Shop Once, Eat All Week
October 4, 2014 12:27 PM   Subscribe

I had my life changed recently by a magazine article that showed me how to prepare a complete dinner for the whole week in 10-15 minutes per night with a few hours prep on Sunday, all for under $100. But it seems to be the only article of its kind! Please help me find more.

So I had my mind blown by this recent article in a local grocery chain's magazine in which they very simply and easily laid out:

a) a grocery list that came to under $100
b) a make-ahead weekly meal plan for Sunday where you prepare 90% of the dinners (entrées AND sides) for the week
c) instructions on how to spend 10-15 minutes each weekday night prepping that day's entire dinner

I tried it, and damn if it didn't work perfectly. With about 3-4 hours of prep on Sunday, I made dinner for the whole week in 10-15 minutes a night, with TONS of leftovers, and it's healthy as a motherf&*%er! So I decided that this was it - this is how I would make dinner for my family for the rest of my life. It seemed like the ultimate lifehack.

Except that when I went to find more recipe guides like this, I discovered that they don't exist. I found lots make-ahead weekly meal plans, but they were only for entrées. Or they didn't include the grocery list. There was nothing quite like this article that got everything just right. I tried one of the entrée-only plans, and not only was it much more expensive, I found myself scrambling every night to get a couple of sides together, more of a pain than a solution.

Surely this article can't be the first of its kind in existence? Does anyone have a source on more of these brilliant meal plans?? Books, links, magazines, anything??!!
posted by Bobby Bittman to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 324 users marked this as a favorite
Martha Stewart has something like this: Grocery Bag. It doesn't include instructions for Sunday prep work, but some of the meals are designed to be overlapping, so that work on Monday saves time on Tuesday.
posted by dino might at 12:37 PM on October 4, 2014

Response by poster: That site looks interesting, Megami, although the ideal solution would not include a membership fee. Another thing that was great about this particular meal plan was that it didn't involve much freezing, because it was just for a week.
posted by Bobby Bittman at 12:40 PM on October 4, 2014

Maybe try contacting the store's corporate offices? The link is titled Fall 2014 so maybe they have published others and you just haven't seen them. Make sure and tell them how much you like the plan (and how it encourages you to shop their store) and maybe they'll publish more if they haven't already.
posted by Beti at 12:48 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've seen a few threads that would be of interest to you on the /r/EatCheapAndHealthy subreddit. Be sure to check out the sidebar for other relevant subreddits.
posted by covercash at 1:03 PM on October 4, 2014

Shop Once, Eat for a Week!.

A search for make ahead meals on Pinterest looks promising. (Don't they always!)
posted by Room 641-A at 1:10 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I spent a while trying to optimize my cooking in similar ways, but its hard to find the perfect solution. I think the combination of seasonal and store-to-store price variation with person preferences/dietary needs makes this a hard problem.

Once a month cooking/freezer cooking/etc is big online, but I find that the recipes often don't include sides and/or can be light on vegetables.

The Martha Stewart link that dino might provided used to be published in their "everyday food" magazine which I believe is no longer produced. It was heavier on the veg but involved less prep on the weekend and more in the evenings. Unfortunately the MS websites are a total nightmare, otherwise I'd try and find more.

Here are the threads covercash is talking about, I think.
posted by quaking fajita at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jamie magazine used to have a month of dinners pull out calendar... Check your local library for back issues?
posted by jrobin276 at 2:28 PM on October 4, 2014

Real Simple kind of does this with shopping list and meals, but it's pretty much dinners only.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 2:46 PM on October 4, 2014

Best answer: This is exactly what Fresh20 does. I've been doing it for a year now. New recipes every week.
posted by saradarlin at 3:37 PM on October 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Buzzfeed of all places has a two week clean eating challenge that works exactly like this -- and cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. You can ignore all the clean eating rules and just scroll down to the recipes: check it out
posted by missjenny at 5:29 PM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you google "once a month cooking" or "once a week cooking" you'll find bunches of sites with information and menus. Some are pay, some are membership, but some are free. And Pinterest has bunches of recipes and menu plans.
posted by katemonster at 5:56 PM on October 4, 2014

