As most of you know, I’m not into meal prep. If you haven’t heard of it, “meal prep” is used to describe cooking a bunch of different foods one night a week (usually on a Sunday) to last throughout the week. If you Google it, the technical definition is literally to cook food or meals in advance. You can prep full meals, or prep different parts of a meal (i.e. roast veggies and hard boil a few eggs to pair together later).
If you’re into meal prep, that’s great. Seriously. I’m definitely not shaming you (when did it become such a thing to shame the way other people eat?!). Different things work for different people. Personally, it just doesn’t work for me, and I don’t meal prep for a few reasons. For starters, I like my Sundays, and while I love cooking, I’d prefer to spend a Sunday other ways than in the kitchen for a few hours. Secondly, and maybe most importantly, I can only eat the same thing so many times in a row before it becomes totally unappealing to me.
For this reason, I’ve coined the “Cook Once, Eat Twice” method. (Okay… I didn’t coin the term, but I love using it). This method works just the way it sounds: you cook one time, and get two meals out of it. I love it so much, and it’s saved me so much time and money, that I wanted to share exactly why and how it works with all of you. I hope you love it too!
It’s Fast and Time Efficient
Like I said, despite loving cooking, I don’t want to spend a few hours in the kitchen at a time. Who has time for that?! With the Cook Once, Eat Twice method, you’ll spend about 30 minutes in the kitchen at a time, depending on what you feel like doing.
I like to find easy, 30 minute-or-less recipes that I can cook about twice a week. This way, I can whip up a quick meal on a Monday to have for dinner on both Monday and Tuesday, and then throw together another quick meal on Wednesday to have for dinner Wednesday and Thursday. Some of my favorite quick and easy meals are: Chickpea Meatballs with Zoodles or Spaghetti Squash, Veggie Fried Rice, or pretty much any kind of chili (turkey, bean, quinoa, etc.)
Another benefit is that this method totally accounts for (and actually benefits from) things like having a social life, or eating out occasionally. Factor in a dinner out, or ordering in at least one of those nights, and you’ve got lunch for the next day instead.
Yes, you still have to spend time in the kitchen with this method. After all, if you’re cooking, you have to be in the kitchen at least somewhat. But let’s be real: finding 30 minutes to throw together dinner after work just twice a week is pretty doable. And, now you’ve got dinner taken care of for the entire work week. Boom.
It Tastes Better
I’ll preface this part by saying that I love leftovers. I hate wasting food, and the idea of cooking every single day is totally unrealistic. BUT, after day 2 of leftovers, I’m pretty much cringing to get them down. For me, even the oven can’t save 3-day-old roasted broccoli, baked tofu starts to smell funky by that 3rd day, and if you tell me to eat the same full meal for the 3rd day in a row, I will almost always choose a good ol’ PB&J sandwich instead.
So, instead of enduring 3 days of the same now-soggy-and-smelly meal, Cook Once, Eat Twice comes in super clutch here. There’s pretty much nothing wrong with leftovers the next day. Especially if I really enjoyed them, I’m usually also excited to heat them up and eat them the next day.
The quality of a lot of cooked foods, unfortunately, starts to decline after a few days in the fridge. If you make enough to only last 2 days though and eat the food by then, you still stay in that sweet spot of planning ahead and enjoying your food (and who wouldn’t want to enjoy their food?). Plus, after that, you get to mix it up and have an entirely differently meal.
Finally, I find that this method helps to save the most money and spend the least amount on groceries. Typically, I’ll get creative and a little fancy for meal #1, then wing it a little more for meal #2.
For example, let’s say one day I plan to make Cauliflower Veggie Fried Rice from my book (recipe is also here!). This meal will easily last for at least 2 nights. If I’m also cooking for my husband, I’ll make about 6 servings at once on a Monday night (it’s not as crazy as it sounds, I promise). That way I know I have at least enough food for the both of us for two nights. On Tuesday (aka night #2), it couldn’t be easier to pop it in the microwave and eat it again.
By Wednesday, the Cauliflower Veggie Fried Rice is usually finished and, even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t really want it again anyway. This recipe uses foods like brown rice, cauliflower rice, carrots, peas, eggs and tofu that I’ll buy for the week. The recipe almost always leaves extra of at least some of these foods too. So, on Wednesday, I’ll use these ingredients to throw an easy meal together. Something like: roasting the carrots in the oven, making brown rice, heating up frozen peas and frying an egg. I’ll add a different sauce on the side so that, even though the ingredients are similar, it’s a different meal entirely (Sir Kensington’s Spicy Mayo is one my favorites for this purpose!).
This is why, on Instagram, I usually only share one dinner meal per week. These groceries will get me through dinner for an entire week and make 2 meals’ worth of Cook Once, Eat Twice; the second meal just might not be as “Instagram-able.” But hey! Who said all your meals have to be photo ready? Literally no one. #reallife
Lastly, how do you incorporate lunch into this? There are a few different ways I like to tackle lunch to make it fit seamlessly into the week. As always, the goal here is notto add more time to your day spent in the kitchen.
For lunch, you can pick recipes that you can make while cooking dinner. For example, Chickpea Fritters or homemade Veggie Burgers are some of my favorite easy recipes that are super simple to throw together while you’re making dinner (the more you cook, the easier multi-tasking becomes, I promise). Throw some veggies in the oven to roast while these things are cooking, pair with a microwavable starch option (i.e. frozen quinoa or brown rice) and lunch is done in no-time.
I’m also a huge fan of lunches that require no cooking at all. You can throw these together in a few minutes the night before or make them quickly as you get ready for work or school in the morning. Lunches like a turkey sandwich with carrots and hummus on the side or a tuna salad with crackers, fresh veggies and fruit can be thrown together in just a few minutes.
Finally, what would life be without kitchen staples? Keep foods like chickpea pasta (packed with protein and can easily be a meal on its own!), canned soup and cereal in your pantry, and frozen items like veggie burgers, frozen veggies and frozen fruit in your freezer. Any of these can easily be thrown together any time for lunch in pinch (and yes, cereal and milk and fruit can 100% be lunch some days).
All in all, Cook Once, Eat Twice is what I’ve found to work best for me. It keeps things (literally) fresh and exciting, while making sure I never spend more than 30 minutes a time in the kitchen at time. It helps to save a ton of money on groceries, and ensures you still enjoy your meals without getting sick of them. Start by trying it just once a week, and see how it goes. I promise, the time and money saved, plus the fact that you’re not eating the same thing every.single.day makes those short 30 minutes in the kitchen more than worth it.
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