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Meal Planning: Cook Once, Eat Thrice

Posted By Jessica Fisher On October 19, 2009 @ 10:08 am In Meal Planning | 18 Comments

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Thank you to everyone who took my Help Me Help You Make a Great Meal [5] survey. You all asked such great questions about ways to feed a family. One recurring comment was in regards to making several recipes (either ahead or throughout a week) that use common ingredients so that you can reduce prep time and streamline dinner preparation on subsequent nights.

This is a great question and the practice of cooking once and eating several times is a boon to busy families. We do this often. For instance, a month or so ago, whole chickens went on sale for $.59/#, real big ones. I bought two five-pounders and roasted them. We ate chicken and potatoes and carrots one night. The next night I served chicken pot pies [6] and the following evening we enjoyed chicken noodle soup [7]. But, the beauty of it was that I did the bulk of the prep work the first night!

Cook One Night, Eat for Three

Here’s how:
Pre dinner – While the chickens were roasting, I prepped the pie crust [8]. Then as I peeled and chopped carrots, I made extra for the pot pies and shredded a couple for the chicken noodle soup. While I had the grater out, I also shredded the onion and zucchini for soup and placed all the shredded veggies in a tupperware and stowed it in the fridge. Since the peeler was already out, I peeled lots of potatoes. I reserved enough boiled potatoes for the pot pies and mashed the rest for the first night’s dinner. When I made gravy, I made enough for our roast chicken dinner and extra to go in the pot pies.

Post dinner – After we enjoyed our roast chicken, I removed the meat and started broth to cook in the crockpot [9] overnight. I chopped the meat and divided it into portions. I assembled the potpie filling and stowed it in the fridge.

Day Two – In the morning, I strained the broth and refrigerated it, covered. That night, since I already had my pie crusts, chicken, carrots, potatoes, and gravy prepped, all I did was assemble the pies and bake. (If I hadn’t planned on serving them that night, I could have easily frozen the pies for future dinners.)

Day Three – About an hour before dinner, I pulled together my soup. The veggies, chicken, and broth [9] were already prepped. A quick saute, stir, boil, add noodles and it was ready. We had grilled cheese sandwiches alongside which filled out the menu and added some different flavors to the week’s menu.

Think Creatively
You can do this same thing with lots of other meals.

  • A beef pot roast can become tacos and Beef and Barley soup on later nights.
  • Beans and rice can become sides to enchiladas and then on a subsequent night be added to soup.
  • A pork roast transforms easily into BBQ sandwiches and chili.
  • Roasted veggies can be an elegant side dish to grilled meats and then be added to quesadillas, pizza, or minestrone later on.
This week, FishPapa will be grilling tri-tip. The next day, we’ll have traditional Santa Maria Tri-Tip sandwiches (toasted rolls with sliced tri-tip and salsa). Another night, I’ll toss some of the meat into quesadillas.
A Word About Leftovers
I’ve met people in my travels who had no qualms about eating week-old leftovers or take-out that had sat in the car overnight. What you do is your business, but if you’re feeding other people, particularly pregnant women, young children and elderly folk, you may want to reconsider the safety of some of your practices.
A general rule of thumb that I learned in catering was not to serve something past its third day. Having a meal plan posted on your refrigerator will help you remember when you made a certain dish.
If in doubt, throw it out.

I know times are tough, but being uber-frugal at the risk of your family’s health is not wise. Your ROI (return on investment) could result in food poisoning, something every mom should avoid for her family.

That said, the USDA’s Food Inspection and Safety Service [10] has a great chart that tells you practically everything you need to know about the Basics for Handling Food Safely [11]. They’ll even let you keep your leftovers a day longer than I will.

What kind of multi-task meal planning do you do? Share your tips and tricks in the comments section.

–Don’t forget to visit Tasty Tuesday [12] for other great meal ideas.

in a reader [13] and join me on the Road to Joyful Motherhood.


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[5] Help Me Help You Make a Great Meal: http://www.lifeasmom.com/2009/10/help-me-help-you-make-great-meal.html

[6] chicken pot pies: http://www.lifeasmom.com/2009/09/ultimate-recipe-swap-favorite-fall.html

[7] chicken noodle soup: http://lifeasmom.com/2009/10/ultimate-recipe-swap-soups-on.html

[8] the pie crust: http://www.lifeasmom.com/2009/09/homemade-pie-crust-finer-thing.html

[9] broth to cook in the crockpot: http://www.goodcheapeats.com/2009/04/how-to-make-chicken-stock.html

[10] Food Inspection and Safety Service: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/home/index.asp

[11] Basics for Handling Food Safely: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Basics_for_Handling_Food_Safely/index.asp

[12] Tasty Tuesday: http://beautyandbedlam.com/mealtimesetting/

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