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Cook once, meals for a week

Set aside three hours on a Sunday and do some pre-cooking for a week of easy dinners.

All it takes is one Sunday afternoon cooking session to have dinner sorted for the week ahead! With our three-part process, simply prepare the base mix recipes, store them in the fridge/freezer, then just assemble and/or finish off cooking on the day for fast weeknight dinners.

Before you start, make sure you have…

For cooking

  • All ingredients from shopping list (see below)
  • Large roasting pan for lamb
  • Ovenproof dish for chicken
  • Large pans for boiling vegetables x 2
  • Cutting knife for meat
  • Large casserole dish for bean mix
  • Blender or food processor
  • Pastry cutters for pizza dough

For storage and labelling

  • Containers/freezer bags
  • Labels and marker pen

Step 1

  • Preheat oven to 190°C. Prepare marinade for Roasted lamb (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below) then spread over lamb and cook for 2 hours, turning halfway through.
  • Prepare marinade for Basic spiced chicken mix (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below) and leave to marinate for 1/2 hour.
  • Chop vegetables for Basic mixed root vege mash (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below) and place on stove top to cook.
  • Check on lamb and turn after 1 hour.
  • Place chicken in oven to cook for 30 minutes.
  • Prepare Basic bean mix (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below).
  • Drain vegetables for mash then make up mash.
  • Remove chicken from oven after 25-30 minutes.
  • Prepare Basic dough mix (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below) and leave to prove for 30 minutes.
  • Remove lamb from oven and leave to rest for 30 minutes in a cool place.
  • Knead dough and divide in half. Wrap half and place in fridge overnight (for Monday/Pizza), roll out other half and cut 16 x 7cm circles, label ‘Wednesday/Cobbler’ and store in freezer.
  • Cut lamb off bone (removing any fat) and dice.

Step 2: Dividing base mixes

Store prepared base mixes in correct portion sizes (in fridge or freezer as indicated). Label sealed containers or bags accordingly.

BASE MIXLABELSSTORAGE
Roasted lamb mix (2 portions)Monday / PizzaFridge
Wednesday / CobblerFridge
Basic spiced chicken mix (2 portions)Tuesday / PieFridge
Thursday / PastaFreezer
Basic bean mix (3 portions)Tuesday / PieFridge
Wednesday / CobblerFreezer
Thursday / PastaFreezer
Basic dough mix (2 portions)Monday / PizzaFridge
Wednesday / CobblerFreezer
Basic mixed root vege mash (2 portions)Tuesday / PieFridge
Friday / FishcakesFreezer

Top tips for successful freezing

  • Foods to be frozen should be as fresh as possible.
  • Cool foods completely before freezing. Freezing food when hot will increase the temperature of the freezer and could cause other foods to start defrosting.
  • Never refreeze anything that has already been frozen.
  • Make sure you wrap foods properly and put them in a sealed container or bag.
  • Freeze items in the quantities suggested so you have no wastage.
  • Label foods clearly with a marker pen. Date items if you are not going to eat during the planned week.
  • Defrost food thoroughly before cooking. Remove from the freezer the night before cooking the following day and store in the fridge.
  • Remove as much air as possible from items being packed in freezer bags.

Shopping list

Fresh fruit and vegetables

  • 11 cloves garlic
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger
  • 8 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 orange kumara
  • 3 medium-sized potatoes
  • 4 parsnips
  • 1 swede
  • 3 onions
  • 4 cups mushrooms
  • 1 green capsicum
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 4 cups kale
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 5 spring onions
  • 2 1/2 heads broccoli
  • 4 carrots
  • 3/4 head cauliflower
  • 120g bag baby spinach
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1/ cup parsley plus
  • 6 tablespoons
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 250g bag pak choy

Frozen vegetables

  • 1/2 cup corn kernels

Chilled items

  • 100g reduced-fat spread
  • 1 1/2 cups trim milk
  • 1/2 cup grated reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • parmesan cheese shavings (4 tablespoons)

Meat and poultry

  • 1.8 kg/2kg leg of lamb
  • 900g boneless chicken thighs

Seasoning and pantry staples

  • 4 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • oil
  • oil spray
  • 5 tablespoons no-added-salt tomato paste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • fennel seeds (1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 cups liquid reduced-salt stock
  • 400g can lite baked beans
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 x 400g cans no-added-salt chickpeas
  • 400g can no-added-salt kidney beans
  • 400g butter beans
  • 670g passata
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Tuscan seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
  • 275g penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 x 185g cans tuna in spring water
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • balsamic vinegar (2 tablespoons)
  • 6 tablespoons balsamic dressing
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • flaked almonds (2 tablespoons)

Here are the base mix recipes (see Part 3: Your week of dinners below for the daily recipes).

