Hey there! It’s Sarah’s pal Elaina. You know, the one who can’t make Jello. Well, I can make Jello, just not to my husband’s liking. Sarah and I go waaaaaaay back. She and I met online and once we met in person and she grabbed my boob to confirm ovulation. True story. (Sarah's note: yep, that's true. And we even had the waitress take a photo of it. Don't you wish you were friends with me in real life so I could grope you too?). Our kids were conceived at almost the exact same moment which would be creepy if it weren’t so freaking cool!!
Here’s my deal: teacher (which does mean early evenings but it also means early mornings), mom to two girls 16 months apart (at nearly three and one and a half it’s getting easier), wife to an OCD husband (for real, yo). I grew up poor, super poor, like food stamps back when they were tickets in a book. We may not have had much but we always had dinner as a family, even if said dinner was peanut butter and jelly or one of those .40 frozen pot pies. It was important to my parents; as an adult the family dinner is sacred to me. However, being a good American I carry my baggage with me and as an adult wife decided that my husband and I needed to have super elaborate dinners every night. Ever wonder who spends 40 minutes after work stuffing those mini shells? That was me.
When I had my first daughter I continued to cook every night, but I scaled back the meals, meal planned a little more. My first was nearly nine months when I found out I was pregnant with my second. The second was a bit of a surprise and for a long time, I freaked. One of the things I was really worried about was cooking dinner with a toddler and a newborn. Or an infant and toddler. Or two toddlers.
Enter my husband who came up with the most brilliant idea ever: cook once a week. Cook three dinners on Sunday and then heat them up throughout the week. At first, I balked because; well, for lots of reasons. Mainly because I enjoyed cooking every night and as a kid leftovers meant we were out of money so yeah, it brought up some baggage. Eventually I relented and it has been the best decision ever.
I cook three large meals a week, and then reheat them throughout the week. This usually gives us enough for dinners and lunches for my husband and me (unless he loved something so much for dinner that he decided to eat thirds, men!). It means zero stress when I get home from work and very little cleanup after dinner. It also means that I have to listen to OCD husband complain once a week about needing to scrub the kitchen instead of five times a week. I’ve found that my grocery bills have dropped because I’m making simpler, easy to store foods. Some things I don’t make ahead of time: sweet potato fries, sautéed veggies, and anything else that I deem icky if eaten cold. The one and only danger is if the girls don’t like the dinner then I’m scrabbling (eggs, literally) at the last minute.
What’s a sample week look like? Something in the crockpot, and then two actual cooking items.
Pulled BBQ chicken take as much BBQ sauce as you feel comfy using, dump it in a crockpot with ½ as much chicken stock, throw in 2-4 frozen chicken breasts, cook on low 7 hours, shred and either serve on a sandwich or let cool and store (served with salad and sweet potato fries)
Pasta Salad (both a side and a standalone meal) everyone has their own way, here’s mine, boil pasta with a bunch of broccoli (hidden toddler veggies), chop green onions, cucumber, cheese, and any other yummy veggies, when the pasta is cooked, mush the broccoli so it sticks to the noodles, dump everything in a bowl, toss with cheesy Italian dressing (TRUST me, never, EVER use regular Italian) serve or store. Make sure to have extra dressing so the pasta isn’t dry before you serve it.
Turkey Burgers: ground turkey, Worcestershire sauce, Montreal Steak Seasoning, and Panko (Sarah's note: Elaina had no idea what Panko was until we became friends. Such a stroke of luck she met me!), mix by hand, form and either freeze burgers separated by wax paper or bake at 350 until done. Store when cooked. Served with pasta salad and regular salad.
A note about storage: I have some awesome Pyrex with lids which I use to store almost everything in the fridge. It helps to save space since they are square and rectangle sized.
So, that’s my tip, I hope it’s been helpful. Thanks for reading my novel!
Thanks Elaina for sharing your experience with once a week cooking!