The 3 Golden Rules of Do Ahead Meals

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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] I[/dropcap]t 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.

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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.

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

ps. The FREE email series includes a FREE downloadable / printable ‘cheat sheet’ which will give you a big head start.



  • I think I struggle most with buying too much and then struggling to use everything in the fridge. Too ambitious!

  • Oh so many things! Having an organized fridge and freezer without accumulating stuff, getting around to eating pre-made frozen foods, making a crazy mess in the kitchen, etc etc! The list goes on

  • As a rural resident, my do ahead meals have to be really well planned. Our small town grocery store is very limited in their range of dry goods, and their available produce range is smaller again. I have to have everything planned so I can pick up everything I need on my trips to our closest regional centre. (Also, as a Pisces, being organised and planning ahead are not my greatest qualities. I may be my biggest problem!)

  • I struggle with sticking to my meal plans. I’m more like, what’s in the fridge?

  • I would say having all the right ingredients on hand and fresh. Sometimes my timing is off and ingredients go bad before I get a chance to use them.

  • Choices! And time. I have the hardest time deciding what to cook or plan to cook. I can waste hours just looking at recipes. Then I’ll go to the store to buy groceries and then don’t get around to using half of them!

  • I struggle with preparing a delicious meal for my young boys and husband without spending big bucks at the grocery store. My husband seems to whip up a gourmet meal using very few ingredients. Drives me crazy lol.

  • I really struggle with getting home from work and making something healthy for my toddler by 5pm, then something healthy for myself and my partner a little later on. I also have part time work is gets done after 7pm, so I really feel the time crunch, but I really want us all to eat well. Make ahead meals sound like heaven on a plate!

  • The major challenge for me in being organized cook is to preserve some home grown vegetables till I decide to use them in cooking. As I get vegetables from my grandma’s garden every few weeks in pretty huge quantities I end up throwing some of them away as I am not good at preserving them. Would love to stop doing that.

  • I currently live in Egypt, where fresh foods are very seasonal and have to be bought in large quantities. It´s all set up for stay-at-home mothers catering for great big families, not a young girl living alone. I have thought I was a good cook in the past, but I really don´t have the flexibility in the kitchen to use whatever´s available at the time and, at the moment, I either buy food which rots in the fridge because I don´t know how to use it fast enough, or I end up with an empty fridge because I hate buying food I know will go to waste. I´m moving house now, to an apartment with a better kitchen and I would really like to be better organised, healthier and to eat simpler home-cooked grub more often. Please help!

  • I struggle with variety. My husband likes to eat different meals each day and it’s hard not to recycle the same old meals.

  • I struggle with using up bits and pieces which I have in the fridge and I hate to waste food including leftovers.

  • What I struggle the most in the kitchen is to organize the cycle: groceries shopping – creating and following a menu – prepare meals ahead of time (the only thing I freeze and actually end up not forgetting in the freezer is marinara sauce).
    I have 3 kids, good eaters, but it’s hard for me not to fall back on the same old recipes when school and after activities come around.
    And my kids do not like to eat from the school cafeteria, so usually I send them with a hot lunch that is usually leftover from dinner tha day before. So when making dinner, I try to make sure that the food I am preparing is suitable to be sent to school in a thermos.

  • My greatest challenge is timing things…..getting the meat in the marinade ahead of time, getting the sides to time out right, using the food I have bought before it spoils…tips for better timing and planning ahead skills. Than you!!

  • I’m not that organised so I’m usually ducking to the shop at the last minute for ingredients I ‘think’ I need instead of just improvising and using what I have! I’d also like to get better at ‘transforming’ leftovers into nice lunches.

  • Time! Trying to produce a nice meal for family or friends whilst starting unavoidably late.

  • I struggle with meal planning. Not bulk buying, not the cooking, the sitting down to plan it. Its all the harder at the moment given I am not at home 3 nights a week.

  • I am organised when i buy all the ingredients for recipes i’ve googled but then when i come home tired i just don’t have the energy to do a big cook up and take an easy way out. or even worse my husband gets a take away while all the fresh ingredients are sitting in the frig getting more mature with time!