What if you search for make ahead meal plans for vegetarians? You'll probably find you don't need sides if the main includes a bunch of vegetables already.
posted by lollusc at 7:19 PM on October 4, 2014

I don't remember where I saw it, but Rachel Ray (yeah, I know) had an awesome magazine article about a month of meals once. You basically just poached chicken breast, beef and pork using white or red wine, as appropriate, and then shredded them and froze them. I *hate* frozen cooked meat, but all of the recipes froze well. She had a list of things you could add to turn them into entrees. I think the magazine also set you up for 5 nights, in case you felt like pizza or leftovers on other nights.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:01 PM on October 4, 2014

It might have been the inspiration for Rachel Ray make ahead meals.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:18 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do something similar myself. I go through the fridge, freezer & pantry, writing down what I have (and what I need that I notice as I go). Then I look at the local sales papers to see what's on sale. I look at the calendar to see who will be home & away on different nights. Then I go through my recipes & try to pick recipes that;

-use what I have
-create lunches or leftovers for dinner the next day
-utilize sale items at the grocery store

I make my shopping list, shop, come home & prep as much as possible. I put a note on the fridge of what's for dinner every day & it makes my life so much easier, knowing what's for dinner on any night, what's for lunches, etc. Some days are even 'no cook' nights on the calendar. Plus I know I have all the ingredients on hand & don't have to run out to the store at the last minute.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 12:55 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh My Veggies gives a meal plan every week, but it's just the entrees and the instructions aren't as thorough as the one you linked.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:18 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

This evening Pinterest randomly gave me Ten Freezer Meals in One Hour, which includes a shopping list etc. I don't imagine it would be too difficult to do just a week's worth if you'd rather not freeze things.
posted by Cheese Monster at 4:46 AM on October 6, 2014

There are a TON of homemaker blogs out there that talk about this -- the term to Google is "Freezer Cooking". Here's some links that came up as "most pinned" on Pinterest (note: I have not read these and cannot vouch for them).

The Ultimate Freezer Cooking Collection of Recipes and Tips

Eleven Easy Freezer Meals

The Beginners Guide to Freezer Cooking

Freezer Cooking 101

Freezer Cooking Recipe Ideas

Note that not all of these contain shopping lists, but if you poke around some you will likely find plenty of sites that do. FYI, often freezer cooking plans are actually for more like a month of meals. Also, obviously you'll have vet them for healthyness, but there is a whole movement of family-oriented blogs out there that have been doing this for years, so with the right search term you should be able to turn a lot up.
posted by anastasiav at 10:04 PM on October 9, 2014

This post from Reddit might could help you:

$26 Grocery list, meal plan, and recipes for when times are tough. Feeds up to a family of four for one week:

This list assumes that you have basic staples like seasonings, baking powder/soda and oil/butter/shortening at home already. Hopfeully you have a couple of onions and garlic cloves, too. If not, adding them to your shopping list won't increase the price too much. Prices come from either what I have seen myself or from this Aldi price list.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:18 AM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Since this was such a popular question, I thought I'd do a one-month follow up. I wound up going for Fresh 20's plan, and by and large I'm pretty happy with it. It does fall short in two areas, but not in ways that are deal-breakers.

Again, the thing I liked about the original play from the Longo's magazine was that it was incredibly cheap and it reduced my meal preparation time to about 15 minutes. Fresh 20 doesn't do either of those things as much as I'd like. I'm probably spending about the same as I spent before on groceries, maybe a little bit more. And my meal prep times around around 30-45 minutes - less than before I had a plan, but not as quick as I'd hoped.

Now, having said that? My family has never eaten better. Ever. The meals are pretty amazing. And pretty healthy. So overall, I'm happy. And I've pretty much decided that I'm going to follow the plan for the year (I bought the book rather than signed up for the website). So all in all, a pretty good solution to the problem.

But I'm still hoping that Longo's puts out another edition in their next magazine...
posted by Bobby Bittman at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Glad to hear you like Fresh20! I really feel it's made me a better cook too. I've now made so many new things from scratch that were so easy and healthy like stirfry sauces, enchilada sauce, and interesting veggie side dishes.

I now have a good feel for these types of meals and often go "off book" these days with add ins or seasonings.
posted by saradarlin at 7:54 PM on November 9, 2014

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