Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Less and Eat More

With a few made-ahead items at the ready, you can minimize and enjoy your time in the kitchen.

Published May 7, 2020.

Gina McCreadie

Social distancing. Working from home. Homeschooling. While we temporarily interrupt our regularly scheduled lives to flatten the curve by staying home, if you’re like me, you’ve been cooking at home far more than usual. Whether you’re cooking for family, roommates, or for yourself, it can be daunting (and exhausting) to plan and prepare three meals a day everyday. Doing all of the dishes alone can cause heartburn. There’s also the added challenge of limited trips to the grocery store. The good news is that with a little bit of planning, it’s possible to streamline the cooking process while still creating delicious meals to last you through the week. 

Cook less, eat more. Sounds great. How do we do it? The key is to make a few recipes at the beginning of the week, such as protein, grains, and veggies, that can be repurposed for other recipes later in the week. With a few made-ahead items at the ready, you can minimize and enjoy your time in the kitchen while eating delicious and satisfying meals without feeling like you’re eating leftovers. Here are some suggestions to get those creative juices flowing.

Prepare Extra Protein

Prepping and cooking chicken or meat is typically the most time-consuming part of any recipe so make it easier on yourself; make a double recipe and skip that step when making other recipes later on.

Roast chicken: Make Two Roast Chickens (or if you prefer making only one chicken, Classic Roast Chicken or Weeknight Roast Chicken). There’s nothing better than eating roast chicken right out of the oven, and making extra saves time (and mess) when making other chicken recipes later on.

What to make with leftover roast chicken:

Flank steak: One of my favorite recipes that goes a long way is Pan-Seared Flank Steak with Mustard-Chive Butter, garlic-anchovy butter, or sriracha-lime butter. I’ll eat a portion for dinner that night (with a side of roasted vegetables) and save the rest to top a salad or grains later in the week.

What to make with leftover flank steak:

Grains Make Great “Bases” for Quick Meals

I’m also a fan of making a big batch of rice or quinoa that can be eaten on its own, as a side, or as a base to build upon with other ingredients during the week. 

Brown Rice can be used to make these salads:

Leftover White Rice is perfect for fried rice:

I also love to keep cooked quinoa in the fridge for these quick meals:

Vegetables Are Versatile

Another time saver is to make batches of roasted or pickled vegetables, or both, at the beginning of the week to last the week. Pickled Jalapeños, Pickled Red Onions, or Swedish Pickled Cucumbers add a tangy crunch to your meal and can be stored in the refrigerator for more than one week (if they last that long). 

Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, or Roasted Carrots, Potatoes, and Shallots are also always in my rotation. You can eat them on their own, as a side, or my preferred way, on top of rice, quinoa, or salad greens with your already-made chicken or flank steak, a fried egg, or Oven-Roasted Salmon.

Remember That Snacks Can Be Made Ahead, Too

For snacks, the one item that must be in the house at all times is hummus. While store-bought hummus does the job, making Ultracreamy Hummus is my go-to. Protein-packed and delicious with all types of veggies, pita, or crackers, it uses canned chickpeas and makes enough for the week. I’ve also been known to spread hummus and mashed avocado on toast. You really can’t go wrong. Spicy Caramel Popcorn, Almond-Raisin Granola, or Crunchy Spiced Nuts are also great make-ahead snacks for the week.

Learn more with these other cooking resources and recipe recommendations:

This is a members' feature.