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Ok this is probably the wrong place for this so mods plz move if need be. I'm trying to figure out if there is a good way to get a break from cooking everyday. I cook probably 5-6x's per week. Eating out is costly plus very germy, so can someone give some tips on on I can cut down on cooking. I LOVE to cook but everyday is a bit much. Right now I'm feeling a bit of burnout and just want to STOP.

In case you need to know I cook for myself, my hub and ds who is only 2. DS does have food allergies (milk, egg, peanut) so it's very hard to buy instant stuff (not that it would be cost efficient but every once in a while for a break would be great if I could) and we don't keep much in the way of snack foods for us to just get whatever is in the frig if I don't cook. Yes, I know my situation is hopeless but ANY suggestions??:smhelp:
 

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No your situation is not hopeless. 2 things you could do. Cook double when you cook and freeze the 2nd batch OR you could do something similar to once a month cooking. You get all the ingredients together and cook for a weekend and freeze the recipes. I really want to do this too. I've been married 35 years and my dh has taken over alot of the cooking and I LOVE IT!!!!
There is a book once a month cooking to give you some ideas and/or get you started. See if you can check it out of the library FREE!!!!!
 

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I agree, not hopeless.

I recommend the book Frozen Assets Lite and Easy by Deborah Taylor Hough because it has specific lists in it about exactly what to buy for a whole batch of about five recipes, and also lists telling you what to do the day before to prep, like what and how much to chop, etc.

For the two of us, I think once a month cooking would be too much. It's tiring to do all that cooking at once, too. That's something else I like about this book, because it breaks things down into 'sessions' with each session using the same protein such as beef, chicken, or even vegetarian, and each session makes about five meals of six servings each. Thirty servings lasts my husband and I quite a while, and probably would your family too. I also like this book because it's a cooking style I like with recipes we like as well. The original book, Frozen Assets is good, too, and set up the same way to really simplify things.

I rarely cook in the evening anymore and only when I want to. That gives me a ton of time when I used to be cooking, for my husband and I to do small chores around the place after he gets home from work, or just relax a while. I'm fairly new to batch cooking and I love it!
 

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I think most everyone, from time to time, suffers burnout from spending too much time in the kitchen. I'm getting there myself, even though I'm an avid cook and baker. I started organizing a few simple recipes that were easy to prepare in MINUTES to go to when I feel I really can't put on that apron. I also have a couple of frozen skillet meals that my family loves and that are MSG free (I have a SEVERE allergy to that food additive), which I serve over rice. I get them when they're on sale (with coupon), which makes them really affordable. I use those, too, when I can't bear spending an hour in the kitchen preparing dinner. They wouldn't be healthy or economical all the time, but they sure have come in handy when I get home from work late and we have to be somewhere shortly that's not serving dinner.

I'm going to have to start cooking double and freezing; however, right now, I only have the standard freezer section of a regular refrigerator. So, the other methods are how I'm coping. Not perfect, but it's saved me from ordering out or hitting the drive-through.
 

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I don't do full once a month cooking, but I always try to have some precooked ingredients on hand. My favorite go to is ground beef. I brown a lot at once and freeze it in packets. Then I can throw together a quick skillet dish faster and without as much mess. Cooked rice to good to have, and also keep frozen chopped onion and green pepper. With the price of fresh produce it's pretty comparable in price when I buy it on sale.

Any shortcut will help.

If you don't have a separate freezer, they are great investments, saving money and time in the long run.
 

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I think craftypam has hit the nail on the head in terms of making larger batches of food and freezing it. Or else making multiple meals on, say, a Sunday and freezing/storing them to be used later in the week.

However, we don't have a large enough freezer to store meals in this way. So to give ourselves a break every once in a while, we will cook double what we need for the night's meal and then use whatever is left over the next day, but in a slightly different way so it isn't really boring :laugh: For example, if we have beef fajitas one night, we'll use up the remaining mince the following night on top of a baked potato. Or if we've made a curry and rice for one dinner, the next night we'll have it on a naan bread and not rice again. That sort of thing. Everything's pretty much cooked, pop it in the microwave and you're ready to rock.


And apart from that, maybe if you had some really simple and really quick meals that you could make the occasional night when you're feeling a bit burnt out? Again, for example, I will sometimes have cold meats with plenty of salad vegetables in a tortilla wrap or in pita bread as a quick dinner. Or I will buy panini breads, pop some cheese and meat in them, and grill for a matter of minutes. Ciabatta bread is really good for this, too, since it's still a hot meal and it's really quick!

