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I need your help with a meal plan - or a system - for a lazy and slightly rubbish cook. (Me)

(10 Posts)
SeventiesBush Tue 09-Apr-13 12:31:25

I never cooked very much until I had my first DS seven years ago, so have sort of been learning since then, in a slightly stressed-out sort of way. I don't have a confident swing about me in the kitchen and I found it hard to cook with children hanging off my trouser legs etc., or whining for my attention.

DH comes home late at night during the week, so it's just me and the boys (now 7 and 4) - it's easier now, obviously, as they can entertain themselves, but still - I prefer not to have to spend hours in the kitchen when they're home. (I freelance from home, btw, so it's kind of unpredictable how much time I have - sometimes I have tons of work and stressful deadlines, sometimes none at all.)

I'm not utterly hopeless any more and can cook all the basics - roast chicken, chicken pie, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, risotto, stir fry, soups, burgers, chicken nuggets etc. - but I really don't get much joy out of it (I enjoy it more when I'm cooking dinner for friends/adults and know I have time and get some appreciation), and the idea of cooking from scratch every day makes me want to scream. BUT I want us and particularly my dcs to be eating healthily.

I don't live in the UK; there's no internet shopping where I am, and no ready-made-meals culture (fine by me). We also only have a small freezer. What I really want is to be more efficient. Not to be running out every day to buy ingredients, not to be THINKING all morning about what we're going to eat for supper, not to be chopping bloody vegetables every day.

I realise this means I need to do some planning, but every time I look at everyone else's meal plans, or even try to do one myself, I feel utterly defeated by how many meals it is to cook!

What I would really like is a system where I could cook a couple of dishes at once, maybe freeze part of one of them for the end of the week, get two meals out of one dish (ie spag bol, then cottage pie). Basically have a plan, but one that means I'm not cooking a new meal from scratch every night. But for some reason, I'm overwhelmed by it all and can't put it together myself.... Really grateful for all your help!

MERLYPUSS Tue 09-Apr-13 21:42:32

I'd definitely go with the ragu sauce. Have it one day with pasta and skip a day (fridge it) then make a lasagne with the rest or perhaps a chilli. If you can keep a stock cupboard of dried/tinned goods you can knock up some nice things. I do a lot of one pan dinners such as pasta and rice (paella) type things. I find frozen pack of things like seafood mix, veg mixes, bacon lardons are good to keep.
I would be inclined to do a menu (you dont say where you do live but...)
Sun - Roast chicken
Mon - Spag bol
Tues - chicken pie, left over veg from sunday
wed - easy dinner - sausages/ roast fish
thur - paella (with left over chicken)
fri - lasagne
sat - salad with egg or tinned fish

MrsTerryPratchett Wed 10-Apr-13 03:03:10

We do three days of chicken. Day one, roast chicken (or chickens if they are hungry/big). Day two, stir fry, curry or similar with leftover chicken. Day three, boil the bones for two hours, soup. With nice bread. That's three day sorted. We also do bolognese then lasagne/cottage pie.

Other standards in our house are frittata (shove every leftover in, add eggs and cheese), quiche (same but with a crust), fresh pesto, vegetable studel (leftovers in filo pastry with feta cheese).

MrsTerryPratchett Wed 10-Apr-13 03:04:59

Obviously add something to the chicken stock otherwise people will complain about your 'soup'. Avgolemono is great (Google recipes) or Stilton soup.

Tortoiseontheeggshell Wed 10-Apr-13 03:17:17

Okay, here's what I do - as someone with a smallish freezer, and a job, and tiny children who will not stand for me spending more than ten minutes in the kitchen on a week night.

Sunday night, after the kids are in bed, I cook two meals, both in quantities that give me 2x each meal, and which freeze well. So, say, lamb casserole and chicken curry, or whatever. Half goes into the fridge, half into the freezer. This takes me about an hour, probably, but it's peaceful, the kids are in bed, I have a glass of wine with me, it's nice. Sometimes this isn't a whole meal, it'll be, say, a huge vat of bolognese sauce which can then get turned into spag bol, or casserole, or tacos, depending on time available/mood/weather.

