Like many of you, I work a full-time job during the week and try to cram all of the things I can’t get done during the week into a two day weekend. It’s not easy and I know it can’t be easy for people who have small children or other responsibilities that demand so much of your time. My husband and I do the grocery shopping and prepare our meals for the week on the weekend. You have to plan and prepare before this can work smoothly but it can be done without getting overwhelmed.
We have a system – decide what the meals will be for the week before leaving the house. This may mean checking out the sales to get the best prices. After you’ve been doing this for a little while it gets easier. One thing to do is to stock up on items that your family likes when they are on sale. This week, we had proteins in the freezer that we had purchased when they were at a good sale price. This made it easier to just focus on the vegetables and accompanying items we needed. Not every week is that easy. Sometimes we are completely out of certain items and it hits us hard when you have to purchase things not on sale. I’ve always been a sale savvy shopper and think it’s just the way I’m wired.
The point I’m trying to make is that before we leave the house, we have a grocery list made up and we rarely deviate from the list unless there is an unadvertised sale on something we need or can store until we use it. There’s no sense in buying a super-sized bag of fruit when there is only two of us and we cannot reasonably eat all of it within the week. It’s such a waste to throw away food that goes bad before we’ve eaten it. It’s a lesson we had to learn over the years. When you go from cooking for a family to just for two people, it makes a big difference and I used to buy more than I needed until I got used to the actual portions we were eating.
We shop in two stores once a week, if needed. Once store is for the bulk purchases for necessities (toilet paper, condiments, etc.). The other store is for organic fruits, vegetable and proteins. We are able to go through the store with our list and get what we need and get out. I am not for lingering in a grocery store. Even though we go to Whole Foods, there is still too many things that I don’t need to be around. We get what we need and get out. The real work comes when we get home.
Everything gets put away except the food that is going to be prepared for the week. I prep all of the vegetables so they are ready when it’s time to cook them. This week it was Brussels sprouts and cauliflower for the main meals. Once they are prepped and ready for cooking, I set them aside. Then I move to the proteins. I generally do a lot of oven cooking so that I can plan to use the oven once. But this week, I made pan seared pork loin chops. That meant I had food cooking on stove and in the oven too. But with planning it gets done relatively quickly.
The three proteins this week are chicken, pork and fish. I would normally cook them all in the oven to save time and energy but I had a recipe I wanted to try out so I changed this up a bit. While the pork was cooking on the stove, the cauliflower was steaming. Once it was done, my husband made a delicious cauliflower mash. I like it so much more than I ever liked mashed potatoes that I don’t miss them at all. Then the Brussels sprouts get steamed. If I were steaming them on the stove, they could all be done at the same time but we use a steam oven, so they need to be done separately. That take a little longer but the vegetables are so much tastier when they are steamed properly. The sprouts come out and are dressed. Now I have one whole meal ready – the pork on the stove is done and so are the vegetables. Meanwhile, the chicken and the fish are baking. The fish is done first. Then when the chicken is done all meals are ready to be made and packed up.
Using covered glass storage containers, I pack up the pork, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts in containers. Then the fish gets paired with a salad, which I place in separate containers so that the fish can be reheated at meal time. The chicken can be paired with the sprouts, cauliflower or side salad. It’s all interchangeable depending on what we want. Once the meals are packed in containers, they go into the refrigerator. I don’t have to think about cooking again until next week.
Now I only described the cooking for lunch and dinner. What I normally do it prepare an egg casserole or something similar for breakfast and bake that while I am preparing the proteins. You may have read my Egg and Spinach Breakfast Casserole recipe. It is one of my favorites. But I don’t necessarily eat eggs every day for breakfast. Sometimes it’s a smoothie with additional greens that are purchased during our shopping trip. But I do the same thing with breakfast, package up the portions so all we have to do is grab and go. We no longer cook during the week. Planning ahead and preparing meals for the week saves up about 7 hours on average. That’s huge when you don’t have that much time during the work week with everything else that has to be done.
If only I could streamline my day job to save me 7 or more hours…