipes are most welcome. Laundry service would be welcome too.....but really, I have deep closets and a huge hamper so food is the priority!

~Kathleen
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Old 10-22-2014, 09:22 PM   #20
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Don't freeze cooked potatoes. Most other things can be frozen. Parboil veggies before freezing or cooked into a dish is fine. I like to add extra sauce to pasta and make sure it is al dente, that way when you heat it from the freezer, it won't dry out and the pasta won't turn to mush. Plastic wrap and foil are your friends for casseroles.

Create "TV Dinners" with odd leftovers. Freezing your meals is also a perfect chance to portion your meals.
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