  • I struggle with being organized AND having variety. My M.O. for being organized sometimes revolves around keeping thing simple or routine. And I can really fall into a boring rut.

    If I get bored with my meals, I won’t eat them. And then I’m in big trouble. :) I need help to ‘spice’ things up – but in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me.

    Love your site and everything you are doing – hope to learn a lot from you this year. xoxo

  • I think the hardest thing for me, when trying to be an organised cook, is that I’m only cooking for one person – myself! I find often that if I cook big servings and save some for later, I’ll get sick of the same dish. I also have limited freezer space so while I’d love to cook a lot of the do-ahead meals I’ve found online and freeze leftovers, I just have no way of storing them.

    (This meal sounds delish, by the way! Thinking about the spiced variation for this roasted cauliflower is making my mouth water!)

  • I really struggle to come up with varied menu’s – I end up feeling like I’m eating the same thing day in and day out! I’m never quite sure what the best way to store foods is either – how long they last for and stay safe?!

  • My biggest struggle is with finding ingredients, especially organic ones (which is my preference). I need a better handle on substitutions I can make that still preserve the integrity of the dish I’m making.

  • Planning meals for the week ahead and making sure I have all ingredients fr the store.

  • Under planning or over planning and having to throw stuff out because I didn’t get a chance to make all the recipes

  • I’m a little better about planning family dinners (some weeks are better than others) but I don’t do a good job of making sure I have the whole, fresh foods that will help me feel good for breakfasts and snacks.

    And there’s just something about having to sit down and make a grocery list that makes me grumpy some weeks. :)

  • I worry that I won’t have enough variety for the week if I make a large batch of one thing. I generally struggle with planning ahead, and attempting to plan for the week has never sat very well.

  • Meal planning & follow-through are my struggles. I’ll buy what looks good in the store or market and then it wilts away in the fridge before I can actually prepare it.

  • I try to be diligent when it comes to preparing my meal plans and shopping lists, etc. I spend several hours a month. But I need a better game plan when it comes to taking advantage of unexpected sales. If I see eggplant is dirt cheap, I might want to substitute eggplant parmesan in place of another meal. But then I get home and I end and I’m missing needed ingredients because the eggplant parmesan wasn’t on my meal plan and the ingredients weren’t on my shopping list.

  • I’ve been struggling in being an organized cook all through college. One week I’d be so organized have all my meals packed for the week and everything then it would just fall apart and I’d start back up again like 4 months down the line. Actually I can only remember ever being organized in meals during exam time. Cuz whenever I’d get frustrated with studies id cook. It really made a difference in my studies and study schedule. Although could never achieve this during semester. I’d get the ingredients but then not able to use it or want to do a recipe and never have time to get each and every ingredient. Oh how I wish I was naturally intuitive in mixing and matching ingredients this way I probably would’ve had more meals. Now 1 year out of college sill haven’t gotten the hang of organized cooking. I see loads of pics of people posting their meals for the week! Boy I wish I could do that!

  • Exhaustion! Sometimes after running after three littles all day I’m too tired to think, so we head straight for pasta pesto or waffle dinner… again….

  • I’m struggling with healthy snacks. I have a ‘restricted section’ in the cupboard, it has all the snacks I shouldn’t eat, but my husband wants to eat….and unfortunately I keep finding myself having the last bite of some cookie…

  • I struggle with quantities – sometimes a meal doesn’t make enough and other times I have so many leftovers, that there’s no room in the fridge for the “new” produce.

  • I constantly struggle with last minute changes in schedule (we’re a military family) and often time our fresh ingredients go to waste.

  • I am a mostly vegetarian cook living with a very meat and potato kind of husband,a very picky eater for a daughter and another entirely vegetarian daughter that eats dinner at 9:00 when she gets she gets he from work. I can never find anything in the frig or pantry because both are stuffed full trying to accommodate every one’s food needs. I have no car weekdays, so shopping has to be pretty organized, which it isn’t . Too often I resort to take -out. Yikes!

