Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cook Once, Eat All Week

I started an experiment on myself. See, I am on this "self-care" kick- something that is strongly encouraged in the grad program I am in right now. The program requires a lot of self introspection and contemplation of human nature and how all the pieces fit together that make up the whole of this crazy, complicated, ugly and beautiful world. I am finding it takes a lot of emotional stamina, leaving little energy left over for other things.

Last semester I ate poorly, slept too little, stressed too much, and didn't exercise. Don't get me wrong, I love what I am doing right now and I am learning so much. Among many things, it is teaching me about balance. I must have gotten a little too self-assured, because I had really thought that by this time in my life I would have already figured out how to take care of myself. I had thought that I wouldn't really need to work on it as much as my professors kept repeating, especially given that I am slightly older than most of the other students in the program (and of course, light years more mature, ha ha).When I had a few weeks off during winter break and actually took the time to take better care of myself, I really noticed a difference.

Last week was my first week back at school and I decided to try something different since I knew that one of my problems was that I often get home too late or too tired to make anything even remotely resembling a healthy and well balanced dinner. I had heard about this thing that some people do, called Cook Once, Eat All Week. Okay, maybe I am late on the bandwagon on this one, but I really thought this was a brilliant idea. No longer would I have to spend precious time cooking every evening, no longer would I have a kitchen constantly full of dirty dishes, and no longer would I be as tempted to make poor food choices based on the lack of time and convenience. I can just pop whatever is on the menu that night in the microwave or oven.

For my first try, I used a Weight Watchers planned menu because it told me exactly what to make and exactly how to use the left overs to make something new out of it and on which night to eat what. Here is what the menu looked like:

Vegetable Peanut Stir Fry

Layered Mexican Chicken and Green Beans with Caramelized Onions on the side

Finish Stir Fry

Green Bean, Pearl Onion and Dill Frittata (made with the left over beans)

Tri Colored Pesto Rotini
with some baby carrots on the side

Left over Layered Mexican Chicken, with some simple steamed veggies (like broccoli) on the side

Whatever you have left over (we had a ton of the pasta left)

All of the recipes turned out quite good, and they are all really healthy. If you want to add a little more protein, you could always add some shrimp, chicken or tofu to the pasta and stir fry, and maybe some Canadian bacon to the frittata. Or, you could just as easily modify these recipes to be vegetarian or vegan (some already are). All this food was just for Daniel and I so we had plenty left over to take for lunch, but I would say that this menu would easily feed four people dinner for a week.

Julie, if you are feeling crunched for time I would really recommend giving this a try. All it takes is a couple of hours cooking time on Sunday afternoon, and you don't have to think about what to have for dinner again for the rest of the week. I found that it also really helped focus my grocery shopping list, so that I did not spend as much time shopping or getting things that I know are not good for me because of not knowing what to get. If you want to read their specific directions for the week, click here.

Also, it cut down on the amount of meat required so that I was able to spend my money on the best organic, free range, and local meat available instead of buying a bunch of meat that you know comes from an unhealthy meat processing plant.

All around this experiment turned out successfully. This week, I am going to try and put together my own menu and see how that works out. In fact, I am going off to the kitchen after I finish writing this!

Julie- have you tried this method of cooking before? I would love to hear any advice you might have, or any recipes that you think would work well for this.

P.S.- The pictures in this post belong to Weight Watchers, I did not have the opportunity to take my own pictures this week.


Julie said...

Was it really just "a couple of hours"? I've wanted to try this, too... but I've been a bit intimidated by the idea of slaving in the kitchen all day. I do sometimes try to do my weekly menu planning around "planned leftovers," i.e., roast chicken, chicken tacos, and finally chicken soup dispersed throughout the week.
These recipes all sound great, though! So what did you come up with for this week? I'm interested!

alice said...

I love your blog and how reader-friendly it is (some are so busy they hurt my head). In my job for a cooking software company I study blogs and one of the happy parts of this assignment is finding great sites like yours. I am so glad I found this! I'm into cooking once and eating off those efforts all week as well, and without sounding like an infomercial, I wanted to tell you about their recipe program that makes this sort of meal planning really easy and has simplified my life a ton. (I’ve included the link in case you are interested.) Lastly, thanks so much for a great site—I love your information!

Beth Marie said...

Julie- I didn't time myself, but it really didn't feel like it took that long especially since some of the recipes shared the same ingredients. It felt pretty doable to me, and worth it because you don't have to cook again for 7 days.

Alice- Thanks!


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