FEATURE — As you and your family have adjusted to the new normal during a national pandemic, how is dinnertime going? Have you found solace in spending more time at the table with your family? Or has more family time at home created more work and less time to be productive?
I find myself caught somewhere in the middle. More time with my family is always a plus, but having four little people under my feet every hour of the day does come with challenges. I’ve found myself looking for ways to reign it all in and lessen the chaos.
Dinnertime always seems to be a rough part of the day. Family members are tired and hungry – ready for a good meal and some relaxation. Having a head start on dinner makes mealtime more pleasant and less of a burden. You can put a healthy meal on the table quickly, with a little planning.
My favorite method of menu planning is the cook once, eat twice method. It doesn’t take much longer to cook a little extra of something. In fact, it will save you time as you prepare your next meal, using the same ingredients.
With the cook once, eat twice method, you plan your meals around key foods that can be prepared in larger quantities. You then use the extra to create a totally different meal the next day – or later in the week.
Let me walk you through an example of how to use the cook once, eat twice method. You can find all of the recipes mentioned by clicking here.
Monday – chicken and gravy
- In the morning, place thawed chicken breasts in the slow cooker with a 15-ounce can of low-sodium chicken broth, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook the chicken on low until dinnertime. Shred with a fork. Separate out what you need for tonight’s meal. Divide the rest between two storage containers and refrigerate.
- At dinnertime, boil water to cook a large batch of rice – enough for four meals. Once cooked, separate out what you need for tonight’s meal. Divide the rest between three storage containers, and freeze.
- Use the rice and chicken to make chicken and gravy for dinner.
Tuesday – chicken noodle soup
- Cook a large batch of pasta – enough for three meals. Once cooked, separate out what you need for tonight’s meal. Divide the rest between two storage containers, and refrigerate.
- Use the prepared chicken from Monday and the pasta to make chicken noodle soup.
Wednesday – spaghetti
- Cook ground beef in a skillet – enough for three meals. Once cooked, separate out what you need for tonight’s meal. Divide the rest between two storage containers, and refrigerate.
- Use the prepared pasta from Tuesday and the ground beef to make spaghetti.
Thursday – taco salad
- Use the rice from Monday and the ground beef from Wednesday to make taco salad.
Friday – barbecue chicken quesadillas
- Use the rice and chicken from Monday to make barbecue chicken quesadillas.
Saturday – sloppy joes and easy pasta salad
- Use the ground beef from Wednesday to make sloppy joes.
- Use the pasta from Tuesday to make easy pasta salad.
- Chop extra peppers and onions. Refrigerate them for later.
Sunday – chicken fajitas
- Repeat the process from Monday to cook more chicken. Use some today and freeze the rest for next week.
- Use chicken, extra veggies from Saturday, and extra rice from Monday to make chicken fajitas.
To make this process even easier, keep your pantry and freezer stocked with canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. Take some time at the beginning of the week to chop up veggies and store them in the fridge. You’ll have fruits and veggies you can quickly add to your recipes or to serve on the side.
Because you’ll be using leftover foods when you prepare a ‘cook once, eat twice” menu plan, you want to follow proper food safety guidelines. Foodsafety.gov tells us that leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days or frozen for three to four months. Frozen foods can be eaten past the four-month mark, but they can lose flavor and texture over time.
With the cook once, eat twice method, you may have to adapt your recipes a bit. You might have to add seasonings differently or do steps in a different order.
To read even more cook once, eat twice menu planning ideas from ambassadors all across the state of Utah, click here. Now grab a pen and paper, sit down and create your cook once, eat twice menu plan for the week. Enjoy!
Written by CANDI MERRITT, Certified Nutrition Education Ambassador.
This article originally appeared July 1, 2020, on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog.
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