Cooking Ahead- Effortless Meal Planning

Today, I'm spending a relatively small amount of time in the kitchen, but I'm making that time count for many meals in the weeks to come.

About two minutes was spent measuring and rinsing out four kinds of beans: navy, dark red kidney, black and pinto. A twenty quart pot holds an equal mixture of these, and another smaller one is about half full of just the black ones. Right now, they are all soaking in water. Before going to bed, I'll bring them to a boil, then turn them down to low to cook while I'm snoozing. Tomorrow, after they've cooled, I'll bag them up in quart Ziplocs and freeze them.

I also have a pot of whole grain oats (the way it comes out of the fields) cooking on low. When they're done and allowed to cool, into the refrigerator they go. It took less than thirty seconds to put that on the stove.

Soon, I'll start a large pan of brown rice. The rice will also be stored in the fridge.

Why would I do all of this? Because, like you, I am busy.

Among other things, I'm a wife, mother, teacher, chef, cab driver, counselor, domestic goddess (I won't bore you with the details), meal planner, time manager, business woman, writer, listener, task master, and friend.

And as you've read: good food, REAL food is my passion. It's what energizes us. Beans, oats, and brown rice are 'real' foods that work for, not against, your health. It's just common sense that what you put into your body makes all the difference in how it functions- for now, and for the future. Any food that contains a list of one ingredient is real food. An apple is an apple; an egg is an egg. No guessing games, no label or dictionary needed.

All those reasons are why I have beans soaking, oats simmering, and brown rice still on my list of things to prepare.

With a variety of spices, peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes from which to choose, I'll be able to transform that pot of beans into a whole host of menu items with distinctly different flavors. We'll enjoy them with Mexican foods, in a variety of soups, in spicy bean dips, on tortillas, with brown rice (resulting in the most nutritionally complete meal on the planet), and whatever else my imagination can contrive. This inexpensive yet versatile food offers protein, fiber, iron, and healthy carbs.

The oats I'll use in a couple of ways. On mornings when basketball practice is scheduled, the cold, cooked oats go into my Vitamix for the smoothies I make for my husband and sons. When blended this way, the oats are indistinguishable, yet provide amazing nutrition in the form of good carbs and are high in iron, protein, and fiber. Frozen fruits, nuts, flaxseeds and milk round out this extremely nutritious and energy boosting start to their day.
For a hot breakfast, I stir in some maple syrup, chopped nuts and fruits and warm it up in a matter of minutes. Either way, it's an amazing food choice for any family.
Because I purchase and use the actual grain, we gain all of the oat's value while spending less per ounce than the prepackaged, overprocessed steamed and rolled variety. For my family of five, starting with three cups of dry oats, that panful will last us the entire week or longer.

Brown rice offers an amazing nutty, wholesome flavor. Besides serving it with beans, I will add some to chicken soup, fried rice dishes, a host of vegetables, in casseroles, and it can even be eaten with maple syrup or honey and butter for a quick, delicious breakfast.
It's a good souce of niacin, thiamin, B6, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and an excellent source of manganese. Brown rice is low in fat, filling, provides healthy carbs and is inexpensive, as well!
One complaint is that it takes longer to cook, but your return in nutritional value gives you every reason to choose it over the less nutritional white rice. Put it on and let it cook while you're busy with other things. Then store and use it throughout the week. You'll be glad you did.

The boys just got home from basketball practice, so it's back to the kitchen to put the rice on, then on to teaching for me. Healthy cooking- it's easier than you think!

Have a happy, healthy day!
Polly~The Food Snob


  1. Hey, you inspired me! I cooked some black and pink beans in the slow cooker today ... we had burritos tonight -- Dan and the girls loved them! But now I have a *ton* of beans left! I guess I can freeze some of them, right? What else can I do with them?

  2. Absolutely, you can freeze them!
    Later, you can add them to chili, soups, tacos, tostados, bean and corn patties, fried ground meat. Throw in garlic, onions, peppers, cilantro- the options are limited only to your palate.
    Serve them over brown rice or with avocados or a salad.
    I season w/cumin, salt, pepper- adding cheddar and sour cream (or plain yogurt) for a dip.
    We had them last night w/ground meat and most of what's mentioned above, and I served that with baked and seasoned tortillas, and a Mexican Slaw that I conjured up. The guys loved it all.
    For a health and budget conscious family, you can't go wrong!