Four Ways to Get Dinner on the Table, Part One: Cook Once a Week

Many people have busy schedules and have trouble getting dinner on the table.  After a hectic day at work or a kids’ sports game or a crazy day at home, sometimes it just feels easier to pick up dinner, and that’s okay.  However, if this turns into a regular habit, both your budget and you waistline will suffer.  While it does take longer to make food than to pick it up on the way home, if you cook at home you will almost always be making healthier fare for your family.  (I find after I eat at home for the majority of my meals, when I do go out restuarant food tastes too salty.)

If you take some time to plan ahead, you will find that it is not so difficult to get tasty, frugal, homemade meals on the table.  This series will consist of four strategies for doing just that, beginning with having a cooking day once a week.

Have One Cooking Day a Week
Sometimes, the hassle with cooking during the weeknight is not the cooking itself but the clean up.  You can avoid a lot of clean up by cooking once a week.

When I was working full-time, this is a strategy my family employed.  On Sunday, I set aside a few hours to batch cook our meals.  I picked three to four recipes, doubled them, and cooked them up Sunday afternoon.  Then, during the weekdays, I pulled out one meal and we just reheated it for dinner.  I doubled each recipe so that my husband and I would also have the convenience of packing leftovers for lunch since we both had access to microwaves.

Now that I am home, I sometimes still do this.  I find lunch time with a 2.5 and nearly one year old to be a bit chaotic because when the kids are hungry, they are hungry NOW.  It is so much easier if I have leftovers in the refrigerator that I can just put in a bowl and microwave.

One Cooking Day a Week Recipes and Resources
If you are looking for some ideas, check out Robin Miller’s Quick Fix Meals: 200 Simple, Delicious Recipes to Make Meal Time Easy.  Or, if you want to go frugally, check out Robin Miller on Food Network.  Robin makes 3 meals once a week to feed her family.  You can pick any one of her episodes, and the site will give you a grocery list and a game plan for preparing the food.  It really doesn’t get any simpler than this.  I found by following her strategies, I could have everything prepared in less than 2 hours.  Then, during the week day, it may take 10 minutes to finish preparing the recipe.

Rachel Ray carries this idea further with five dinners in one day.  On her website, you can find Heat ‘n Eat: Five Dinners in One Day with 5 complete recipes and baking instructions.  You can find even more of these recipes on the Cooking Channel: Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day.  I have watched some of these episodes, and while the food looks delicious, I have never tried her five meal plan because the majority of her recipes contain dairy, which I and my daughter cannot have.  If you don’t have food issues, the food looks delicious!

Invest two hours on the weekend, and you and your family will have delicious, cost friendly, healthy recipes waiting for you each weeknight.

I shared this post at Kitchen Economics.


  1. I’ll have to have a look at that book! I try to cook every night, but I know some nights I just wont have time, so I have a few easy meals that I’ve got ready. I do once a month cooking for breakfast, though – I enjoy it a lot – makes the mornings so much quicker

  2. You know, I could probably do a better job with planning out time and cooking. I’ve made the tradeoff far more than I should in terms of picking up food or eating out instead of cooking at home. Everyone’s so busy, epecially with kids, that it’s hard to do.

    In that regard, batch cooking seems like a great idea. I’ve thought about it, but never really executed on the plan. It would probably save a fair amount of time, which to me is a precious resource (w/long commute). As long as the food I can reheat is healthy but still tasty when reheated 🙂

  3. I need to try this. My kids are getting into more activities and dinner time is starting to get hectic. This could help out. I’ve watched Robin Miller before, I’m going to go check out her site and book.

    Thanks for linking up to Kitchen Economics. Could you include a link back to the KE post? Thanks and I hope to see you next Wednesday.

  4. That’s a pretty good idea. Right now we cook almost every night. We cook extra so we can take the left over for lunches and every few days we’d have enough left over for dinner. It’s working so far, but with a baby, it’s a lot more tiring.

    • Yes, that is what my husband and I did for awhile, but when the kids outnumbered us, we found it very difficult to make dinner every night. 🙂

      • I love the comment about the kids out numbering you guys. I am thankful we are at the stage that I have a teenager that likes to cook and every once in awhile she does dinner for me. I am often suprised at how creative she can be in the kitchen. We do the freezer cooking and the cook ahead thing in our house also. Thanks for the extra info on the web site. We tend to get in a rut and make the same thing.

        • Yes, I hate to let go of the baby/toddler stage because it is so much fun, but it will also be nice when they are more independent. How great that she will cook for you sometimes! We were in a dinner rut too, which is why I changed up the menu plan this week and am planning to do it next week.

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