April 22, 2013 at 9:50 AM ET
Why make a meal that feeds your family once, when you can make a meal that feeds them twice…or more? Here are 10 tips to minimize your time in the kitchen and get a bigger dinner bang for your cooking buck.
1. The big shop
Make a reusable basic list of ingredient staples you use frequently, especially non-perishables, and hit the supermarket once a month to make sure you are fully stocked up on these items.
2. Take advantage of non-perishable sale items
When your favorite brands of things like chicken broth, canned tomatoes or beans, or pasta go on sale, buy as many as you can store comfortably. You'll not only save money, but also have the peace of mind that comes with a well-stocked pantry.
3. Double recipes
Making a double batch of soup, stew, chili or lasagna means another ready–to-go dinner later in the week. You don't have to eat it two nights running: skip a few nights so your family doesn't feel bored eating the same thing two nights in a row.
4. Use that freezer
Most soups and stews and casseroles freeze quite well, as do lasagnas, macaroni and cheese, and meatloaf/meatballs. Make sure to defrost everything in the refrigerator for safety reasons. Another reason to make a double batch of recipes.
5. Repurpose leftovers
Steamed broccoli becomes quesadillas, roasted winter squash becomes a puree and black beans and rice become soup. Brisket is amazing: it becomes sandwiches and then a hearty soup.
6. Make extra protein
Roast a few extra chicken breasts, cook a whole turkey breast, or braise a heap of pulled pork and interesting sandwiches, wraps and salads are just waiting to be concocted.
7. Make extra pasta or rice
Pasta is easily re-heat-able with whatever sauce you feel like later in the week, or it can become a pasta casserole. Rice becomes stir-fried rice with whatever vegetables or leftovers are lurking in your fridge, plus a bit of oil, garlic, ginger and soy sauce.
8. Keep your pantry stocked
Check that pantry every few weeks, and use your basic list to make sure you haven't run out of anything you need.
9. Don’t forget dessert
Freeze balls of homemade cookie dough: Wrap them up in an airtight, freezer proof container and defrost them as you need them.
10. And don’t stress about it
Give yourself time to get into the rhythm of it; big batch cooking is a big time and energy saver, and knowing you have another meal in the refrigerator or freezer is addictively satisfying, once you get the hang of it.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.