The idea behind once a week cooking is relatively simple. If you condense the majority of the work that you have to do preparing ingredients, cooking, cleaning, and organizing your kitchen into one day of the week, the rest of the week you can enjoy prepared, high quality meals from home regardless of whether you have the time to cook.
Once a Week Cooking to Save Time and Money
One of the most interesting ways to save time, money, and effort in cooking is to cook one day each week. Here's how to get started
Why it Matters
Cooking food at home and bringing it along with me to work has allowed me to save a significant amount of money over time. I started off as an intern, and I was spending about 5 dollars every day going out to eat with the other interns. When I started packing my lunch, I found that I was spending about $1.50 on packaged food, a sandwich, and a drink every day, and when I started preparing all of the food for my lunches the cost of a single meal went down to about 70 cents.
Do You Cook at Home
The Problem With Traditional Home Cooking
Home cooked foods tend to take a longer time to prepare than packaged foods, and are often less convenient than just going out for a meal. Often the incessant activities of cooking, and washing up afterwards, grow tiresome for people that just want to eat and save a little money by cooking at home.
The solution that worked for me, and works for a lot of other people, is to make my own packaged meals. I invested in a number of resealable containers, even though it is possible to get them for free by saving reusable packaging, and use them to store meals for use throughout the week after preparing them.
For people with a large family, this concept could be expanded by cooking and storing casserole dishes and baking tins filled with food, but as a bachelor I only consume single servings at each meal.
How to Get it Done
So, you're interested in doing all of your cooking once a week? Here are some quick tips to help you get started.
- Plan Ahead
Before you start cooking, think about the things that your household like. Go through the week and decide what you want to prepare for consumption on which days, and have a plan for which dishes you want to reheat when. You don't want to have 3 dishes thawed on Monday for variety, and have to spend Friday cooking.
Also, if you're looking to save money, you can go through the grocery store flyer and match up deals with meals.
- Don't skimp on quality
The idea of cooking food for yourself is to make things that you are going to eat in place of expensive and questionable restaurant foods. If you cook a really cheap meal with ingredients you don't really approve of, you are unlikely to eat it.
Cook good quality food that you will enjoy, and package it in an appetizing way so that you will get the value of your food by eating it.
If you are looking forward to getting to eat one of your packed meals, then you are doing it right. If you're dreading your home cooked food because it is bland, unappetizing or offensive in some way, you may need to rethink your strategies.
- Prep Work makes things easy
There are a lot of minimally challenging tasks that present themselves when you are cooking. Before you start heating up the stove, you can clean all the bowls, knives, and pans, clean your fruits and vegetables, and do your peeling, chopping, and preparation. That way you can sweep processed ingredients into your food quickly and easily, and the process of cooking will be much easier.
- Don't cook more than you can store
Having unlimited freezer space is a blessing that not all of us are so lucky to have. Most of us operate with some constraint on the amount of space we have in the refrigerator or freezer, and it's not a good feeling to cook so much food that your fridge is overflowing and you can't consume it all.
Within reason, cooking in batches is a good idea, but after a couple of days you might want some variety. I normally cook two main dishes with very different flavors, and two side dishes with different ingredients for my lunches and dinners each week. I can mix and match for the day, but I end up getting a good deal and I always have options.
- Have fun
Most of all, cooking once a week when you actually have the time to cook is best for having fun. Since you aren't mentally crushed from cooking all the time, you can actually take the time to enjoy and try new recipes.
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