No Time to Cook? So Don’t!

Repurposing ingredients for Mock Duck Burritos: Day 1, Burritos, Day 2, Burrito Bowls with Quesadillas, Day 3, Fried Rice with Salad

People always ask me how I have time to cook. The answer is simple, I don’t. I don’t really have time to cook while holding down a full-time job, so I only do it when I have time. Once I get home from an exhausting day in the classroom, the last thing I want to do is cook: I’m too tired, too wiped and too hungry.

Last summer while cooking up all the CSA veggies, I would cook in the mornings when I had energy, and either reheat or finish cooking before dinner. I found that I was excited to get up every morning to cook and I enjoyed the process so much more. I never felt rushed, and something changed in my thinking. Before this, I had this old-fashioned idea that making dinner meant cooking right before the meal, but times have changed. Now, I prepare all the food ahead of time and rarely cook before a meal. This shift has been so liberating.  Most of the time we have food ready to  reheat so that eating can take place within a few minutes. In fact, I don’t think it takes more than five minutes to get a meal on the table in my house with this process.

I like to cook in the morning, so once school started again, I began to cook on Saturday or Sunday. I can be in the kitchen for two or three hours one day a week and prepare at least two meals that can be enjoyed as leftovers or repurposed somehow. I also make sure we have fruit and veggies prepped for easy consumption.

As you know, soup is a great base. Once a pot of soup is made, it is easy to serve it with grilled sandwiches, quesadillas or a salad. We almost always have black beans and rice in the fridge so we can make stuffed burritos, beans and rice or quesadillas. Another easy-to-reheat dish is a casserole. I often make enchiladas, lasagna or some other one-dish-wonder that will last to the next couple of days.

We all like salad in our house, so I make sure there are greens ready at all times. If leafy greens are not consumed as salad, they’re stuffed into burritos, sandwiches or chopped on top of something. Max prefers Romaine, so there is always a big bowl of that ready to go, as well as chopped cilantro.

Sometimes I cook one week night and it’s always something really simple like a stir-fry or pasta dish. Those kinds of meals can be served with only twenty or thirty minutes of prep time. If the veggies get prepped on the weekend, it’s even less.

The most important time saver for me has been the Linden Hills Co-op. We moved a few years ago, and we only live three blocks from the shop. It’s a lovely little store that makes grocery shopping really easy. It never takes me more than ten minutes to get my shopping done. In fact, I can leave my house, do my shopping and be home in twelve minutes. In my old neighborhood I used to wait in line for the cashier sometimes for a half hour. It’s the little things in life that end up being the time savers. My advice: simplify your cooking routine and simplify your shopping.