ETA: Lasagnas, cottage/shepherd's pies, fish pies, etc. are easy meals to stretch over a few days. Any time we're really hungry and can't be bothered cooking anything fancy I make an egg 'breakfast' dinner. Scrambled eggs with bits of bacon through it, an omelet, french toast :blah:
 

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I generally cook enough to feed us twice. The second half either goes in the fridge to eat in a couple of days or goes in the freezer. I also keep ingredients on hand for several relatively healthy, easy to prepare, go to meals for those times I am not in the mood to cook. I can generally throw SOMETHING together in 15-30 minutes.

This is where cooking from scratch and having a stockpile comes in handy! I don't plan my meals, I just make sure to have all the ingredients on hand for a wide variety of meals.

Plus if you cook up extra meat loaf, hamburger patties, a large roast, etc., it is easy to heat up the extra and prepare some fresh or frozen veggies.

I try to cook one night, eat leftovers of something we had on a previous day the next night and go on through the week like that. That way I don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen EVERY night. Plus I only have to run the dishwasher every other night.

All it takes is a little planning and forethought!
 

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I've so been there for a good time now... I've cut down the portions I make per meal, and that has helped me.. On the things I can't cut down the portions, I freeze the left overs.. Like the pasta pizza meal (I think I got off here), I can't eat noodles, so I freeze the leftovers and it gives my hubby and daughter another meal, I just thaw it in the fridg and they micro it to heat it up...
 
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Don't forget to use a Crock-Pot. It helps me a lot to be able to throw everything in the Crock in the morning and then just serve it up later when I'm tired and everyone's hungry. Something like a pot roast with potatoes and veggies is quick and easy to put in the Crock.

I also keep certain ingredients in the freezer, like browned hamburger, pre-cooked homemade meatballs, meatloaf that's mixed and formed but not cooked, fatties, marinated chicken, etc. The meatloaf can go into the Crock-Pot the same as a roast.

The biggest time-saver has been the browned hamburger. I wish I'd thought of that when our kids were still home. That's the base for so many meals. Add catsup and mustard and some chopped pickles and nuke it for sloppy joes, use it for spaghetti sauce, chili, or any number of different meals. I freeze it in pint jars and that works in any recipe calling for a pound of ground beef. I don't usually thaw it beforehand, just microwave for a minute or so till it comes out of the jar. Quick and simple! :)
 

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Like the others I cook extra portions and freeze them. Here's an example: Last October I fired up the smoker and did a brisket, two racks of ribs, half a salmon and a bunch of chicken. We had friends over and ate about 1/4 of that. I took another 1/4 of it to another friend's house for a party in November. We worked on some of it over the winter. Last week I got out the last of the brisket for dinner. We had sandwiches again Saturday. Tonight we're having brisket again. I will chop what is left and mix bbq sauce in it and re-freeze it. Then I'll be able to pull it out for quick meals when we need it.

So.... one afternoon spent on the deck watching the smoker, and I have meals ready all winter. I also keep easy to heat items in the freezer like kielbasa, ham steaks, and hot dogs. They make quick meals that even kids can heat up in the microwave.
 

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Can you grill?

I used to love grilling, it never seemed like cooking to me, it was more like camping in my backyard. I'd make a pasta salad in the morning to chill all day in the 'fridge. Grill some chicken breasts, throw out a hunk of bread, done and done.

Now I miss having a grill. Time to watch for one.
 
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The only thing I can add to these ideas is making up mixes to cut down your kitchen time. The meals are still totally from scratch, but you've cut down on the prep time. I like to pick easy recipes that require little ingredients or steps other then the mix. For example, the mix and maybe water and a egg, bake. Or the mix, cooked ground meat and water, cover and simmer.

It works for me on tired days, or the last thing I feel like doing is cooking days. The trick is to set aside a day to make up those mixes. Label well, and print out a copy of the rest of the directions and place in a folder. Spending a few days going through your old family favorite recipes, pulling out the super easy ones is key. It's not going to help to make mixes up for meals your family does not flip over. I like to make it super easy for myself all the way around and pick recipes that are straight forward measurements, like 2 cups of this, a cup of that, 1/2 a cup of this, rather then 1 1/2 cups of this, 3 1/4 cups of that, add 2/3 a cup of and so on. The easier the better. Makes for quicker work on mix days and less chance of making a mistake in measurement.
 

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I can't add anything new, but do emphasize batch/bulk cooking, freezer cooking, and like Polly suggested making up mixes to use when short on time or just tired...
Don't forget about having "planned overs"... Saves time and money. :tay:
 
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I love to cook, but no one should have to cook 7 days a week. But it's not always possible to eat out. So on days where I am just not in the mood to stand there and cook, I use my crockpot. Throw it in, turn it on and forget about it. Last Sunday, I even cooked a meatloaf in my crockpot!! It was delicious. I received a lot of compliments on it. Microwaved some leftover veggies, etc to go with it. It's amazing what can be cooked in a crockpot. I got the meatloaf recipe from a wonderful blog called Fix-It and Forget-It.

