Making Time: Weekend Prep and Cooking Extravaganza

There’s no disputing the simple fact that cooking from scratch takes time.  It is not as convenient as ordering out, driving thru, or heating up something from a package, box or can.  That’s just life.  I used to be a person who said I didn’t have time to cook.  I have a demanding job that requires a lot of overtime from me.  Add in going to the gym and my yoga classes and it becomes even more challenging.  Oftentimes, I get up around 5 am, am at work by 6:30, head straight to the gym or yoga after work, and don’t get home until 7:30 pm.  I’m so sleepy that I usually fall asleep before 10 pm.  I could easily use this as a reason not to cook for myself and to take any of the more unhealthy options for my meals.  That’s what I used to do.  It’s one reason I used to weigh almost 300 pounds.

Other people have even more demands on their time.  No matter what obstacles we face, there are other people out there with even more obstacles who are doing just those things we claim not to have time to do.  You don’t find time;  you make time.  It’s all about priorities.  As Americans, we are obsessed with convenience.  And look where it’s gotten us.  I think it’s high time we actually spent time working on the foods we eat, not taking the easy way out.  Where there’s a will there’s a way.  If you want to do something, you will find a way to make it happen.  If you don’t want to, I can’t make you and nobody else can either.  There are so many benefits to cooking your own meals though, I encourage kitchen-haters to try to change their outlook about cooking.  You may find you enjoy it afterall if you give it time!

The way I’ve found that works the best for me is to do as much as I can on the weekends so I have very little effort to put in during the week.  I’ve come to really enjoy cooking and I find expending the time planning and preparing to be more than worthwhile.  This weekend, I have documented what I do to help you get ideas for your own lives.  This is what works for me.

Saturday:

6:30 am, I wake up.  Since I’m an early riser all week as well, I generally wake up long before my alarm.  At 7:00 I am at the park picking up my basket from Bountiful Baskets Food Co-Op.  I usually stop for an iced green tea on the way home, and then get set in my kitchen for a few hours of prepping.  I turn on some music and prep some veggies!

This week, I got the Organic Basket and the Asian Pack:

Organic Basket

Asian Pack

I have a few things leftover from last week, and I make sure to prep those.  Pre-cut veggies will save me a lot of time later in the week.  If I want to make a salad, a 15 minute project can easily be reduced to less than 5 minutes if the veggies are already cut.  All you need is a cutting board, a knife, a few kitchen towels and a bit of patience.  Here’s my prepping station:

Getting ready to chop some radishes

After rinsing your veggies, it’s very important to dry them off.  They will keep much longer if they are dry in an air-tight container than any other way.  I actually find that my prepped veggies last all week and beyond whereas my un-prepped veggies sometimes don’t make it through a week.  If you don’t think you’ll use everything fast enough, you can freeze most vegetables and fruits.  Here are the veggies I prepared Saturday morning:

Green leaf lettuce

Make sure to use a sharp knife (not serrated) to chop your lettuce.  This will help the edges stay fresh and not turn brown.

Chopped Carrots

Now I can easily add these to a salad or stirfry.

broccoli flowers

I separate the flowers from the stems because I like to steam the flowers and use the stems in stir-frys or soups.

Broccoli Stems (Waste not!)

Scallions

I like to separate the scallions into the green part and the lighter part as well.  The green part, I usually use in salads and the white part I use like onions in stir-frys or sautes.

Behold my handiwork!  I’m finished with this by about 9:30 (and I’ve also done all the dishes and cleaned up my kitchen) before the boyfriend even wakes up:

Voila!

*A note about plastic: The last time I posted a picture of my prepping, somebody gave me a hard time about using plastic.  I would like to switch to all glass or pyrex, but I haven’t done it just yet.  Never let perfect be the enemy of the good.  I don’t heat up the plastic or put hot foods into it, so I think this is probably relatively safe.  I’m not perfect, sorry!

I still had some energy for prepping, so I made a new recipe with the Daikon Radish I got (click the photo for recipe):

Ginger Carrot and Daikon Radish Salad

So that’s about 3 hours of my time spent in the kitchen before 10am.  I’m relaxed, I’ve listened to some good music and spent some time with my thoughts, now I’m off to the rest of my day.  I’ve saved myself a ton of effort later in the week.

Sunday:

Woke up around 9 and went out to brunch with Carnivorous Boyfriend.  (At The Good Egg, had a really yummy Caprese Omelette, mmm)  Then we went grocery shopping at Sprouts Farmer’s Market.  The rest of the day, I spent cooking and doing other chores around the house.

First off, made some vegetable broth for a recipe I wanted to make later.  This article had some good advice for making your own broth: 7 Tips for Full-Flavored Vegetable Stock.  You know, my biggest help in cooking is Google.  I wasn’t really taught how to cook.  I’m self-taught.  In the age of the internet, I don’t think anyone can legitimately make the excuse that they “don’t know how.”

I had a lot of celery and red onions I wanted to use up from previous weeks baskets, which was another motivation for making this stock.  Bye Bye celery:

Sauteed before adding water

added water and mushrooms

While that was simmering, I baked some vegan blueberry strawberry walnut muffins.  Pretty much like THIS RECIPE, except adding blueberries, walnuts, and using 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 oat flour:

Muffin ingredients

Now breakfast is taken care of for the entire week!

breakfast muffins

Also sliced up the cantaloupe I got in my basket yesterday:

mmm, organic cantaloupe!

