Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cooking every (week)night

I'd fallen out of the habit of cooking on any kind of schedule and it was starting to wear on me. I know I'm perfectly capable of planning meals and making a weekly grocery list but I just couldn't dredge up the energy. So I made the somewhat impulsive decision to jump start myself by committing to cooking a different meal five nights a week for the month of June. This was largely dictated by the fact that I found this four week meal plan* and realized that I could execute the cooking without having to spend any time pondering it. It's the pondering that gets me.

We're just over two weeks in and I can tell you that cooking five nights a week is officially too much for the two of us but because I'm stubborn I'm sticking to it, mostly, and just eating leftovers for breakfast and lunch.

(not) meal planning
{(not) meal planning}

pasta and tomatoes
{pasta and tomatoes - recipe here}

udon and pork
{udon and pork - recipe here}

lemons and potatoes
{lemons and potatoes - recipe here}

ready to roast
{ready to roast - recipe here}

{prepping - recipe here}

ravioli + white wine
{ravioli and white wine - recipe here}

I think it's working. I won't say that all these recipes are my favorites but they're quick and simple and some will definitely end up in rotation. All I do on Sundays is check the pantry and figure out what items I want to buy where (weekly shopping lists are included with the plan). There's significantly more meat than we normally eat, so it's killing our grocery budget, but I can survive that for a month. It's completely brainless, which is exactly what I needed. But I think I'll be ready to go back to real meal planning next month.

* You have to download the shopping list and then click through the slideshow to get to each recipe to print it out. Yes, it is annoying that they don't have it all in one PDF. Just open the recipes in new tabs and print everything out in order.


  1. Great idea!
    I love your blog
    Lots of love
    Kate xo

  2. When my husband and I first moved in together, we'd probably spend an hour every night trying to decide what to eat, and then we'd end up eating late, and not particularly healthy foods either.

    My parents used to plan meals like this, so I started doing the same: I have a whiteboard on my fridge with 'day' magnets, and now I only plan about 4 meals a week, since I usually leave one night open for going out and two nights open for eating leftovers (since I still can't seem to make smaller portions of the recipes I use). I plan out our meals on Sunday night, grocery shop Monday morning, and we're set for the week!

    I know you're following this set schedule already, but once you finish this month, I find it helps being flexible within the week, so that as long as you eat those 4-5 meals within the week, you still have a choice each specific night.

    Looking forward to hearing more about how this works for you, and definitely excited for some new recipes to add to my rotation!

    1. Yes, that's my method too! 4 meals a week really seems to be the max that we can plan for and be reasonably sure we'll eat, especially because with only two people we end up with leftovers most nights. I used to be great about meal planning - not sure what's happened in the last year but I've totally fallen off the wagon. : (

      I'll definitely report back on how it's going!

  3. Rachel, you mentioned that some of these recipes will end up in your rotation. Which ones have you guys liked?

    1. I'll try to do a review/round up once the month is over! All of the recipes have been decent, for sure. They're all very easy/quick, which has the trade off of not being as packed with flavor as some of our regular (but more time consuming) standbys. Some of them I've been tempted to modify by adding more herbs but I told myself I'd wait and try everything as written first and I've been pleasantly surprised to discover that a lot of them are perfectly fine as is.

      So far, I like these ones best:
      shrimp with white beans
      turkey burgers with romaine slaw
      lamb meatballs except I'm pretty sure I just used beef?
      red currant glazed chicken
      ravioli with brussels sprouts

      I am notoriously in need of extra salt, but I think all of the recipes as written are low on salt by anyone's standards. But maybe try them first and then decide? I might just be salt crazy.

  4. hmm this does seem pretty brainless, which would be good for those busy work weeks! Approximately how much do you end up spending on groceries per week, following this plan?

    1. I haven't been keeping perfect track, but it's at least $75 per week, sometimes a bit more. We have a lot of the pantry staples already, so we save money there, but we buy the meat from Whole Foods and it's pricey, so eating this much meat really increases our bill. I normally aim to spend $350 a month on groceries, but a decent portion of that is on splurge-y items like nice beer and cheese. We aren't doing nice beer and cheese this month!

      We do buy most of our produce at the farmer's market, which makes it a little cheaper (and more fun).

  5. I love your blog and Ive been reading for over a year, your posts are so relatable. Im also newely married, and trying to balance work, cooking, gym, spending time with my husband, etc. When do you find the time to cook? I would be interested to know more about how your routine, as that is a constant challange for us.

