All in a day’s work: planning dinner recipes in advance

Each week, I try to prepare creative, healthy meals that will provide to my boyfriend and I the energy that we need in order to get through our long workdays.
Since food is one of my tasks on the common chore list, I need to find ways to be able to cook my dinners in advance because when the work week starts, I don’t have the time to do it. Currently, I try to cook 3 or 4 dinners at a time, usually on Wednesday afternoons. This way, dinners are ready until Saturday.

This is how I usually function:

On Tuesday evenings, I map out the list of recipes I’m going to make. My criteria is: healthy ingredients, flavor and accessibility of ingredients (I need to be able to buy them at the store where I work or at another grocery store that is near my house). I also try to prioritize recipes that I can cook at the same time (so they share ovens and don’t require too many stove elements).

The thing with me is that I don’t like to repeat myself in terms of cooking. I’m always challenging myself to try something new. This means that we’ve rarely eaten the same dinner twice in the past year and a half. It’s not easy, but I have a blast doing it (most of the time).

Last Wednesday, I prepared three meals.

I started out by placing all the ingredients I needed for those three recipes on top of my small buffet, and grouping them together by separate meals.

Brocoli eggplant carrots

sausage green beans

Spinach potato

I started out by preheating the oven at 400F(205C). Then I got ready for the recipe that requires the most time:

Roast chicken with baby potatoes, garlic and spinach

What you’ll need (for 2 people)
+2 chicken thighs
+Light olive oil or grapeseed oil
+5 or 6 cloves of garlic
+100g of spinach
+200g Baby potatoes
+1 tbsp lemon juice
+Herbes de provence or Court Bouillon spices

spinach in the oven

How to prepare it:
+In a rectangular pan, spread out the spinach and splash it with either of the oils you’ve chosen (as shown in the picture)
+Add the garlic cloves (bared beforehand of their skin)
+Pat down the chicken thighs with a bit of oil, lemon juice and spices
+Put the chicken over the spinach
+Add the baby potatoes
+When the oven has reached 400F, put the dish in and cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour, check to make sure the chicken is well cooked. Depending on your oven, it may take another 20 minutes.

Serve with some brown rice noodles.

In my 3 meal plan, I had another dish that required cooking in the oven:

Brocoli, tomato, eggplant, sausage and cheese casserole

What you’ll need (for two people)
+2 sausages (choose your own type. mild italian, tomato and basil or honey dijon are all good for this recipe)
+250 grams of mild cheddar cheese
+1 good sized Broccoli
+1 medium sized eggplant
+1 can whole tomatoes (fresh is good too)
+ 4 cloves of garlic

brocoli eggplant tomato sausage cheese

Directions:

+Start out by thoroughly cleaning the broccoli and skinning the eggplant
+Cut them into bite sized pieces
+In a large pan (of any shape, I used a medium sized round one and a small rectangular one), set the broccoli, eggplant, garlic and tomatoes (with the juice)
+Cook for thirty minutes before checking to see if the vegetables are ready
+During that time, cook the sausage, at low heat, in a pan. This should take approx. 15-20 minutes if you bought them uncooked, 5-10 if they were precooked, but do keep an eye on them at all times and remember to turn them often.
+Grate the cheese
+Check the broccoli. Once you find that it is close to being ready (still crispy but manageable under the teeth)  take the pan out of the oven, cover everything in cheese and put it back in. Leave it to cook for 5 minutes.
+ When the cheese has melted, remove the pans from the oven and add the sausage to the vegetables.

Brown rice noodles with shrimp, Bok choy, green beans and chili sauce

What you’ll need: (for 2 people)
+1/2 package of Brown Rice Noodles
+3 baby Bok choys
+Green beans (10 per person is good)
+30-40 small precooked shrimp or 20 big ones
+1 carrot
+Sweet chili Eggroll sauce (I use it on EVERYTHING)
+1 tsp Light olive oil or Grapeseed oil

shrimp bok choy green bean noodles

Directions:
+Start out by heating the olive oil in a large pot(medium heat)
+Add the green beans, still cooking at low to medium heat (if the oil spits at you, turn it down)
+Cut the Bok Choy into bite sized pieces (including the leaves), add it to the pot
+Grate the carrot into the pot, stirring all the ingredients so they don’t stick to the bottom.
+When the green beans start softening, add the shrimp
+Start boiling some water for the noodles
+Once the water is boiling, follow the instructions on the package in order to know how long to leave the noodles in (2-3 minutes is pretty frequent)
+When the noodles are soft and ready, drain them in a colander
+Mix everything together and add some sweet chili eggroll sauce (1 tbsp per person should do the trick)

Dinner on the stove

Tips on how to cook multiple meals at the same time:

Calculate how to use your downtime on one meal: The roasted chicken took less than 10 minutes to prepare but cooking it is long, so I had 1 hour to work on the other food.

Know what is done and what needs to be done. I’m still able to manage with just my head most of the time, but written lists can help a lot too.

Make meals that share common ingredients. We ate brown rice noodles with both the chicken and the stir fry. Nutritious and time-saving!

All told, this took me 1.5 hours in one afternoon and I had food ready for the rest of the week (including a couple of leftovers that we used for lunch)

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