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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, and then it just takes some hands-on time to assemble your weeknight dinners.

Before you start, make sure you have…

For cooking

  • All ingredients from shopping list (see below)
  • Large roasting pan for roasted chicken
  • Large roasting bag
  • Large non-stick frying pan
  • Large non-stick saucepan
  • Sharp knives
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Blender or food processor

For storage and labelling

  • Containers and freezer bags
  • Labels and marker pens

Step 1

  • Begin with skinning chicken for roasting. For speed and convenience, use scissors to skin chicken. Preheat oven to 190°C (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below).
  • Cook prepared chicken for 1 1/2 hours. Place garlic bulb in pan beside chicken and cook for 30-35 minutes until golden-brown.
  • Prepare Tasty chickpea mix (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below).
  • Check on garlic.
  • Prepare Basic mince mix (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below).
  • Use half to make mince mix (Mince lettuce cups, Tuesday) and the other to make meatballs (Meatballs with spaghetti, Friday).
  • Once chicken is cooked, stand for 10 minutes then remove from bag and leave to cool.
  • Cook Morcoccan couscous (Israeli couscous chicken salad, Monday) following packet directions but using just 1 tablespoon oil and no salt. Once cooked leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  • Prepare Basic rice salad mix (see Part 2: Base mix recipes below).
  • Break chicken in bite-sized chunks discarding any fat.

Step 2

Divide prepared basic mixes in the correct portion sizes in sealed containers:

  • Divide Tasty chickpea mix in 3 portions and pack in 3 separate containers labelled ‘Chicken curry’, ‘Spicy chickpea eggs’ and ‘Mince lettuce cups’ respectively.
  • Pack Basic rice salad mix in one container.
  • Divide and pack roasted chicken in 2 portions labelled ‘Israeli couscous chicken salad’ and ‘Chicken curry’ respectively.
  • Pack Moroccan couscous.
  • Pack garlic bulb.
  • Divide Basic mince mix in 2 for Mince lettuce cups (Tuesday) and Meatballs with spaghetti (Friday).

Step 3

Store prepared ingredients…

In the fridge:

  • 1 portion Basic roasted chicken for Israeli couscous chicken salad (Monday).
  • 1 portion Moroccan couscous (Monday).
  • Roasted garlic bulb for Israeli couscous chicken salad (Monday) and Spicy chickpea eggs (Wednesday).
  • Dressing for Basic rice salad mix (Tuesday).
  • 1 portion Tasty chickpea mix for Spicy chickpea eggs (Wednesday).

In the freezer:

  • 1 portion Basic mince mix for mince lettuce cups (Tuesday).
  • Basic rice salad mix without dressing for Mince lettuce cups (Tuesday).
  • 2 portions Tasty chickpea mix  for Mince lettuce cups (Tuesday) and Chicken curry (Thursday).
  • 1 portion Basic roasted chicken for Chicken curry (Thursday).
  • 1 portion Basic mince mix for Meatballs with spaghetti (Friday).

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 vegetables and fruit

  • 1 lemon
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • 3 red or white onions
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander
  • 8 tomatoes
  • 3cm-piece fresh ginger
  • 7 spring onions
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 red capsicums
  • 3 small cucumbers
  • kale — 8 cups
  • 1 head cos lettuce or iceberg lettuce
  • fresh mint
  • salad greens — 4 cups
  • mushrooms — 2 cups
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 green capsicums
  • wild rocket — 4 cups

Frozen vegetables

  • corn kernels — 2 cups
  • spinach — 200g

Chilled items

  • 9 eggs
  • parmesan cheese — 3 tablespoons
  • grated reduced-fat cheese — 200g
  • low-fat plain yoghurt— 1/3 cup

Meat and poultry

  • 1 x size 20 fresh (roasting) chicken
  • 1kg lean beef mince

Bottles/canned products, dry goods

  • 1/2 cup oil-free sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup peppadew pepper pieces
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • red wine — 1/2 cup
  • dried red lentils — 1/2 cup
  • 2 x 400g cans chickpeas
  • 375ml can reduced-fat evaporated milk
  • 200g dried spaghetti
  • brown rice — 1 1/2 cups
  • sultanas — 2/3 cup
  • vinaigrette dressing — 8 tablespoons
  • balsamic vinegar— 4 tablespoons
  • 700g jar passata with garlic and basil
  • green curry paste— 4 teaspoons
  • Trident lite coconut milk — 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or almonds

