Cooking in Advance: Saving Both Time and Money

I’ve been cooking a lot lately.  The normal division of labor in my home has my significant other doing most of the cooking.  He enjoys the task and he has free time before the dinner hour.  It just makes sense.  But he currently has his leg in a cast and cooking doesn’t mix well with his non-weight-bearing status.  So I have been appointed chief cook and bottle washer.

When I get home from work I’m generally both hungry and exhausted.  It would be really easy to slip into the pattern of buying takeout and convenience foods.  But that’s a path that is bad not only for the budget, but also for our health.  But I’ve learned that with some advance planning, I can keep our convenience foods to a minimum.

Crock potCasserole

I’ve taken to making my weekends (when I have a lot more free time) food-centric.  On Saturday I sit down and plan out the menu for the week.  I browse through cookbooks (Yes…I still enjoy using old fashioned cookbooks.  I’ve had them since before the internet became pervasive, and they’ve never steered me wrong.).  I pick out some things I’d like to eat.  And I make a shopping list for any ingredients I don’t have in the house.

On Sunday, I start the day at the grocery store.  I get the things on my list (which I’m sure is saving me money because I’m not just wandering around the store picking up things that I think might be good or that I think I might need).  And then the cooking adventure begins.  In addition to preparing dinner for Sunday night, I also put together meals for both Monday and Tuesday.  Monday’s dinner is always a slow cooker meal.  I assemble everything and put the crock into the fridge.  On Monday morning, I just have to plug it in, and a delicious meal will be ready for me when I get home from work.  Tuesday’s dinner is always a casserole.  I put it all together, cover it with foil, write the baking instructions right on the foil so I don’t have to look it up later, and set it in the fridge.  On Tuesday after work, I just have to heat up the oven, pop in the casserole, and an effortless dinner will be ready in half an hour.  As a bonus, these meals generally provide leftovers.  This means Wednesday’s dinner is the best of Monday and Tuesday, heated quickly in the microwave.  Throw in a night of soup and sandwiches and one pasta dinner, and I’ve made it through the work week with a minimum of effort and a minimum of processed foods.

Once my boyfriend is back on his feet, I’ll be happy to relinquish the kitchen to him.  But in the meantime, I feel like I’ve got a plan that saving me both time and money.

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