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.
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.