Hey Sam, Ihave been noticing that you perhaps cook a lot during the weekend. Do you box stiff up for the week? Do you plan meals ahead of time? I am trying to make sure I have some homemade food for the week so I'm not inevitably hitting the deli for a lunch sandwich on a weekday trying to live on a budget. Any advice please?
I do cook primarily on the weekends and box stuff up for the week, yes, but I don’t really plan meals ahead of time. What I do instead is cook three to four dishes that can be portioned out into tupperware, and then I just eat on that all week, with occasional cooked meals for dinners and such. Realistically that usually stretches them out to two weeks.
Basically I cook a lot of food that can be separated out into meal-sized tupperware and reheated easily. Stuff like noodles and meat in sauce (stroganoff, meatballs in red sauce, Japanese curry chicken udon) reheats well in the microwave because all the “solids” like noodles and veg and such are suspended in a sauce, which steams them and keeps them from drying out or turning chewy. Also stuff like casseroles, enchiladas, risotto.
So I make a crapload of this stuff, and I measure out five lunch’s worth (or in my case, really, ten smaller packets, since I eat two small meals at work instead of one lunch – I have “lunch” at 10:30 and “tea” at 2). I often take more than one day’s food at a time, just so I don’t have to remember to pack lunch in every day, then when I’m at work I can choose what I’m in the mood for.
The rest of the food, the food that doesn’t fit into that week’s meal plan, I throw in the freezer. I think really that’s the key: leftovers go in the freezer for a bit so by the time I take them out they’re something I want to eat again. And I make sure there’s a variety, like I always have at least three different dishes to choose from. Plus I pack little treats like mini cheeses or hardboiled eggs in case I don’t want something hot.
I also kind of started listening to my cravings and compensating for them. Like, I really like getting a meatball sandwich sometimes, so I brought meatballs-and-pasta into my rotation – I just make a crapload of meatballs over the weekend (which you can make yourself, or buy freezer meatballs), cook them in spaghetti sauce so that they’ve got that nice “braised in tomato” flavor that meatballs at the sandwich shop have, and stir them into a pot of macaroni, then dish that up for lunches. In the winter I tend to want french fries all the time, but mashed potatoes are a good substitute, so I would make a bunch of tupperwares that were chicken in a sauce on the bottom, topped with mashed potatoes.
We tend to think of lunch as a light meal, a salad or a sandwich, but I almost never eat either – I always have a hot meal that sounds more like it would be suited to a dinner, I just eat a smaller portion than I would at dinner. Reframing how I thought of lunch in that way really helped me to get onboard with the “cook on the weekend, eat it all week” idea.