I love to read cookbooks and cooking blogs. Right now, I'm especially enjoying those writers that focus on Bulk Cooking, Frugal Menus, Freezer Cooking, and Meal Planning.
But, all of the writers I've read focus on what I think of as "Horizontal Meal Planning." They read the calendar across for the next two weeks, or the next month, and prepare a meal for every night.
When I speak to friends, though, that is often not what they want or need. A lot of my friends enjoy cooking. They don't really need or want to be free from cooking every night. But, what they do need is a prepared meal for Church night, Tae Kwon Do night, Soccer night, Meeting night, or Overtime night - so that they aren't stressed on these busy nights and also don't break their budget by eating restaurant food out of desperation.
What I would suggest as an alternative is Vertical meal planning & preparation. If Wednesday nights you have a Committee meeting, Church, or Ballet class - prepare a month worth of Wednesday meals. The nice thing about this method is that you can cook meals that are similar - and therefore much more efficient to prepare. You can choose a Greek, Italian, Mexican or Asian Theme - and prepare a freezer full of meals that all use a similar preparation method.
For instance, using the recipes posted here, you could do the prep work for 4 meals by preparing a Vat O'Yachni, and from it - Greek Style Okra, Green Beans, Bean Soup and Gemista filling in about an hour working time - TOTAL! Each of these recipes requires only the sauce and usually two or three other ingredients. You have the choice of three methods: 1) simmering and freezing, 2) packaging sauce only (best for very small freezers) or 3) packaging sauce with other ingredients for simmering on serving day. Whichever method you use, you've got a meal for your busy nights in the freezer - while having freedom and spontaneity on more relaxed nights.
Soon, there will be enough recipes here to add a second column of easy-to-prepare freezer meals - in case (like most people) you have more than one busy night a week.
I also hope to feature some traditional horizontal menus soon : )
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