May 21, 2007

Cooking Meals Ahead - a mini session

Today I am in the kitchen cooking some things ahead for the weeks to come. I am doing a mini version of OAMC and using some techniques that I think are very helpful.

* First of all I need to bake about three to four days worth of bread (about four small loaves). Dan usually takes one loaf with him for lunches for him and oldest boy. He has a mini fridge at school and keeps it there to keep it a bit longer. A typical loaf is good for about three days but I usually use the end of a loaf for bread crumbs and French toast for breakfast one day a week. Anyway, today is a baking day...

* I also need to cook up some ground beef and some stew meat that I purchased toward the end of last week. I will be making meatballs and chili with the ground beef. I will get about 6 batches of meatballs our of the meat I bought and then I will get a meal's worth of chili for later in the week made.

* I will be making A GIANT batch of stew and will be letting it simmer all day in the crockpot. I will store it in the freezer without the potatoes in it and will add potatoes when I thaw it and reheat it so that they are not mushy. I will be able to back about four containers of stew for later in the summer as we need it for quick dinners on busy days.

* I will be making pizza for the kids again today because I am making bread. That will be our lunch.

A few really key things that I want to stress include...

1. Get your kitchen REALLY CLEAN before you start! I wash everything up and then unload the dishwasher so that I can rinse and load as I cook. This saves TONS of time!!!

2. I get everything out before I start. I will have all the ingredients grouped on the counter and will measure things out as much as I can before I start. All my meats are thawed and ready to go and all my grains are milled and ready.

3. I use two different cutting boards as I go and wash them in between each use. I have the meat board and the veggie chopping board. I NEVER want to cross contaminate those things.

4. I will utilize everything for cooking. I use a crockpot (I actually own two and might have both going at the same time depending on what I am working on), a pressure cooker, a pot or pans on the stovetop for browning and sauteing, and the oven is on and in use the entire time I am working usually. Use what you have and utilize your tools and space to get the most work done in the shortest amount of time.

5. I always start with something that takes the longest to cook. I will often start with bread if I am making bread so that it can be rising while I am working on something else and I get it out of the way before bring out the meats that just dirty up everything.

6. I make sure I am drinking LOTS of water as I work. I also take a break for meals. It keeps you going and lets you stay hydrated and nourished which makes you work stronger and better.

7. What about the kids? Mine usually play outside while I am working and I can see everything they do from my kitchen window. The only frustrating thing is stopping what I am doing to break up the typical fight! LOL

8. Let everything cool before you put it away. Help it along if you need to by putting things in ice baths or spreading things out so that they cool more quickly. This is ESSENTIAL!!! You do not want things sitting out longer than four hours in the danger zone - 41 degrees to 139 degrees (or 140 according to new regulations). You don't want all your hard work to be for nothing because your food spoils. Keep it at appropriate temperatures at all times.

9. You can use a variety of storage containers from zipper bags to ceramicware that goes from freezer to oven easily. I use a variety of these things depending on the item. My soups are stored in plastic containers and my meatballs will be stored in a zipper bag. I will often times make a lasagna and cool it and store it in the pan I cooked it in. I will merely cover it with parchment paper and then with foil - you don't want the foil touching the item directly.

10. Clean it up completely when you are done so you can enjoy dinner with your family and then designate dinner cleanup to someone else (my oldest and second oldest do clean up a great deal for us). After dinner make a pot of coffee or a cup of tea and then sit and enjoy it while the rest of the family does the final work. You can rest in the fact that there is lots of work and time you have saved for later and that will allow more time with your family and less time in the kitchen.


  1. I've been enjoying your blog. You have some inspiring ideas. I've dabbled in once-a-month cooking and found that I actually missed the time in the kitchen, so I stopped, but I did learn many time saving techniques through the experience.

  2. Question!!! :) So what do you do with your meatballs? How do you serve them? I have a great meatball recipe that I love to make, I just don't have any good recipes of what to do with them when they are made up other than throwing them in spaghetti ... suggetions?