Do you prepare meals in advance to save money and time?

posted 3 years ago in Cooking
Post # 3
Member
1421 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2009

Most of the time one of us cooks a big meal on Sunday or Monday and we eat it all week long — or at least through Thursday.  There’s no way we have time to cook most weeknights.  It helps to make things that get better over time, and reheat well, even in the microwave — soups, stews, braises, lasagna and other baked pastas.  Tonight I’m making a turkey chili and sweet potato shepard’s pie.  We’ll often have a salad on the side (made daily, although washing lettuce ahead of time and having it ready to go works well, too).  I usually joke that people who don’t like leftovers are people who don’t know how to cook very well, but it really helps to make things that make good leftovers.  Fish is out — that’s a weekend, no-leftover meal. 

Post # 4
Member
9531 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013

I don’t do this am much as I should, but there are definitely ways to make this work

There are some things, like chili, that are just as good reheated.

There are some things, like salmon croquettes, that you can prepare ahead of time (a day or two early) and then actually cook quicky.

There are some things, like quesadillas, that you can do the prep ahead and then assemble quickly – we just did this this week. Cut and spiced and cooked chicken, cut up all the veggies, then it takes about 10 minutes to assemble the next few nights.

Some things, like bugers, are just really easy to begin with!

Honestly, just look at your favorite recipes and see how they or their parts could be prepped ahead. A lot of cooking time is prep, espeically cutting up meats and veggies, so doing that ahead of time really helps. When I’m being ambitious, I clean and cut uo chicken right when I buy it, then, all I have to do is thaw it out ans it’s ready to be thrown into stirfry or pasta or get coated in almond crust for chicken nuggets!

Post # 5
Member
2421 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: February 2015

I work 12 hour shifts and right now I’m doing all the cooking as FI is in a immobilizer sling.  Its manageable.  I roast different veggies almost every night because 1) they’re delicious and 2) they’re done in 20 minutes.  I line the cookie sheet with foil for faster clean up (but not as good on the environment.)  Then I just either bake or grill a protein.  Turkey sausages, chicken breasts (with different seasonings), pork chops, steak, etc.  It’s all done in about the same time as the veg.  And we eat!  Some days I’ll do something in the slow cooker (I have a programmable one that switches to warm once the timer is done) chili, honey garlic chicken, pulled pork, shredded buffalo chicken, soups, stews, etc.  They’re done and ready to eat as soon as I get home.  

We do stir fry a lot too.  It’s quick and easy.  Or tacos, fajitas, they’re both done in the amount of time it takes to cook the meat.  It’s faster than pizza delivery!  

I am in the habit of chopping vegetables when I get home from the grocery store.  Then they’re ready to go for dinner, to be packed in a lunch, etc.  

I take leftovers for lunch everyday.  So I always make a lot.  And if I’m baking a chicken breast I bake 6.  It takes no extra time and then I can use them some other way – on a salad for lunch, in a casserole, shredded for a soup (our current favourite is wicked thai chicken soup – SO good!)  

It takes slightly more planning before you go grocery shopping, to ensure when you get home that you have all the ingredients you need to go.  I finish at 7, we’ve never been later than sitting for dinner at 8. Usually we’re done long before that. 

 

Post # 7
Member
863 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

I am obsessively organized, so I have a 3 tier system that’s maybe a little crazy. Tier 1 is completely pre-made meals – so that would be baked pastas in those foil one use oven tins, and chilis, stews and soups that I freeze in a container into a stackable shape, and then re-heat on the stove, because I hate the microwave too. Tier 2 is “make-ahead” meals, which are all the ingredients for something that I then just dump in the slow-cooker. Examples would be things like ribs with a sauce on them, frozen, lots of different chicken dishes, I even have a great french onion soup). Tier 3 is “easy proteins” – that would be things that I have to cook if I am in the mood, but often I have already done the spicing/dressing on them so I don’t need the ingredients on hand. Examples are individual portions of salmon that I put fresh lemon and dill on and then freeze, which I then bake; chicken breasts dredged in flour and diijon mustard and parmesean, which I then bake. 

