Aug 11 2008

My first try at ‘once-a-week’ cooking

I’m made my first attempt at cooking enough meals for a week at once. I’m trying to stick with familiar foods this time around so I don’t get too overwhelmed.

With ground beef, I’m making meatloaf, taco meat, and spaghetti sauce.

With fresh boneless skinless chicken “tenders,” I’m making chicken fajitas and Caribbean jerk chicken with homemade Italian dressing mix.

My method:

I planned my menu and shopping list by basing it around what was on sale, what I had in my pantry, and what sounded doable. I chose to do different things with ground beef and boneless skinless chicken breast tenders, since these are versatile meats and they’re easy to work with (and cheap!).

I did all of my planning/shopping last Thursday and all the cooking on Friday.

Before doing anything else, I copied my new recipes onto recipe cards so I could easily take them into the kitchen and have on file for later. I made sure the kitchen table and counter tops were clear and the dishwasher emptied and ready for dirty dishes.

I then decided the order I would complete certain tasks to make sure my time was being used in the most efficient way.


I bought three pounds of ground beef and used one pound per dish. I put one pound in a glass bowl for meatloaf and one pound each in two skillets on the stove for browning. While the meat cooked, I prepared the meatloaf and chopped onions and peppers.

I realized I didn’t have enough bread crumbs, so I made some from left over bread ends that I’ve tossed in the freezer for this purpose.

Once the ground beef was cooked, I drained and rinsed it. I don’t normally rinse it, but it’s been my experience that frozen beef gets greasy-gross unless rinsed.

One skillet of beef needed taco seasoning stuff, so I added that. To the other, I added seasoning, a can of mushrooms and a 3-lb. jar of spaghetti sauce. The taco meat was done before the pasta sauce, which I let slow cook for awhile. I let the taco meat cool a bit before putting it into a container and into the freezer.

Once the ground beef foods were under control, I cleaned my workstation to make room for the chicken preparations.


The chicken dishes I have selected this week simply require marinating and slicing of onions and peppers. I will stir fry the fajitas and grill the Caribbean jerk chicken later this week. It won’t take much time to do either task, but preparing them in advance will save time on the front end.

I added each of the marinades directly to a gallon-sized freezer bag to save time and reduce the amount of dirty dishes. I put the marinades in first and added about a pound of chicken to each bag.

I bought the largest onion I’ve ever seen and one each of yellow, green and red peppers. After slicing them for fajitas, I realized I had plenty for two+ meals worth, so I put half of the onions and peppers in one freezer bag and half in another.

Total time including clean-up: two hours on the nose.

I won’t know until we’ve actually eaten this stuff, but I’m guessing we have two meals worth of taco meat, two meals worth of chicken fajitas, one meal of meatloaf and one meal of meatloaf sandwiches, three meals of spaghetti, and two meals of grilled jerk chicken.

That’s 11 meals, or about five dinners and five lunches. We tend to eat dinner leftovers for lunch.

Two hours of non-stop kitchen work sounds like a lot. I do think it was faster this way than preparing a meal each evening, but it would have been even more efficient if I made triple portions of these recipes. I’ll probably do that in the future after I get more experience.

Perhaps it would be even better to simply make double or triple portions when I cook dinner, instead of doing one big cooking session, as Kristy suggested.

I’ll probably try this marathon cooking session again soon, and perhaps kick it up a notch.

14 Responses to “My first try at ‘once-a-week’ cooking”

  1. Wow! Sounds like a lot of cooking for one afternoon! I hope it makes things easier on you … Did you spend more, less, or the same amount of money on groceries this week?

    I would think that it might save a little money because once-a-week cooking forces you to buy a lot of the same meats that are on sale. When we cook throughout the week, we’re tempted to buy several different types of meat for a variety of dishes.

    Karen’s last blog post..A deal that’s almost too good to be true

  2. Oh man, that does sound intense! You’re talented — I don’t think I could cook that many things at the same time. And the clean-up sounds bad, but I’m impressed at how many meals you were able to create. I need to try that method…

  3. @ Karen: I spent more this week, but only because I needed to buy freezer bags. I bought quart size and gallon-size, as well as some reusable containers.

    If I didn’t need to buy those, I would have spent my usual $40 or so for the week.

    @ Emily: Normally I HATE cleaning up the kitchen, but this was a surprisingly small mess. I was able to put things in the dishwasher and I just had a few pans to wash, so it really was minimal.

  4. Hey, I just found your blog!! I have never cooked one day for the whole week but I have doubled up on meals already so I could save one for later. I especially like to do this with Lasagna or cabbage rolls. I also cook all my ground beef ahead of time and freeze it cooked. I have learned to do it in a big stock pot so there is less splatter!
    I will stop back again… come check out my frugal blog too!!!
    Frugal Carol

    Frugal Carol’s last blog post..Cute story…..

  5. Sounds like it turned out good!


    Nichole’s last blog post..80% Off At 08/08 TODAY ONLY

  6. You are just so full of good ideas! I’ll try this one of these days as cooking every night is getting too much for me even though I tend to chop most vegetables and get evertything else ready on the weekend.

  7. wow, i’m impressed :) my freezer is full, so i couldn’t do this (at least not currently). sounds like it could be useful though!

    tiffanie’s last blog post..such a beautiful blessing

  8. That’s an interesting idea. I spent about an hour yesterday cooking and for only one meal! I’m sure you save yourself lots of time, and money (considering the food is already prepared, so the temptation of going out to eat is reduced).

    Frank’s last blog post..Pic.TV’s Preview of An Inconvenient Debt

  9. I think you did great. When I buy ground beef or chicken in bulk I will take some time then to put meals together. Not necessarily for that week, but for the future. So I will do a big batch of several meatloafs and lots of meatballs and eat on then for a couple of months. All your meals sound so good, I think i will try some!

  10. This sounds like a good idea for those few weeks after the baby is born. I will make extra to freeze when I make lasagna, but that’s about it.

    Have you ever watched “Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller” on Food Network? She doesn’t freeze meals in advance, but she’ll plan out extra, so she’ll make chicken stir fry, but extra so the next evening she can make quick quesadillas.

  11. I keep meaning to do this…and yet, notsomuch.

    I do menu planning but that’s as far as it goes.

    Darla – UltraBeautyBoutique’s last blog post..Meet the wRapper family

  12. I like that you put “tenders” in quotations. Because who really calls them that? “Oh, wow, these tenders are amazing.”


  13. I love doing this it saves a lot of time during the week especially if you know you are going to have a busy week. I’ve found that I just need to go shopping and then go home and prep for the week or I end up not sticking with my initial plan which throws off the whole point. I love doing things like making a whole lasagna and then having it for dinner and lunch that way I save money by not buying lunch at work the next day. Plus its great for left over day. I hope you find this technique as helpful as I have.

  1. 1 Trackback(s)

  2. friday roundup #5 | we like money

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

Keep in Touch!
Like me on Facebook Follow Me on Twitter RSS Feed

Subscribe to my email updates:

Web Statistics