Cook all day, eat all week. . . .
I am often inspired by my own food stories, or rather by the people I feature in them. I have a fancy ice cream maker at home that I bought after writing about how to make ice cream; I bought a turkey from Greenacres after a homegrown Thanksgiving story, for instance. A few weeks ago I wrote about "being your own personal chef" and spent most of the day with Debbie Spangler as she stocked a client's freezer, I thought I'd do the same. I still have folks to feed at home, and I felt I've been falling down on the job lately. Sometimes they're gone before I get home, and I hate to see people I love eating ramen in that short space between school or work and tango class or an evening meeting.
So a couple of weekends ago I thought I'd spend a Saturday cooking ahead. That way there would always be something decent on hand. I made meatballs in tomato sauce, split pea soup, chicken pot pies and marinated meat for stir-fries.
Saturday was fun. I enjoyed having such a time-consuming task--I was able to put aside thoughts of all other, less fun jobs. I made a couple of mistakes, though. The chicken pot pies, from Cook's Country magazine, individually made in little aluminum pans, were too time-consuming, even though I didn't even make my own crust. (They're really good, though, and perfect for one person having dinner on his or her own.) My meatballs weren't sturdy enough to stand up to freezing, thawing and reheating, and in the end a simple meat sauce would have been just as good. The soup is perfect for freezing, though, and totally easy. The stir-fry meat is great to have--even though it takes no time whatsoever to cut up meat for stir-fry, this is more about knowing it's there, not having to worry about meat going bad in the fridge, and just having it planned. Even a couple of carrots, a few stalks of celery and a bell pepper is enough to turn it into an entree.
I also made the mistake of cooking breakfast and making dinner the same day. I didn't even get everything done on Saturday, and I can tell you cooking again on Sunday was nowhere near as fun. Next time, I think I'll shop on Saturday and cook on Sunday, forget any other cooking for the day, and maybe make more similar things: like just things with ground beef, like chili and spaghetti sauce, or just with chicken, like chicken pot pie and chicken soup. Once there's enough things in the freezer, there will be enough variety. Also, I'll have to think harder about vegetarian foods--for some reason, all my most conservative , meat-centered recipes came to mind.
A lot of people are interested in this cooking strategy, as you can tell by all the new "meal assembly" places popping up, like Dream Dinners. I've also seen several books to the point. I just got a review copy of "Once-a-Month Cooking" by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Labergorg, which works out complete strategies, down to the list of containers.