So we eat one of them Monday night, one of them Tuesday night. Then Wednesday and Thursday we eat the other half of the previous week's meals, if that makes sense - so there's always only four frozen meals in the freezer, but they rotate weekly. Next week we'll eat the other half of this Sunday, and put two new meals in the freezer. Friday is my supermarket day, and my lazy day, so I buy, say, a hot supermarket chicken and some pita wraps and salad, or some fresh bread and a nice cheese and some sliced ham, and we have a buffet sort of meal.

Saturday DH cooks, Sunday I do. Usually, Sunday is a roast something, and then the leftover roast meat gets used for sandwiches for the next couple of work days.

Therefore, I only actually cook three meals a week, and all on the same day, but we eat home-cooked fresh meals six nights a week.

Other things I do:

Leftover from roast dinner goes into slow cooker with extra veg, pearl barley, etc., and makes soup. Good for chicken, or corned beef, or lamb on the bone. Takes five minutes as part of dinner cleanup.
If it's boneless, and something like pork, I'll do extra roast veg, then roughly chop the leftover meat and veg together (pulsed in a blender; one minute's work) and freeze, and then that makes pasty fillings for another day. All I have to do is defrost, divide, and fold into ready-made puff pastry.
Other uses for left-over roast chicken include curry, pad thai (simmer noodles, fry spring onion and peanut bits, stir everything together with cooked shredded chicken breast and some lime juice and soy), chicken and corn noodle soup.

vvviola Wed 10-Apr-13 03:43:02

I'm at university part time and at home with DC (5 & 19 months) otherwise. My week usually looks something like this:
Sunday - roast
Monday - "roast a la Monday" (remains of roast, either stir fried or chucked in pot with tomatoes & various veg) served with rice or pasta depending what herbs I've used or my mood.
Tuesday - I experiment a bit more on Tuesdays, curry or something usually. Otherwise bolognese. I made double & freeze half.
Wednesday - slow cooker, usually beef based. At the moment I'm experimenting with curries
Thursday - remains of slow cooker, sometimes with pita bread, other times wraps etc
Friday - DH is often on duty. Usually semi-homemade pizza (buy bases, add toppings) with salad.
Saturday - something from freezer.

This way I only properly cook every other day. DD2 has dairy & egg allergies so I can't really rely on ready meals. If we didn't have the allergies, lasagne would probably feature on Tuesdays & Saturdays quite a bit!

SeventiesBush Wed 10-Apr-13 11:09:20

Thanks, I thought this thread had died a death before it had even got started!

Ok, this is useful... obviously need to be planning better, cooking double, freezing...

JamNan Wed 10-Apr-13 11:11:10

Not sure where you live, if the weather is hot or what's available locally. Have you thought about buying a slow cooker? It's really easy to prep in the morning, let it cook during the day, eat with the children and then feed DH later. It is very versatile and there are lots of recipes here on MN. Make twice as much and you need and freeze a meal.

racingheart Wed 10-Apr-13 15:48:50

Jamnan is right. You can throw veg and diced meat into the slow cooker with wine and herbs or spices and stock when you stop for lunch, and by dinner time it's a casserole or curry.

I do the same as everyone else- a chicken makes three dinners, (roast, then wraps or risotto or curried with veg, then noodle soup or stock for a lentil or veg based soup); minced beef with lots of mediterranean veg sauce makes three more (ragout for pasta, chilli, cottage pie or a lasagne.) You could do baked spuds one night, then chop the left over potatoes into chunks, fry with onions and garlic, add peas and beaten eggs for a frittata with crusty bread and salad.

Try having one night a week when you cook with the kids. Use bread mix (or plain flour and a sachet of dried yeast) to make pizza dough, let it rise while you play with DC, then smear it with thick tomato-based veg sauce or even just tomato paste, let down with a tiny amount of garlic and herbs and water or oil. Add chopped cheese, chicken, veg - whatever people like.

It really helps to plan ahead while looking at your diary. If you know you're busy one day, do something easy or pre-cook and take it out of the freezer in the morning.

SeventiesBush Thu 11-Apr-13 19:45:39

I so nearly bought a slow cooker but did my research on MN and found it was 50/50 to whether they were worth having or not! But as I'm home most days, I can cook a stew or casserole - basically the same principle, right? Just cooks faster than in the slow-cooker. I love oven-based meals actually - whatever I can chuck in there and leave is fine by me.

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