Thinking ahead

What do you do ahead of time to make throwing dinner together for the family easier on weeknights?

We’ll roast a chicken for dinner on a Sunday, then pull the remaining scraps for black bean and chicken quesadillas on Monday. Bones make stock for a vegetable soup on Tuesday. Three day chicken.

I also try to do some prep ahead of time. Many vegetables do okay being chopped the night before. For a stir-fry, for example.

Also, pasta. We go through a ton of it in our house because you can make a delicious sauce in (literally) a couple of minutes. Heat olive oil in a skillet, smash a clove of garlic and add to pan. While that cooks for a few minutes, chop a tomato in half and squeeze most of the juice out. Chop into 1-inch pieces. Remove garlic from the pan, add cooked and drained penne, the tomatoes. Stir to evenly disribute, add salt and pepper and servean preferably with some torn basil and grated parm. Brilliance in less than ten minutes.

What plan-ahead tips do you follow during the workweek?


Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

3 thoughts

  1. Except for the rare potroast, brisket, or casserole that gets marinated and wrapped the night before, to go into the oven at lunchtime the day of service… I think the most important thing is to THINK about what you might want to do. And on the weekend, you shop for the basic ingredients to accomplish a week’s worth of menus. So.. you have ground beef, a whole chicken, a pork tenderloin, a flatiron steak, maybe some chicken breast or a hunk of beef that could be stew, roast, or soup. You have onions, potatoes, carrots, some frozen and other fresh green veges. You think about what each of those items might be, and then, depending on your mood, every night becomes a fabulous meal. As in some other pursuits in life, your headgame is the important factor.

  2. We shop ahead of time and then chop veggies on Sunday. Every week, we have a specific plan of the meals ahead and generally stick to it. That’s the key for us because we rarely have time during the week to devote to going to the store.

  3. We’re fond of making large matches of dishes that benefit from sitting for a few days, and from reheating, like soups and lentils. It’s easy to make a large pot of dal, for example, which can then be pulled out as needed and served over rice with a few greens, taking almost no time. Madison has some good dal recipes. Most soups, especially stews, work well for this too.

    Pasta is common for us, too, for the same reasons. Lots of variations that are quick and easy. At times I’ll make a large pot of brown rice ahead of time, which can then be quickly dipped into for fried rice, adding to warmed-up soups, base for lentils, etc.

    Starting meat marinating ahead of time is also good. On your prep day, make several dishes with marinades and leave them be; then it’s easier to just grab the meat and go when you need a quick-cooking meal that’s better than, say, a random steak.

    Our all-time favorite go-to meal base (don’t laugh) is zucchini soup. This is quite easy to make, can easily use the overgrown squash you get from a garden or a discount stand at the marke, freezes well, and makes a great base for lots of better easy meals. Our recipe here.

    This, thawed and served over rice with fresh hard cheese grated in, is a tasty meal in itself that’s ready very quickly. It can also be used to start many other soups. We freeze at least 20 quarts a year and grab one whenever we’re too tired to do anything else.

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