Roasted lamb

Makes 2 portions
Total cost $40.80
Time to make 2 hrs 20 mins (including making marinade)

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 rosemary sprigs, half finely chopped, other half broken in pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 teaspoons oil
  • 1.8-2kg leg of lamb (900g lean lamb)

Step 1 Preheat oven to 190°C. Place garlic, chopped rosemary, chilli flakes, anchovies (if using), lemon zest and juice, fennel seeds and oil in a blender and pulse to a paste. Season if you prefer.

Step 2 Use a sharp knife to make incisions all over lamb. Rub paste evenly all over meat.

Step 3 Place remaining (broken) rosemary in base of roasting tray and top with lamb. Cook for 2 hours, turning halfway through. Remove from oven. Rest for 30 minutes.

Step 4 Once cool enough to handle cut in chunks, discarding any fat. Divide in 2 portions and place in separate storage containers. Label half ‘Monday/Pizza’, the other half ‘Wednesday/Cobbler’ and store in fridge.

Basic dough mix

Makes 2 portions
Total cost $1.80
Time to make 1 hr (including 1/2 hr resting)

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 100g reduced-fat spread
  • 1 1/2 cups trim milk

Step 1 Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Heat spread and milk together until just melted. Make a well in flour and add liquid, gradually mixing in flour from the sides. Mix to a soft dough.

Step 2 Knead for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and stretchy. If dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.

Step 3 Wrap dough in a plastic bag and rest for 1/2 hour. Divide dough in half.

Step 4 Cover half with tinfoil and place in fridge. From the remaining dough, cut out 16 x 7cm circles and store in freezer, separated with plastic wrap, labelled ‘Wednesday/Cobbler’.

Basic spiced chicken mix

Makes 2 portions
Total cost $21.00
Time to make 1 hr 10 mins (including 1 hr marinating)

  • 900g boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger, peeled, grated
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • pinch dried chilli flakes

Step 1 Cut chicken in chunks and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and leave to marinate for 1/2 hour.

Step 2 Once marinated, cook chicken in oven at 190°C for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Cool and halve portions, labelling half ‘Tuesday/Pie’ and storing in fridge, label the other ‘Thursday/Pasta’ and store in freezer.

Basic bean mix

Makes 3 portions
Total cost $12.60
Time to make 30 mins

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-salt tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 x 400g can no-added-salt chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 400g can no-added-salt kidney beans, drained, rinsed
  • 400g can butter beans
  • 670 g passata
  • 3/4 cup red wine

Step 1 Heat oil in a pan. Cook onions and garlic for 5-6 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.

Step 2 Add paste and lentils. Cook for a few more minutes. Add remaining ingredients.

Step 3 Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with pepper. Divide in 3 portions and store ‘Tuesday/Pie’ and ‘Wednesday/Cobbler’ in fridge, and store ‘Thursday/Pasta’ in freezer.

Basic mixed root vege mash

Makes 2 portions
Total cost $17.50
Time to make 45 mins

  • 3 orange kumara, peeled, chopped in chunks
  • 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, chopped in chunks
  • 4 parsnips, peeled, chopped in chunks
  • 1 swede, peeled, chopped in chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Tuscan seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Step 1 Place vegetable chunks in a large saucepan or 2 pans of water. Bring to the boil and cook for 25 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Step 2 Mash vegetables well with oil. Add Tuscan seasoning, garlic and parsley. Divide in half and store ‘Tuesday/Pie’ in fridge, and the other, ‘Friday/Fishcakes’ in freezer.

Using the Base mixes (see Part 2 above), here are your dinner recipes for the week.

Monday: Lamb pizza

Tuesday: Chicken pie with root vege mash

Wednesday: Winter lamb cobbler

Thursday: Chicken pasta

Friday: Tuna fishcakes

First published: Aug 2014



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