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The 3 Golden Rules of Do Ahead Meals

It may surprise you to learn that we actually eat lots of do ahead meals in our house.

Even though I love cooking. And would be happy to cook every day, I’ve found that when I’m taking photographs for my blog, or a book or a new online cooking class, it’s much easier to batch the work and have a big cooking and photography day.

This means we often end up with a fridge full of pre-cooked meals. Especially when there’s a new class on the horizon.

Over the last 4 years I’ve had a lot of experience in the best way to store and reheat all sorts of meals. Even the ones you wouldn’t normally think of as make ahead dinners.

And before I forget, I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all of the 888 people who took the time to complete last week’s survey about my upcoming online class, ‘The Organized Cook’.

When was going through the results and saw ‘do ahead meals’ as the second most requested topic, it sparked some inspiration. So today I thought I’d share with you my ‘golden rules’ for making sure do ahead meals taste their best…

The 3 Golden Rules of Do Ahead Meals

Rule 1. Just make more of what you’re making.
The thought of getting extra meals ready in advance can be off putting. The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to be ‘captain organized’ to get the benefits of having some extra meals prepared in advance.

The easiest and most efficient strategy is to cook extra of whatever you’re already making. Eat some now and store the rest. While there is sometimes a bit of extra work in doubling or tripling a recipe, it’s rarely double or triple the effort. And usually doesn’t take any extra time.

Rule 2. Keep the components separate to store.
This is all about making sure the texture and temperature of each component aren’t compromised.

Keeping the components separate enables you to store, reheat (if needed), and serve each in the best way for each component. This means your slow cooked lamb shanks can be served piping hot with a cool crisp salad on the side for contrast and maximum deliciousness.

It also makes it easier to ‘mix it up’ and add variety so you’re not serving a carbon copy of the original meal each time.

Rule 3. Serve with something fresh.
Whenever I’m serving a pre made meal, I always try to add something fresh just before it goes to the table. This helps to make the whole meal feel fresh and new. It also helps balance things from a nutritional perspective.

Sometimes it will be a green side salad as in the example above, other times it’s some fresh herbs scattered on top. Or even some toasted pine nuts for some extra crunch.


Like some help becoming more organized in the kitchen?

Do you want to win one a FREE spot in my upcoming online program?

To celebrate the launch of ‘The Organized Cook (how to prepare for the busy week ahead)’ next week, I’ve decided to have a little competition and give away 5 FREE spots in the Organized Cook with 12 Months Membership to the whole Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School.

To enter you just need to leave a comment below answering this question…

What do you struggle with when it comes to being an Organized Cook?


UPDATE: The Competition is NOW CLOSED
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to share your thoughts.

And the winners are:
Niall Sheridan
Julie B
Sue S

Congratulations! You should have an email in your inbox with details on how to claim your prize.


Entries close Friday 18th July 2014.
The winners will be chosen by me and announced here on Stonesoup…


whole roast cauli-2

Whole Roast Cauliflower with Almond Tabbouleh

I think cauliflower is one of the most underrated vegetables. I love that it packs the same nutritional punch as its cousins broccoli and cabbage, yet its white colour gives it more flexibility than green veg.

And I should mention, if you’ve been looking for a gluten-free tabbouleh recipe that’s also ‘paleo’ then this almond tabbouleh is for you. We’re just using almond meal instead of the cracked wheat. I love the softer texture and creamy slightly nutty flavour you get from the almond meal.

Enough for 4-6
1 cauliflower
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup (60g / 2oz) almond meal
hummus, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Trim outer leaves from cauli and place the head in an oven proof pot that holds the cauli snugly.

2. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cauliflower is well browned and tender enough to cut with a butter knife.

3. Meanwhile, for the salad, combine lemon juice with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a bowl. Season. Toss in the parsley and almond meal.

