The Girlfriend’s amazing cooking system

The Girlfriend has a remarkably effective approach to cooking that could be helpful for all those busy academics out there, particularly single or childless ones. The biggest challenge in cooking for only one or two people is that it is incredibly time-inefficient — you wind up spending as much prep time as you would for a much larger meal. Combine that with the fact that we all typically come home tired, and you have a recipe for ordering in way too often.

Her system is to cook everything ahead of time over the weekend, then package it for easy reheating throughout the week. It usually takes her an hour or so, which is much less than if she were to prepare individual helpings each day. Furthermore, it tips the laziness scale in favor of eating in, because putting her allotted portion into the microwave is actually the path of less resistence compared to ordering take-out. Sometimes with things like seafood, she’ll leave part of the meal to be cooked day-of, but it still winds up being more efficient. She includes her lunches in the routine as well — usually some kind of soup or salad — which is particularly important for academics, whose options for buying lunch tend to be depressing (I can barely look at a Jimmy John’s sandwich at this point).

There are disadvantages. First of all, you’re always eating leftovers, unless you time the first round of cooking to correspond with dinner time. Second, you need to be willing to eat the same thing multiple days in a week — if you don’t repeat, you lose the advantages of scale. Finally, if it turns out that you aren’t actually in the mood for one of your meals or it doesn’t turn out like you want, you’re going to find yourself reconnecting with your local Chinese delivery person.

17 thoughts on “The Girlfriend’s amazing cooking system

  1. Another benefit is that it makes it easier to use a CSA or farmer’s market, because the systematic approach means that you’re not trying to incorporate items on an ad hoc basis every night.

  2. This reminds me of the concept of a few places we have (actually might be had at this point, as I know at least one has closed) here in Toledo where you pay a fee, go in, and prepare some number of meals to the point where all you have to do is toss them in the oven (or something similar) later in the week when you want to eat them. This system is obviously preferable, though, because you’re not tied down to the place’s current menu and you can do the prep work at home.

    I would think another benefit of the system you describe is that time already invested and the danger of the food going bad probably helps fight the temptation to just let the food sit and go out to eat.

  3. If you freeze one of the portions you make each week, you can build up a “library” of alternative dishes that you can use on those occasions when you don’t feel like eating whatever you have prepared that week.

  4. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. The only difference is I made the switch to making lunch my primary meal and my hot meal. If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll cook two different meals on the weekend. So then I take the cooked meal to school for lunch and heat it up there and then when I come home I’ll do a combination of soup/salad/sandwich. If I have leftovers from a larger meal I cooked I’ll freeze it in individual portions and then when I have lots I have a whole week of no cooking and a different meal each day! (like voyou said)

  5. We have a variation on this, which is to cook a large piece of meat with basic seasoning and a few different vegetables, also with basic seasoning, and use sauces and different formats (salad, sandwich, with eggs, etc.) to spice things up during the week.

  6. @Alex – it’s difficult to troll a cooking advice post.

    I have to say that eating out probably put the largest contribution in my credit card debt when I was in grad school. I mean more than school-related activities by far. Well, that’s eating and drinking out…

  7. Another way to leaven the experience of eating leftovers every night is to make smaller, quick sides every few days during the week, salads or veggies or the like, to go with your main from the weekend.

  8. One benefit of having a group blog is that no one person has to carry the full weight of it. Over the years, you can sometimes accumulate dozens of fascinating people with posting privileges.

  9. I like stir frys and currys, so I bought a single burner and a wok and keep that in the office kitchen. I cook up the meat on the weekend, dice up vegetables, bag-and-freeze them. Best of both worlds, as the difference of frying fresh vs. frozen isn’t nearly as substantial as the difference between frying and microwaving.

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