I love to eat, but I don’t love being in the kitchen. Yes, I love trying out new recipes and experimenting with new ingredients, but that’s probably just the adventurer and weird scientist in me. I hate the long standing, the heat from the stove and oven, the constant washing of utensils, the essential prep of the ingredients, or the moments in which the Small, Bright-eyed Human runs in circles around my feet and screams until I pick her up. But, this post isn’t about my ‘laziness’ as much as it is about time management and prioritising.
Menu Planning & Batch Cooking
Having transitioned from Homemaker to Employee, I needed to find a way to be present with my daughter for the few hours we are together each day (since she goes to daycare while I teach). But, even more so, I needed to avoid exhaustion while feeding my family hearty and nutritious meals. I remembered how for my CXC practical exam in Food & Nutrition, I was able to make the birthday cake (baked and decorated with freshly made icing), drinks, different types of sandwiches, snacks and fruit table pieces all from scratch and decorate the table in a couple of hours. This is because I had learnt how to make a menu plan and a time plan to make it all work, and I decided to put this aspect of my high school education to use!
What I do is cook all the food my family will eat, once a week (on the weekend) and simply heat and serve throughout the week. It may sound like a lot of work, but I can get 3 or 4 entrees and the same amount of side dishes made in 2 or 3 hours. Which works out to about 3 hours of intense work to cover the whole week, instead of cooking an hour a day, every single day. So, let me give this disclaimer before going any further:
If you are one of those persons who claims, “I don’t eat over-night/hot-up food.” Then I suggest that you don’t read any further. I’ll also recommend that you don’t eat anything you haven’t cooked yourself, because all commercially prepared food involves batch cooking and réchauffé. So, if you eat food from restaurants, hotels, school cafeterias, office canteens, hospitals, or caterers, you have eaten réchauffé or reheated food. The main reason the food looks and tastes differently from what you’ve re-heated at home is because food service operators have been trained to observe industry standards in food safety (sanitation, storage, preservation, time and temperature). I’m grateful to have received the same training when I got my food handler’s permit, but even more so, for having worked in the food service industry to learn, first-hand, about things like ‘food danger zone’.
That little issue addressed, these are my reasons – plain and simple – for cooking once a week:
1. Free To Relax
Since I’m away from my family all day, I want to know that I can enjoy the time reconnecting with them when I get home. We can sit together and play, or do any other fun thing together before we settle down for dinner. Plus I don’t need to rush with my daughter when I go to pick her up from the daycare. If she wants to just hug me for a little or wants me to join her with digging up dirt in the yard, I feel comfortable to do that without watching the time.
2. No Extra Work After Work
Since all my meals (lunches and dinners) are already cooked, I don’t need to go grocery shopping or spend time in the kitchen cooking dinner and the next day’s lunch. After work is finished, I can truly come home and de-chakarise.
3. Fancy Dishes Without the Hassle
Who wouldn’t like to eat a fancy, weekend-style meal during the week? Entree with two or three different sides? How about two entrees? I can do that because it’s all made in advance, I just need to heat and serve.
This Week’s Menu
For this week, I made 3 entrees (Ackee & Mixed Veggies, Japanese Curry with Lentils & Pumpkin, and Ital Stew), and the main starches were Brown Rice, Mushroom Rice (used my rice cooker), Roti and Naan (bought them frozen and put them in the toaster oven before serving). I served these sides as well: Cucumber-Basil Pasta Salad, Garden Salad and another Mushroom Sauce Pasta Salad. It may sound like a lot, but I also bought a deli box (with simmered veggies and tofu skin) from the supermarket, and each day I have a mug of Miso Soup along with my lunch. My game plan for getting this done each week is basically: Plan. Shop. Cook. I give a detailed breakdown in this article that I wrote for Baby & Blog: HERE.
Do you plan your meals and do once a week cooking? If you don’t, would you try it?