4. Slice the cauli into wedges and serve with hummus, tabbouleh and more extra virgin olive oil drizzled over. Plus lots of salt and pepper!

do-ahead – roast cauli then cool and refrigerate. To reheat just pop back in the oven for 15 minutes or until warm. The tabbouleh is one of those rare salads that can be made ahead and will keep in the fridge for a few days, just give it a good toss before serving.

carnivore – Serve as a side to roast chicken or brown some minced (ground) beef and scatter it over the hummus before serving.

nut-free – replace almond meal with cooked quinoa, cooked couscous or bulghur wheat that has been soaked in water until soft and then drained.

spiced cauliflower – combine a tablespoon each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and dried chilli flakes with a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over the cauli before roasting. If you have some baharat (Lebanese 7 spice blend) it works really well too. Or try some finely chopped red chilli.

make your own hummus – whizz 2 cans chickpeas with 6 tablespoons each of the canning liquid, lemon juice, tahini and 2 cloves garlic. When you have a creamy paste season and add in a little extra virgin olive oil.

different herbs – feel free to mix up the herbs in your tabbouleh. Mint, coriander (cilantro) and basil are all worthy additions.

more substantial / carb lovers – serve with warm pita bread or tortillas.

With love,
Jules x
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{ 228 comments… add one }
  • Susan Leslie 18 July, 2014, 4:35 am

    I’m a university student and I share a kitchen with eight other people! I don’t have a lot of room or equipment, and between school and work my schedule is crazy unpredictable. A hand with organization would be lovely!

  • Lorna 18 July, 2014, 6:40 am

    The produce draw in my fridge is the hardest thing to be organized. While at the market I see all this great produce, purchase it, put it in the fridge…and then it rots. Time, meal plan, and the correct produce are a tricky balancing act when trying to be organized, not be wasteful, and make yummy meals.

  • Meg 18 July, 2014, 11:49 am

    What do you struggle with when it comes to being an Organized Cook?
    I struggle with pleasing all comers! Inspired by your ideas, I now love the challenge of the how-to-eat-a-nice-meal-without-having-to-leave-the-house-to-just-get-a-few-more-things scenario.
    Next I am working on “How to make a meal that is not meet with whining from the teen, and disappears with satisfying rapidity”…..How to get them to take an interest in new flavours? Then if I can Organdise myself( as Pooh would say)……”healthy packed lunches that tempt all comers, and don’t succumb to the sad/tired and/or warm/sweaty(think sub-tropics, summer,school lunch box),wilted, faded, jaded/daggy and soggy fate of many of their predecessors”
    Jules! Can you help?

  • Ann Blore 18 July, 2014, 11:51 am

    I struggle with the time I seem to take to draw up an interesting menu of simple meals for the week – and therefore the week’s shopping. I mean just how many cookbooks do you need? Food porn indeed!! Would be great to be able to do this more easily and in a more organised way.

  • Emily 18 July, 2014, 1:02 pm

    I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for five years now and I *still* struggle with planning out meals in a way that makes it easy and fun for me to shop, prep, and cook them. I tend to rely on unbalanced (sometimes even processed!) meals. I hate that! Your guidelines have helped me to see that feeding my family healthy, whole food regularly isn’t really any harder at all than feeding them junk. So thank you!

  • Jane 18 July, 2014, 1:15 pm

    I struggle with planning ahead to make meals that will include fresh seasonal produce from our weekly food co-op order. I know lots of people find it hard as we have to order a week in advance, and I don’t plan well enough to incorporate all those things into our meals or I forget what I’ve ordered! We also get into a rut with working around a fussy toddler but I would love to be inspired to be more creative with our meals, particularly mid-week.

  • Sneha Lees 18 July, 2014, 1:27 pm

    I struggle to cook creatively in batches as I usually only think to do a soup, curry or pasta bake type meal.

  • Amanda Tait 18 July, 2014, 1:41 pm

    I struggle with creativity! Would love to be a bit more versatile with dinner ideas, and also need help meal planning for the week ahead! Thank you :)

  • I struggle with finding ways to use up ingredients that I have on hand before they spoil. I’d love to win the classes – I’ve been following your blog for years and love it!

