Tag Archives: saving time

How to plan a week of meals

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One of the main obstacles that I’ve heard about for why people don’t cook very often is that it’s hard to buy groceries without wasting a lot of food. If you are only cooking for one or two people, I can understand how this is challenging. What works for me is to plan a few meals before I go shopping, and to try to overlap some of the main ingredients. I’ve outlined a few examples below.

When you are shopping for the week, be realistic about how often you cook. If you know that you will probably go out to eat one or two nights of the week, don’t buy enough groceries to make five dinners. If possible, shop somewhere where you can buy custom-sized portions (i.e., somewhere with a butcher’s counter and that allows you to buy produce by weight).

Sample week 1:
Grilled Chicken with Caprese Topping
Clams with Bacon, Corn, and Cherry Tomatoes (serve with leftover bread)
Barbeque Chicken Salad (use some of the cherry tomatoes from the caprese topping and leftover grilled chicken)
BLTs (use the remaining cherry tomatoes from the caprese, lettuce from the salad, and bread from the clams/caprese)
Pizza (use some of the leftover fresh mozzarella and grilled chicken)

Sample week 2:
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Panzanella Salad
Meatball Subs (repurpose the leftover meatballs into meatball subs by melting fresh mozzarella from the salad on top and usung leftover bread from the salad)
Tacos (with unused ground beef or turkey from the meatballs)

Sample week 3:
Engagement Chicken with Roasted Potatoes
Chicken Salad (with leftover chicken)
Frittata (with leftover potatoes)

Sample week 4:
Polenta with Shrimp
Panzanella Salad (use remaining basil)
Pasta with Pesto and Shrimp (use remaining shrimp)
Slow-Roasted Tomato Soup (use remaining tomatoes and serve with leftover bread from the salad)

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Kitchen staples

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Paco brought to my attention that last night at Trader Joe’s, everyone seemed to only be picking up a few ready-made items. Premade salads, ready-bake pizza, etc.  It was a Thursday night at 7:30–this is pretty typical when people realize they have nothing to eat at home, and stop at the store on their way home from work.  We’ve all done this.

However, you can save yourself that daily trip to the store by having a few staples on hand.  Cooking something quick at home probably takes about the same amount of time (or less!) than stopping at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods for something that’s almost ready-to-eat.

Here are a few things that I always have on hand:

* Starches that don’t go bad or last a while – Rice, pasta, Asian noodles, cous cous, tortillas
* Vegetables that last a while – Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots
* Meat – We usually have a few of the following in the freezer, thanks to a Costco purchase: leg of lamb, flank steak, pork chops, pork shoulder, chicken
* Frozen shrimp
* Tofu
* Eggs
* Chicken broth
* Garlic, onions, and ginger
* Spices – I have a ton but the following should get you started: cumin, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, thyme, oregano
* Fats – Butter, olive oil, vegetable oil
* Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce
* Canned beans
* Cheese – Parmesan and cheddar always, plus a variety of other random cheeses (right now we have Humbolt Fog and Emmentaler)

While sometimes bread, cheese, and wine are really all you can or want to pull together, having long-lasting staples on hand will really help you to whip up something delicious, even when you’re tired.  And most of this stuff will last in your fridge or pantry for weeks/months.