And made some Black Bean Hummus.  One of my favorite lunches to have at work is to bring a bunch of cut up veggies, some Ezekiel pitas, and hummus.  All the better if the hummus is homemade.  Really easy to make, just 1 large can black beans rinsed, 1-2 tbsp tahini, juice from 1 lemon and 1 lime, cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like the heat), 2 cloves of garlic, salt and a little olive oil.  Could add water if you want it runnier, but I like it very thick.  Much tastier and cheaper than any store-bought hummus:

home-made black bean hummus

All that before my stock is finished!  About an hour and a half total spent in the kitchen.

For dinner, I wanted to try a new recipe, Vegan Tom Yum soup.  I made a very large batch of it and stored the noodles separately from the broth so they wouldn’t get mushy.  I made enough to have for 5-6 more meals later in the week either lunch or dinner.

Tom Yum Soup

And that’s all folks.  My week will be a lot easier because much of the work that goes into cooking from scratch is done.  Breakfast is taken care of as well as lunch and a few dinners.  Other nights I will likely have a great big salad (using already prepped veggies).  I may end up cooking something else one night this week.  I really enjoy cooking.  It’s an artistic/creative outlet for me and and I get a lot of relaxation out of it.  But just like anyone, life gets in the way sometimes so I help myself out by taking the time when I have it on the weekends.  And it’s not like I spent all weekend cooking either.  I also went to a party, took a 2 hour yoga class, did all my laundry, cleaned, watched TV, and watched 2 full length movies with my sweetie.  Make your time work for you!

8 thoughts on “Making Time: Weekend Prep and Cooking Extravaganza

  1. We do so much better with our baskets and weekly produce if we put in the time on Saturdays, too. Your muffins and soup look divine! I will have to try both! Thanks for sharing this one.

  2. That still looks like too much work and time for me and my life! LOL, you are right that I have no real excuse, because I could spend my weekends prepping… but my weekends are the only time that I get to do anything that is not work or school. So I end up going on dates with the boyfriend and cleaning house, but almost never having enough time for food prep. This is also because I like to sleep until noon or one!

    I’m very impressed with your weekend schedule, and I hope that some day I’m motivated enough to do that. You are an inspiration to me! :-)

    haha about the plastic. There are always going to be negative nellies in the world, who will expect perfection in the bloggosphere… that is SO not me! And I do microwave in plastic. Oops.

  3. Great post! I also love doing food prep on the weekends (making stocks and soups/stews, roasting veggies to add to other dishes throughout the week, baking, etc). It’s definitely challenging when I need to be out of town for the weekend– I miss the farmers market and my chance to cook!

  4. Alright so I have no idea how I cam across this site but I would like to say a couple things. At first I was impressed by the design of your website, it flows well, is it like a theme (I am just figuring out web stuff) or a paid theme, or did you have it designed? I too try to eat as cleanly as possible, I’ll eat red meat like once/month, huge difference. So then I saw all your photos of the fresh veggies and thought who is this person? I read the about you section, big congratulations. Way to commit. Then I’d like to add, there’s three of us here, me and my two kids. What I do is, I go to a site like chooseveg.org and print off recipes (I have done it so much they are almost all printed in my recipe box.) I then make a shopping list based off of that for the whole week and stick to it at the store. To make eating vegetables as meals tolerable to my kids, I make them help as they are boys and chopping and slicing things with knives and machines is fun and dangerous. Anyway, great read.

    Steve
    My site: http://www.doescreatinehelp.com

  5. I am a fan of getting a week’s worth of meals finished in a couple hours. It really does help so much.

    Question on the hummus. Can I substitute the same amount of different beans in that recipe and still use all the same other ingredients? Or would it have to be tweaked according to the type of bean I use? I love black beans, but would like to play with some different types.

    • Yes, you can use any type of beans. Black beans are my favorite. But I’ve also done it with garbanzo, pinto, and kidney- or mixes of 2 types! So easy. In the food processor, just taste it to see if you need to add more of anything. You can always add water to make it less thick if needed.

  6. Congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished and how organized you’ve become with the cooking- I grew up in a house where my mother cooked from scratch a lot (except for the hamburger helper nights) and also worked full-time. Most of the reason for her cooking was because she could not afford to have us eat out all the time. So, having said that, I was in COLLEGE before i realized that there were people who didn’t eat square meals most of the time! lol- I like to do the same (along with three weeks worth of menu planning and having the hubby do the shopping so that we stick with the list), my weekends are just taken up a little more now that I have two kiddos. However, most of the time, my meals are from scratch- I have a four day long recipe menu to share with you, but I don’t like the day with the melon. You could also change and use tofu or tempeh in the days that she uses meats, and it would still be just as good. Go to foodnetwork.com and find Robin Miller’s site (Quick meals with Robin Miller) She had a menu she posted called “Puttin’ on the Puttanesca” where she made a very light and vegan puttanesca sauce and then used that sauce in recipes the next four days. It’s great! Anyway- keep up the good work and I’m going to subscribe! Like the recipes! I think I’ll try tempeh next time when it’s just me!

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