Fix-It and Forget-It
 

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I've been known to cook a twenty-pound turkey for two or three people. Having those leftovers in the freezer is great, as cooked turkey is so versatile.

I also save the carcass in the freezer, and save up veggie scraps in the freezer till I have enough, then put the whole mess in a three-gallon stock pot with the turkey carcass, fill it with water, let it simmer for about three hours, cool, strain, and freeze in pint plastic containers. No cost, salt-free, healthy broth that actually has flavor unlike store-bought broth, all from what's basically garbage.

Having broth on hand makes it quick and simple to make a wide variety of nourishing, comforting soups, or dishes like gravy on toast.
 

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One thing my mom does is when she fixes pintos, soup, or chili she makes extra and puts it in the fridge in canning jars. The tops seal and it lasts in the fridge for 2 or 3 weeks. That way when she's busy or on the run she can pull them out, heat, maybe make some cornbread and have a quick meal in no time.

Another tip I've read is to make your own tv dinners. Get containers which have separated food departments. Nights you've cooked and have any leftovers put them in those and wrap up and label. You can get those that have lids so you'll just have to put a piece of tape on it with what is in it written. You can choose whichever meal you want and just heat in the microwave.

Another quick tip...make ahead sausage and biscuits, wrap and freeze for a quick reheat OR pick up a few at McDonald's when they have them on sale 2 for $1.00, put in individual single ziplock bags and then place in a bowl with a lid. I use to do that for my kids. They'd grab one out, heat and go.

Pancakes can be made ahead and frozen and then just heated.
 

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Don't give up - dinner's not far

+5 on using your crockpot!! Also, 'start' dinner the night before. I'll 'splain: I work 11 hour days, gone from home about 12-13 hours a day. I make a list of ideas for the weeks cooking on Saturday or Sunday, make sure I have ingredients on hand or jot a zillion sticky notes to pick it up on way home. Last evening, I knew I was making a big batch of Jambalaya in crock pot for tonights dinner. I chopped celery, pepper and onion last night, put in bowl in fridge, placed stock, can of tomatoes on counter, defrosted chorizo and chicken on counter, and added spices and garlic to crock pot. This morning - I chopped the thawed meat and dumped everything else in the pot.
I also cook tons (an added benefit of growing up and learning to cook in a household of 6, so, for the 2 of us, I have instant "freezer meals").

Another trick is to have a few "too tired to cook" meals actually written down - and make sure they are mostly pantry items or things you regularly have on hand. (That was yesterdays meal - a jar of home-canned spiced cherries from last summer, dumped over frozen pork chops in the slow cooker.) Popcorn, cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, hummus on crackers or salad, even canned soup, all can be dinner in a pinch. A special treat would be ice cream sundaes for dinner (once a year).

You can find a free week menu and how-to for the Once-a-month-cooking style on the internet (search for "oamc"), books like Dinners in the jarand Make a Mix are helpful, also. (in Make a Mix, the Mexican Meat is divine - I used the recipe and made five different meals with the frozen meat mixture over three months.)

Something else I've started to do is a card file of menus I regularly make - so when brain can't take any more decisions, I flip till I find something good (and usually easy!!)

Good luck!
 

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Spirit Deer-what are "fatties"?


"I also keep certain ingredients in the freezer, like browned hamburger, pre-cooked homemade meatballs, meatloaf that's mixed and formed but not cooked, fatties, marinated chicken, etc."
 

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I agree with the various previous posts that say to make multiple servings and freeze some for later.

Additionally, how about assigning your husband dinner 2 nights per week. Make him help out. Your kid is too young, but when he gets older, assign him a night as well. My dd, had an assigned cooking night by 7 or 8 years old.

We also do "fend for yourself" nights, where nobody cooks dinner. Everyone just finds something for themselves... be it sandwiches, can of soup, warming a burrito out of the freezer, whatever. Again, someone would have to help the kid, but it does mean you don't have to actually cook a whole meal.

My DD suggests cooking up a chicken or turkey, then using the leftovers to make a gigantic pot of soup. Then freeze the soup to serve later. I make an entire stock pot full of soup that lasts us for a long time.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
y'know SwirlyThing those are good ideas. I like the fend for yourself days... but the husband cooking usually doesn't go well. He's working FT and in school so he's pretty stretched, but besides he's no cook! He only knows how to do maybe 3 meals on his own otherwise he's asking me every other minute (even on rice). It's kinda scary lol. the soup idea is good like what heartofmine said about the chili, etc.
 
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