  • Danielle 18 July, 2014, 2:01 pm

    I struggle with what most mum’s struggle with, finding meals that satisfy kids & grown-ups while still adhering to my Paleo beliefs.

  • Jo 18 July, 2014, 2:03 pm

    I struggle with knowing how to use a large batch of a fresh ingredient multiple times before it goes off!

  • Heather 18 July, 2014, 2:23 pm

    I struggle with just about everything. Cooking is not natural to me. I have to remember to get everything in the recipe. Measure right and in the right order (ahhh) and lets not even talk about having more than one thing done at the same time. I could use help…..

  • Bettina 18 July, 2014, 3:27 pm

    I find it difficult to find foods that I know my family will enjoy and that are nutritious as well. They often find that it doesn’t come hand in hand. ;-) So in order to provide both, nutritious AND delicious food I try to make different things every day while it might be better to have some more “cook once, eat twice” combinations to get me out of the kitchen. It would be so much less stress to have simple yet delicious combinations that will satisfy everyone.

  • Jodi Blackman 18 July, 2014, 8:18 pm

    I live alone and often shop on a whim, and waste money on things I’ll never eat, or on fresh stuff that I really want to eat – but that goes off before I get the chance. I would love some sort of system that reduces my reliance on processed foods, or eliminates them entirely – but also minimises food waste. I have started making my own yoghurt, but I have a long way to go!

  • Ramona 18 July, 2014, 8:46 pm

    Any help in the kitchen to organise meals will be greatly appreciated!

  • Xanthi 18 July, 2014, 9:59 pm

    I struggle with cook ahead and on time delicious, nutritional meal with low cost and low time preparation since I am a single mom working on different shifts, having to feed healthy a teenager!!

  • Rachel 19 July, 2014, 7:28 am

    Healthy cooking for one. I tend to be repetitive with meals or just eat processed prepared food, or snack-not making a full meal, and don’t include much fresh anything.

  • LB Moshen 19 July, 2014, 8:47 am

    I struggle with planning the meals that I would like to make and totally after with blore’s comment.

  • Yasmin Al-Iriani 19 July, 2014, 10:14 am

    I struggle with my sisters being very picky eaters who wouldn’t eat leftovers or even something prepared in advance.

  • Kathi Brunet 19 July, 2014, 1:33 pm

    I really struggle with making leftovers seem fresh and appetizing.

  • jay bee 20 July, 2014, 1:58 am

    Health problems really sap my energy so at the end of the day, I struggle with making wise nutritional choices over the expeditious.

  • Marilyn Taylor 20 July, 2014, 8:04 am

    My biggest problem when preparing meals is finding lack of preparation in buying all the ingredients,I am all ready to cook, and no carrots. Often one of the most used items is the one not to hand.
    Thanks Jules for all your wonderful emails, I love opening and reading them.

  • Heather Storey 22 July, 2014, 2:38 am

    I would like to thank you Jules for the gluten free suggestion for a substitute for tabbouleh. Having coeliac disease diagnosed over 15 years ago I had resigned myself to never trying a lot of food – back then lunch was rice cakes with cream cheese and banana – very blah. It is great to see so much awareness these days and the great variety of recipes that clever people such as yourself are making available to us. I realise that the way of eating promoted on this site is not gluten free but there are so many yummy recipes here that are suitable for us to eat its great. My 18 month old granddaughter is the 4th female generation in our family to be Coeliac, so consequently the males all have to eat this way too unless they sneak food from the vending machine at work!

  • Jana 22 July, 2014, 1:15 pm

    I struggle with coming up with good make ahead meals. In particular for training nights that are paleo and 50/50 meat and veg. I need to be able to shove them cold into my hungry face before the trip home but aren’t super fiddly and take forever to cook when I’m preparing them.

  • Sue Goodson 22 July, 2014, 11:38 pm

    Being disciplined enough to plan the meals in advance, and would like some inspiration for gluten and dairy free summer meals.

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