Then to finish off the dinner, I keep fresh veggies on hand, as well of those bins of triple washed spring mix for salad. I will roast or steam some veg, whip up a quick salad, and dinners on the table in no time. 

It takes me about two days a month of hard work shopping, prepping and cooking, and that’s about it! The veggies and salad come from a delivery service that comes once a week and is only slightly more expensive than going to the store, but way easier. I spend about 300 a month in groceries doing this max, which halved our costs. 

Post # 9
Member
863 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

@FutureMrsT1221:  yeah, I am aware it’s nuts, but once I got the system in place, it actually made everything a million times easier. I spent my mat leave perfecting it. Okay, I am a maniac. I will stop now. 

Post # 10
Member
132 posts
Blushing bee

This is a great thread. I’m a student working three jobs, so I love to read ways to pre-prepare meals. 

Last weekend, I baked 4 boneless chicken breasts in the oven with a little spice on them. I wanted to use them throughout the week – stir-fry one day, chicken sandwiches for lunch, large greek salad with chicken, etc.

One problem I am having is pre-cutting the veggies. Lets say, on Sunday, I cut up several veggies for stir-fry. By Tuesday, they don’t look or taste as fresh. How do you preserve them?

@MsKeee:  awesome system! 

Post # 11
Member
198 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: November 2014

I preplan my breakfast and lunches and typically throw together whatever for dinner. Sometimes, I make something that will last me for dinner the entire week. It def saves me a lot of money. FI and I don’t live together (as I’m attending graduate school), and I end up spending so little on myself! I’m more motivated to do this in order to lose weight as well.

Here’s a photo of some of my meals 🙂

Post # 12
Member
328 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: February 2014

I make most of everything ahead of time on the weekends, 1-2 meals in the crockpot for a fresh dinner during the week. We cook 8 recipes a week for 3 weeks, minimal leftovers until week 4-5 where we take all the leftovers out of the freezer and eat those. We still get different meals everyday and use up the leftovers at the end with still having variety. We do individually pack each meal in glass storage so we can just heat them up as we need or grab to put in a lunch bag. I have a more strict diet than DH so he still eats out once a week while I enjoy more leftovers. Our crockpot is a life saver because we can just walk in the door for a fresh meal and can make it just 2 servings by using a chicken 4 ways one week or pork loin 3 ways and only having to buy one cut of meat

Post # 13
Member
9531 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013

@sarahboom:  I now feel like an inadequate human! But seriously, that looks so awesome and well organized! Your fiance is a lucky man!

Post # 14
Member
1197 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

I usually cook on the weekends or use our crockpot through the week! I’ll usually make one or two prepared dishes, and cook staples, like chicken, pasta and rice, separately. That way we can we’re not eating the same thing over and over again! 

Post # 15
Member
102 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

so you have a toaster oven?  I put leftovers in glass pyrex, freeze, defrost when i want to use and bake in toaster oven (i got a nice breville off my registry). The toaster makes the leftovers much better tasting then the microwave!

Post # 16
coyoteBee
2051 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2012 - Franklin Plaza

Chiming in as another obsessive meal planning bee. I don’t actually prepare my meals ahead of time, but I do some intense meal planning to make the process easier. My DH also has an aversion to leftovers so I’ve found that this system works for us.

I have a spreadsheet that I update once a week with what our meals will be for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Based on that list of meals I create my grocery list and go to the stores once a week. I also spend a bit of time searching for coupons/best deals. Not an obessive amount, maybe like an hour a week I sit down and go through all the flyers to try and save some money.

Since I have a meal calendar I know exactly what I am going to make that evening for dinner and I make sure that weeknight meals are quick, quick, quick so I don’t get into the habit of going ughhh I’m too tired to cook. It doesn’t have to be fancy! Some examples are turkey tacos, steaks, chicken parm — All take me less than 30 minutes to get on the table.

If you really do want to cook ahead though, things like lasanga and baked ziti actually taste better a few days after being cooked. And leftovers in general taste much better when reheated in the oven or on a frying pan. No one said you had to heat up your leftovers in the microwave! It may take a bit more time, but heating some leftovers up in the oven will still be faster than cooking a whole meal.

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