How I Cook Only Once Per Week
When I started thinking about how to save the money I needed to buy a new car, I looked closely at my monthly spending (more about this in a later post). I noticed that after housing, food was the next highest expense.
I also noticed that I had two habits that accounted for just about half of my food budget. One was eating lunches and dinners out, and the other was dropping into the store on the way home from work to pick up “just a couple of things.” This last habit has a double risk that comes from shopping while hungry and standing in long lines to check out. I realized that I developed a habit of choosing what to eat for each meal as I was about to eat it. Form many years, I have lived in places where I walked home, and passed several stores along the way.
On top of all this, (I’m ashamed to say this) I often went on a big shopping trip and bought healthy food, then didn’t get around to preparing most of it before it went bad in the fridge.
This had to stop.
I had to come to terms with the fact that I needed to plan better, and that I would never want to spend an hour after work preparing a meal.
Here is what I did:
1. I shop one day a week. I did this by looking over the weekly specials, and choosing ONE STORE to do all of my shopping that week. This cuts down on my time spent shopping, and gives me some limits to choose what I will prepare. Limits can enhance creativity!
2. I cook one day a week. In a way, this means that I always eat leftovers, since I usually cook after dinner one evening of the week.
3. I cook things can be incorporated into several meals. Maybe a roasted chicken, and individual foil packets of salmon with lemon and herbs. I usually make one pasta, rice or couscous dish, and in the winter, some kind of soup.
4. I spend an hour each week washing, peeling and chopping fruits and vegetables. I package some for work lunches, and the rest is incorporated into dinners.
5. My normal lunch is raw veggies, steamed in the microwave with a foil package of fish, frozen shrimp or some other meat. Yes, I take the foil off first! In the winter, I trade off with soup. I eat salads in the summer. This helps save money, since fresh veggies are expensive in the winter where I live, and I grow tomatoes and lettuce in the summer.
6. I have an array of sauces, frozen chopped herbs, and spice blends that I add to the meats and veggies over the week for variety.
7. I use my freezer a lot. Most things don’t keep in the fridge for a whole week, and roasted chicken gets dry and boring after a few days. An individual bag of pulled pork, or a container of chili can save the day. And it allows me to change my mind about what I want to eat for dinner.
8. I keep fresh fruits, baby carrots, roasted almonds, yogurt and hummus around all the time.
After all of this planning and pre-preparation, I discovered that I was eating healthier meals. I don’t always eat fancy food, but there is always something nice available even if I don’t want to cook at all. I don’t have a lot of people to feed, but these same methods will work for a crowd, especially if you have a large freezer. Even if you cooked two meals at the same time, you could cut your kitchen time in half.
When I have guests over to dinner, I can enjoy planning and cooking a special meal, but I don’t have to do it every day. I can spend my time with my friends, family and dog.
What would you do with the extra time?
Photo Credit: wickenden