Seasonings and pantry staples

Check your pantry to see what you already have in store:

  • olive oil
  • oil spray
  • salt, to season
  • chilli flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • curry powder — 4 teaspoons
  • ground coriander — 2 teaspoons
  • cumin — 1 teaspoon
  • paprika — 1 teaspoon
  • chilli powder — 2 teaspoons
  • breadcrumbs — 50g
  • tomato paste — 4 teaspoons
  • rustic wholegrain bread — 200g

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

Basic roasted chicken

Makes 2 portions
Total cost 19.00
Time to make 2 hrs

  • 1 x size 20 fresh (roasting) chicken (725-750g of meat off chicken)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 4-5 sprigs thyme
  • 5 sprigs rosemary
  • freshly ground black pepper or chilli flakes
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • oil spray

Step 1 Preheat oven to 190°C. Skin chicken (this is done really quickly using kitchen scissors). Fill cavity with lemon slices and some thyme and rosemary. Season with pepper. Place in a roasting bag with remaining herb sprigs.

Step 2 Place bag in a roasting pan and place garlic in pan. Spray bulb with oil. Cook for 1 1/2 hours. Leave to cool slightly before removing from bag. Cover and leave to cool completely. Remove garlic bulb once golden brown and cloves go soft when squeezed.

Step 3 Strip carcass and divide chicken in half for Israeli couscous chicken salad (Monday), and Chicken curry (Thursday). Store garlic in a sealed container.

Basic mince mix

Makes 2 portions
Total cost $23.47
Time to make 45 mins

  • 1kg lean beef mince
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

Meatballs

  • 1 egg
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Lettuce cups mix

  • 4 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Step 1 Place mince in a large mixing bowl with onions, garlic, curry powder, paprika and coriander. Mix together.

Step 2 Divide mixture in half and to Meatballs portion add egg, breadcrumbs and oil. Form into about 28 meatballs. Place in a container and label Meatballs.

Step 3 To make lettuce cups mix, place remaining mince in a pan with oil spray and heat until evenly browned. Add paste, tomatoes and wine. Cook for 10 more minutes. Place in a container and label Mince lettuce cups.

Make it gluten free: Check curry powder is gluten free, and use gluten-free breadcrumbs and tomato paste

Tasty chickpea mix

Makes 3 portions
Total cost $13.95
Time to make 25 mins

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3cm-piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 8 tomatoes, chopped
  • oil spray
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • 1/2 cup dried red lentils
  • 375ml can reduced-fat evaporated milk
  • 2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained, rinsed

Step 1 Place onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes in a processor and process until they form a purée.

Step 2 Spray a pan with oil then add purée with spices and cook for a few minutes.

Step 3 Add lentils with milk and 1/2 cup water and cook for 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and cook for 5 more minutes.

Step 4 Divide in 3 portions for the Chicken curry, Mince lettuce cups and Spicy chickpea eggs.

Make it gluten free: Check ground spices are gluten free

Basic rice salad mix

Makes 1 portion
Total cost $7.00
Time to make 30 mins

  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/3 cup sultanas
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup peppadew pepper pieces
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or almonds, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing (made with 3 parts vinegar to 1 part olive oil)

Step 1 Cook rice. Drain and allow to cool.

Step 2 Add all remaining ingredients except dressing. Mix and store in a container to later go with the Mince lettuce cups. Place dressing in a separate container and keep in fridge.

Make it gluten free: Don’t not use malt vinegar in the vinaigrette dressing

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

Monday: Israeli couscous chicken salad

Tuesday: Mince lettuce cups

Wednesday: Spicy chickpea eggs

Thursday: Chicken curry

Friday: Meatballs with spaghetti

First published: Apr 2014



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