We used to spend a good hour of each evening, after returning home from our jobs, preparing our evening meals. Saturdays and Sundays, we often spent more time preparing more elaborate meals. Think about it . . . over a year’s time, that amounts to at least 465 hours each year, considering the extra hundred or so on weekend cooking!
We gave it a lot of thought and researched methods of cutting our meal prep time and came up with a very obvious solution. I say “obvious” mainly because it should have been; however, it took an article in someone else’s blog to remind us that by doubling the amount of food prepared each time, and therefore doubling the number of meals prepped in the same time, we cut our cooking time in half.
Some trial and error is necessary to refine your technique, however. If you knew me personally, you’d realize that I have a problem with food: I eat too much of it. So, making a double batch of dinner, also doubles my temptation to overeat. That challenge can be overcome, though, by immediately packing away the 2nd meal — it’s not ironclad, but it adds a layer of security, so to speak.
One hurdle to overcome is the fact that just doubling ingredients gives you two batches: not so. Certain seasonings, notoriously salt, should not be doubled (try 1-1/2 the original amount). Others can be more than doubled, like garlic, or stock. Err on the side of caution and taste as you go.
There’s a cookbook around, called “Cook Once Eat Twice”, which gives you a recipe for the second meal in which you modify the leftovers and create an entirely new meal from it.. Not all of the combos appeal to us, so I sometimes try to modify the rerun myself. Today’s roast chicken can become tomorrow’s chicken pot pie (using low fat additions, of course) Take some of Sunday’s pot roast, cubed, and add it to some beef stock and frozen or leftover veggies, throw in some barley and a bayleaf, and you have beef barley soup. Bigger cubes and more barley and you have beef barley stew.
Some great ideas come from a menu/meal planning service called E-Mealz (www.e-mealz.com). They provide, at a cost of less than $5.00 per month, a weekly meal planner that includes shopping lists! When you sign up, you select any one of several categories. I’ve tried a couple of them, including one designed for WeightWatcher’s fans (not endorsed by WeightWatchers), a low-fat category, and one which just prescribes meals of ‘general’ type. Many of the meals may be called “comfort food”, to my way of thinking. Some of the meals are downright ingenious, like one which takes simple broth, chicken chunks, veggies and other simple ingredients, to which you add a few flour tortillas, cut in strips, and PRESTO you have quick and easy chicken and dumplings literally in minutes.
Each week’s E-Mealz edition gives 5 or 7 recipes for dinner and gives a consolidated shopping list, so that if there are two recipes calling for 1/2 pound and 3/4 pounds of chicken breast, it’ll tell you to buy 1-1/4 pounds of chicken breast.
As soon as I figure this blogging thing all out, I’ll be providing links to many of the things I’ve referred to.