NDSU Extension - Sargent County

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Meal Management Strategies

Meal Management Strategies  4/3/20Lots of folks find themselves cooking and eating at home more than ever before as they comply with health precautions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meal preparation sometimes looks a bit like juggling, as there can be multiple tasks involved.  However, if some of those tasks are dovetailed, it cuts down on the amount of juggling we need to do, and by that, meals are made easier.

“Cook once, eat twice” is one strategy for efficient, effective and successful meal management.  The strategy involves planning complementary menus where you cook once and eat twice. 

To cook once and eat twice, plan meals based around key foods prepared in larger amounts for use in one recipe the first night and in an entirely different recipe within the next night or two.  This is not the same thing as making large batches and eating leftovers. Think of it as planned-overs, an encore performance, or as “Act 1” and “Act 2” in a theatrical performance. 

For example, cook extra chicken breasts or beef roast.  Serve some the first day as the entrée.  Save some to use in a casserole, soup, salad or sandwich filling that you plan to serve one to two days later.

Another example:  Cook up extra ground beef.  Use some to prepare barbeques the first night, and then use the remainder to prepare spaghetti sauce, chili, casserole, or tacos within one or two days later.

A third example:  With pasta, cook extra.  Use about half for a pasta entrée.  Use the remainder in a day or two as an ingredient in a casserole, soup, or pasta-based salad. 

Follow these general guidelines to assure Act 1 and Act 2 your food remains safe and of high quality:

  • Separate out and refrigerate the portion to be served for your next meal before you set the food on the table. This keeps your food quality higher by preventing "planned-overs" from becoming "picked-overs."
     
  • Promptly refrigerate the food for the next meal to keep it safe. Perishable cooked foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, shouldn't be at room temperature longer than TWO hours TOTAL — that TOTAL is the total of the first and second use.
     
  • Refrigerate the prepared-ahead food in shallow containers so it cools faster in the refrigerator. For thicker foods — such as stews, hot puddings and layers of meat slices — limit depth of food to 2 inches. Loosely cover food. This allows heat to escape and protects from accidental contamination from other foods during cooling. Stir food occasionally to help it cool; use a clean utensil each time. Cover tightly when thoroughly cooled.
     
  • As a general rule-of-thumb, use the extra refrigerated food you cooked within one to two days. Freeze for longer storage. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator when you're ready to use again — never thaw at room temperature.

Sample menu plans showing cook once, eat twice foods, plus recipes are available online at https://food.unl.edu/how-cook-once-and-eat-twice.

If you do not have access to online resources, please call our Sargent County office to let us know what questions you have or what resources you need.  Many of the online resources could be printed in our office and then mailed to you.

Adapted from:  How to Cook Once and Eat Twice, University of Nebraska – Lincoln (3/30/20)

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/cooking-food-kitchen-ingredients-698605/ (downloaded 4/7/20)

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