    1. Oh man. This is part of the reason I fell out of cooking every night! Here is my routine lately:
      6 am - wake up, make a breakfast to pack, pack lunch
      6:35 am - leave the house
      7:00 - 8:00 - gym
      9:00 - 6:00 - work
      7:00 - 8:00 or 9:00 - one or two krav classes (2 or 3x per week)
      8:00 or 9:00 - home, cook dinner (at which point I'm so braindead and hungry that if I have to think about what to make I just give up)
      8:45 or 9:15 - eat
      10:30 or 11:00 - bed

      I know that sounds terrible, but I'm used to eating late, so it doesn't bother me that much. These recipes are all designed to be done in 20 - 30 min, so it's reasonable to make dinner even when we get home late. Previously we were defaulting to eggs and prepared food.

      On a non-krav day, I get home by 6:30 or 7:00, cook dinner and then eat when D gets home around 7:30. That's obviously more pleasant.

      Krav doubles as time together, since we're both taking the classes, and then we cook dinner together when we get home. We do really look forward to Fridays, though, when we don't have anything in the evening and can hang out and relax.

      Balancing is a constant challenge!

    2. Thanks for sharing!

      Your schedule is similar to mine, I feel like thats a good thing! I don't think its so bad that you are eating late as long as you have time to digest and get enough sleep.

      In the past few months I have also found that gym before work is best (for many reasons), but that also means an earlier bedtime, lunch and gym bag prep the day before, and adapting to showering at the gym.

      I guess my next project is prep for the week of cooking... inspired by your post!

      Perhaps the key to balance is good planning and prep!

    3. Yes, I will always miss my afternoon gym time from college, but realistically mornings are the best for me since I work full time. And I'm much more cheerful if I start my day with a workout, so there's that.

      I definitely try to pack my bag and lay out my clothes the night before so I can sleep in an extra 15 minutes in the morning, but I don't always succeed. : )

  6. Oh gosh. I gave up cooking a long time ago! I totally rely on prepared food from TJ's! :) I'm up at 4:30 AM most days, and I don't get home til 5 PM, but I'm just SO TIRED, I just want to eat and veg out!

  7. we only cook about 2 two real meals at home a week because of weeknight plans, usually based on what looks good at the farmers market. i haven't been cooking at all lately, things have been crazy, but i feel more sane when i have stuff like beans and quinoa/other grain and some vegetable already cooked at the beginning of the week so i can throw together lunches or meals easily. also, rachel your schedule involves SO MUCH EXERCISE. you must be buff now.

    1. Having a few staples prepped is such a good idea. I always mean to do that and then never follow through.

      Um, yeah, the exercise. I would like to say I'm in crazy good shape right now, and I certainly would be if I were putting more effort into working out smart, but it's almost purely stress relief right now. So the one hour in the morning is just mindless, sweating like crazy cardio. I'm not sure how much it's doing to advance my fitness level, but it's great for my mental state! I wish I got the same release from strength training.

  8. your blog is such a joy to read - thrilled to have found you

  9. I totally feel you on the cooking bit. For me, I love the pondering, but the execution kills me. I have a husband and a two year old and since my husband changed careers, him coming home at 6;30/7 kills my ability to cook. I feed my daughter dinner around 5:30/6 and eat a healthy snack with her, but my intention to cook for us just dies. Now she eats 90% what we eat so it's way easier to do one easy meal and re-heat, but before, I'd batch make her baby food and just defrost, slice fruit, and poof, she was done! And we'd eat....stuff. Also, I work full time too, so I'm also hungry and exhausted.
    I've recently been buying, cooking, and then freezing chicken, and then defrosting and using it throughout the week in both some pre prepared food, (frozen TJs risotto mix-in), as a main dish, and

    1. Too bad you can't do all our pondering and then I could do all the cooking! I don't mind the cooking, really, as long as I'm being realistic and keeping it simple.

  10. your schedule in the comments above seems so packed, you are superwoman for cooking!! cooking is my downtime after busy days with baby, so i still cook 5 nights a week on average, and make 4ish lunches (erik comes home), too. breakfast is every man for himself! hehe

    1. That is a lot of cooking, Angel! We eat leftovers for lunch, so I don't have to deal with that at all.

      I think most of my busy-ness is my own making. The gym is my de-stressing tool, so that's more of an indulgence than a necessity. : )


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