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Week 1: Low-cook eating

January 3, 2017

So I got to talking with a friend this week about food, and something I’ve been thinking of for some time: the idea of low-cook meal planning for busy folk (or those too intimidated by the shop-and-cook-and-clean process). So here’s a plan for week 1 you can use – and modify at will – to get a week’s worth of good at-h0me food in you.

Principles of Low-cook Eating

I’ve come from a picky background into a full-fledged, cook-at-home foodie, thanks in large part to my husband. You can find his cooking blog here, at the Midnight Chef.

But I grew up with a single mom who did indeed know how to cook (well, so she says), but did NOT have the time and energy to devote to shopping, cleaning, cooking, convincing her kids to eat the food, and then cleaning up again.  In the spirit of this, I present these principals:

  • Methods: We will do no cook, microwave cook, low cook, and prep ahead.
  • Prep ahead rocks: it lets you batch your cooking ahead of time, so there’s food ready during the busy part of the week.
  • Repeating meals is a good thing: It’s good for diets, it’s good for reducing your workload.
  • Cook as much as you want to! Cooking is good and beautiful; I’m offering this series as a starting point for you, not as a limiter.
  • Recipes: Anything in the plan that might need a “recipe” will have a marker after it that says, (below). And then we’ll have the recipe in the “prep ahead” section.
  • Cost vs time: You’ll need to make choices. Quicker options (like precut, washed lettuce) are usually more expensive. It just depends on your situation.

Week 1 Plan

Breakfasts: Yogurt with any or all of: granola, nuts, dried fruits, honey. Or, make up a batch of oats (below). SO GOOD.

Lunches: How about a week of salads (below)? (Swap for your favorite sandwich and a piece of fruit if you don’t like salads.)

Dinners: Ground beef (and/or ground turkey) is our friend this week (below):

  • Day 1: Burgers! (Heat the meat with cheese on, place on bun. Microwave some peas, too.)
  • Day 2: Spaghetti with ground beef.
  • Day 3: Box soup with ground beef in.
  • Day 4: Mexican cornbread. OR, repeat day 1, 2, or 3.
  • Day 5: Leftovers or sandwiches or frozen pizza! Your pick.

Prep Ahead

The day before your week starts, do your shopping (list below) and food prep! Future You will thank you.

This week we’re prepping oats, salads, beef, and Mexican cornbread. (Skip that last one and repeat another meal if you’re not feeling enthused).

Oats – 10 minutes + 4 hours wait time

Steel cut oats are SO EASY. Do this:

  1. Boil 4 cups of water.
  2. Dump in 1 cup of steel cut oats.
  3. Turn off the heat, put on the lid. Leave it 4 hours or overnight; eat all week long.

Salads – 10-20 minutes

Wash and dry your lettuce, and throw in what you like: a bit of cheese, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, bits of raw cruciferous veg.

Ground Beef – 10 minutes + bake time

We’re going to cook up all the ground beef for the week:

  1. Put all the ground beef in a bowl, and add about 1/2 teaspoon and 1/2-1 teaspoon black pepper per pound of beef. (So, 3# beef = 1.5 t salt and maybe 2-3 t pepper).
  2. Mix it up, split up into roughly 1/4 pound patties.
  3. Fry them all in a pan OR bake them at 350F until they’re barely done. (I check by cutting into one. When they’re still a little pink inside, take them off the heat!)

You can freeze the patties, or just put them all in the fridge when cool.

Mexican Cornbread – 20 minutes + bake and cool time

Once the beef is done, you can cook this and freeze the whole thing for Thursday or Friday.

Of course you’re welcome to make cornbread from scratch, but if you’re a tad busy, get yourself a cornbread mix. I will not judge you.

  1. Mix up your cornbread according to directions/recipe.
  2. Add 3/4 – 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  3. Add 1-2 burger patties, crumbled.
  4. Mix in some chili powder and cumin (1 teaspoon each), or 2 teaspoons taco seasoning. Or skip this…it’ll still be good.
  5. Bake according to directions.
  6. Cool for 1-2 hours and freeze.

That’s a total of about an hour prep time, plus some time for things in the oven, on a Sunday. Not bad!

Shopping List

  • Plain yogurt AND/OR steel cut oats
  • Whatever you want to put in your yogurt/oats.
  • Lettuce – I’m a big fan of romaine. (Alternately: bread and sandwich fixings)
  • Whatever you like in your salad: nuts? Cheese?
  • Salad dressing.
  • Fruit for snacks. I’m a fan of apples and bananas. You?
  • Containers for your salad lunches. Like these.
  • Burger buns/bread
  • Cheese for burgers
  • Frozen peas
  • Spaghetti and sauce
  • Ground beef – enough for everyone, for 4 dinners
  • Box soups – Good brands include Dr. McDougall’s, Amy’s Organic, and Imagine, but try some varieties out.
  • Cornbread fixings or mix.
  • Sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Spices for the cornbread, if you need/want them.
  • Emergency frozen pizza. You’re gonna want it one night, it stays good forever, and it’s cheaper/healthier than ordering Domino’s.
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