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cooking through
weekday meal planning tips

by Yee-Fan Sun 
| 1 2

Like most things, cooking, I find, is most fun when Iím doing it for reasons other than that Iím supposed to. I love cooking when Iím trying out some neat new recipe Iíve stumbled across, or when Iím concocting some special dinner a deux for me and the boy, or when Iím having a bevy of buddies over for a long night of feasting and merriment. In short, I love cooking when I have the time to enjoy it properly.

Sadly, there exist many a day when cooking feels more like a chore than a voluntary leisure pursuit. On those days, 7:30 pm arrives, and Iím finally pulling myself away from ten-plus straight hours at the computer. With my belly a-grumbling and the boy on his way home, dinner demands to be made. Mustering up the energy to whip up a meal under these circumstances can be a challenge.

Fortunately, Iím slowly learning that with a little foresight, stressful workdays donít have to lead to stress in the kitchen as well. If youíve been finding yourself eating out every Monday through Friday because you just canít seem to get yourself to cook after a long hard day spent working for the Man, check out these tips for making weekday cooking a little bit easier on yourself Ö

1 Plan ahead. Take some time over the weekend to figure out what youíll be cooking during the busy workweek ahead. Start by rummaging through your fridge, and seeing whatís lurking around that should really be used up. Next, take a peek through your freezer and cupboards, to see what other goodies you have available to work with. With any luck, the ingredients will inspire you; if that fails, a browse through a good general cookbook Ė I swear by How to Cook Everything -- or your favorite cooking website should yield plenty of possibilities for any given ingredient. Figure out what else youíll need to buy for the recipes; write up a grocery list, then get shopping. With the ingredients ready and your recipes all pulled out in front of you, youíll save yourself the effort of having to make critical food choices during the busy week, when long workdays leave you too frazzled to make any real decisions.

2 Double up. Keep in mind that for many dishes, whipping up a 4 or 6-person portion isnít much more effort than tailoring the quantities to suit just two. Make your life easier by cooking the big batch. If you donít mind eating the same meal a few days in a row, fabulous; alternatively, you can also freeze extra portions for future use. Just put the cooled food into single meal-size containers, and chuck them into the freezer. Soups, stews and curries are particularly conducive to making in large batches, as they tend to taste better as time goes on; big casseroles like lasagna, baked ziti, and enchiladas also work well.

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