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good food in a bad economy
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March 2010
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Once a week cooking?

I'm looking for some meal ideas that can be made ahead and last all week. Preferably not freeze ahead, but just soups or casseroles or whatever that will safely keep for several days. Also preferably vegetarian, but any suggestions are greatly appreciated!


If you're vegetarian and in this community you may be interested in joining cheapvegan. These posts are really helpful-



Sweet! Thanks!

Beans, garlic, onion, carrots, turnip, kohlrabi, potatoes, pot or pearl barley, peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, dash of salt.

Soak the beans with the garlic overnight and 2 times water (i.e. one cup of beans soaked in 2 cups of water + a tbsp of garlic... I like garlic you may want less, I use garlic powder for this). I usually do this in the pot right on the burner so I can just add some more water, veggies and start the burner in the morning, or whenever I will be around for a few hours to watch it.

I'd say bring it to a light boil, boil for at least 5 mins, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer it until the beans are soft. Stir every 5 mins while boiling and periodically after to make sure everything is cooking evenly and not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

This will make a crazy filling soup. I usually do this with ham, but minus the ham it's completely vegan, and probably costs about $20 for me to make a 15 L (4 gal?) pot worth. I just did a pot's worth of the ham and bean soup and this made us 12-15 lunches and 2 suppers worth for myself and my boyfriend (and can he ever eat so it really goes farther than you expect).

I'd say a good ratio for it is 2 cups of dried beans, 2 cups of veggies, 1/2 cup of barley and garlic/onions/spices to taste. One bay leaf might be too much for this size, but depending on you appetite, have this with a slice of whole/multigrian bread and it's super yummy and super filling, I suspect I could get the ingredients for this amount for under $5 and it would fee me for a week or more.

(Note I'm talking in dollars CDN, but this is still super cheap here. Dried beans are cheaper than canned beans, and the longer cooking time allows the flavours to develop more and make it so much yummier.)

Dried beans are cheaper than canned beans, and the longer cooking time allows the flavours to develop more and make it so much yummier.

That is SO true. Personally, I get squicked out with having to rinse gunk off my beans, so I don't use canned beans at all. I'll take the extra work. It's worth it.

I'm partial to a basic lentil soup for a week-long easy dinner. If you stick to seasoning basics (veg. stock, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaves, S&P) in the big pot, then you can tweak the seasonings to suit your mood the rest of the week. Parmesan cheese and oregano one night, salsa the next, or whatever you like. The real work will be done (not that lentil soups are overly time consuming) but you're not necessarily stuck with the exact same flavor every night.

Vegetarian options hmm...depends on what you mean by cook ahead. When I'm eating vegetarian (ok, so I'm weird, and alternate diet based on seasons and whats on sale), I cook or do most of the prep on the following for lunches/dinners:

- Hummus for hummus wraps with lots of veggies
- I do all the prep work for falafel's, then cook when I want them. I prefer them over a nice salad. The falafel mix will last about 4 days in the fridge.
- Eggplant Parm - did I mention I'm addicted to cheese?
- Veggie lasagna. If I'm trying to cut carbs out, I use large slices of zucchini instead of the noodles. I cook enough for about 3 meals, and it lasts decent well.
- Rattatoille - I like mine served over pasta the second day after I cook it. Will keep in the fridge for about 3 meals.
- Barley soup or salad. I cook the barley in advance, then toss in a pot whatever sounds good that night that I have in the fridge. Just let it cook for about 30min to 1hour while I do whatever I need to around the house.
-Rice stuffed peppers. To be honest here, this is mostly rice mixed with the left over ratatoulle and baked in a green pepper.
- Lima bean soup - I love the stuff, just cook lima beans in a veggie broth, and add some carrots and onions. I usually eat it with my hummus wraps.
- Potato soup - dice potatoes, saute some onions, and put them in a pot with the diced potatos, some vegetable broth, and some milk. Its Mom's recipe, but she adds bacon...
- I do a veggie version of shepard's pie (because I love shepard's pie). Basically its some of that frozen fake hamburger, fried crisp, cooked onions and mushrooms, then I make a light gravy, add some peas, carrots, and any other vegetable that I have in my fridge. I top with either mashed potatoes, or a mix mashed veggies - I've used sweet potatoes, mixed turnips, parsnips, or cauliflour in with the potatoes as well, and they were all very good.

When I'm eating meat, I normally cook a whole chicken, and make the parts leftover into meals (I do this with turkey and roasts as well)...not sure if you want those, but can give them to you if you want!

LOL I realize as I write this, it sounds more like creative ways with leftovers, but even though I love to cook, I hate to cook for one, so I always have leftovers to use - and I hate more than anything cleaning up, so if I'm going to make something that takes a lot of pots, I make it good! Hope you get at least some inspiration.

You can make a "fake" lasagna out of just about anything, and it freezes well. (You may want to freeze them in salvaged aluminum lasagna pans from store-bought lasagna past...)

All ingredients are negotiable depending on what's on hand/cheap. I'm just listing what I put into each section....

Noodles: Sure, you can spring for lasagna noodles. But literally anything will work - spagetti, macaroni, penne, linguini... go crazy. Boil it until al dente - its okay if its kinda chewy, its going to be baked.

Red layer: Your favorite spaghetti sauce, the big "Prego" jar. Add: Mushrooms, onions, celery, bell peppers, meat substitute, chopped tomatoes, cooked eggplant, zucchini.... Season with whatever you like.

Cream layer: Start with a 16 oz tub of either cottage cheese or ricotta. Add 2 eggs. (or one. or none.) Stir in 1 box of spinach. Or some cooked/drained fresh spinach. or swiss chard, or well-cooked kale, beet greens... cooked & chopped broccoli, cauliflower... Again, season with whatever you like.

In your casserole dish: Start with pasta. Then red sauce, then more pasta, then white, then pasta, then red... add cheese between whatever layers you feel appropriate. Personally I like ending with a red sauce layer & topping with cheese. Bake until whole mess warm & bubbly, with cheeze nicely toasted...

As you can imagine, you could mix in just about anything - leftover carrots & green beans, garbanzos & other beans... Its really just a matter of deciding which layer they belong to. Put in what you like, leave out what you hate.

This usually makes me one 13 x 9 pan, full to the brim. And depending on who's eating, it'll easily last several days. (And if you make 2 or 3 big pans in one session? You'll have some for the freezer...)

You can make a big pot of just about any soup that does not contain milk, cream, or egg (these soups typically can't be heated past a simmer after those ingredients are added or they will "break"). Every 3 days, put the pot back on the stove and heat gradually to a vigorous boil--on Medium for a few minutes, then Medium-High, then High--stirring frequently. This will kill any bacteria without scorching the soup. Using this method, you can eat on one pot of soup until you get tired of it.

The old-timey way was to keep the soup hot at all times: it was always simmering on the back burner of the woodstove or over the coals, so that it never spoiled, and the cook added more water or ingredients as available. If you ever go camping with plenty of firewood and somebody is going to be in camp at all times, this might be a useful trick.

Whoops. Just a note that when you're not heating it, the pot has to stay in the fridge! (Sounds like stating the obvious, but the horror stories I've heard about people who didn't know to do this--)

Lots of good ideas! Thanks everyone!