  • My biggest struggle is finding balance:
    Incorporating more fresh fruit and veggies (but using fresh before it goes bad)
    using frozen meals (figuring out how and what to freeze in small enough portions to make it a convenient option…rice, pasta, beans, chopped veggies…and then using the food before it turns into unappealing mystery lumps)
    Cooking large for a small household –with dietary restrictions
    Shifting from elaborate recipes to simple palate pleasing quality food on a budget

  • I have tried preparing ahead before, only to find I don’t end up using what I’ve prepared, so I think my main struggle is knowing what to prepare that will go with many different meals.

  • Hello from France !
    Being an impulsive person, I struggle the most with fully reading the recipe before making it. That’s why I love your recipes : they are simple and short, most of the time. Otherwise, I get lost and mix up the instructions or miss some part.
    Planning the meals ahead is another difficulty…

  • I don’t do well with any recipe that has too many (or unfamiliar) ingredients or too many (or unfamiliar) tools or steps; I enjoy cooking but my time and energy is very limited. Also – my husband and I both struggle with our weight, and I can eat a whole dinner while fixing dinner :). So what happens is we tend to eat out a lot, which costs too much and isn’t good for our diets. So I need to find some simple recipes that are quickly assembled when I get home from work so I’m not as tempted to eat out.

  • In a small kitchen, I’m always having to unpack a shelf to get the pan or baking dish I need. I keep the pantry stocked enough to manage some respectable substitution for recipes if I don’t have everything, but the clambering for the right pan sucks the joy out of cooking.

  • I struggle with two big things – time and money. We do not have enough of either. I have a longish commute coupled with never having enough money. I try to organize a grocery list, but it always seems to be a huge failure.

  • Having a ton of ingredients, and not knowing where to start and making the most of your time in the kitchen.

  • I struggle the *most* with coming up with things that I can enjoy and that my family will eat (and enjoy!). Our tastes are all SO different, and we have allergy issues with my husband and son. I’m SO tired of eating chicken & steamed broccoli I could scream! :-)

  • Maintaining organization is a huge problem. I can organize my cupboards and refrigerator and within a week they are a mess. I lose track of what I have. I make a meal plan for the week and then lose the paper I wrote it on! I am working on expanding our recipes and making healthier meals and feel I waste a lot of time trying to “get it together”.

  • I am 68 and have cooked family meals for well over 50 years. My struggle is that I am still not organized. I now cook for just my husband and I. Even though I have so much more time than when I was working full time, I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I am also trying to prepare meals that are much more healthy and fresh and low cal for us. It is so easy to revert back to the old high calorie ways of preparing meals.
    I do really enjoy cooking and my husband loves eating.
    I do want to teach this old dog some new tricks.

  • eek – I feel like a control freak when I read the other comments. We stick to staples and do one big shop a month in the city for huge bags of rice/lentils/oils/spices and then shop once a week for our mealplan. It has ended up being significantly cheaper for us. If there are seasonal fruits and veg that we buy impulsively then the mealplan is changed to ensure that nothing is wasted.

    Learning how to freeze and reheat precooked meals would be a huge help for us. I have not had much success with that in the past (potato?? egg? fish? How to you keep the the texture?) and we do not cook ahead because of it (just use one of our tried and tested ‘quick meals’.

  • I struggle to find ideas for meals that will please the variety of taste buds in my family of six. Also, organizing the meal planning and shopping is kind of overwhelming (though I know I need to do it!).

  • I struggle most with shopping and not having enough freezer or storage space. I also have a bad habit of buying items for a specific meal and then never using up whatever is left over. All of which probably boils down to an poor planning.

  • My area of struggle is flow- moving along in a steady, continuous stream. From buying the food to using it it the most cost efficient / freshest ingredients first way. :)

  • Making plans to use up ingredients that I bought. It is only my husband and me, so currently I have a 1/2 used container of cottage cheese from last week. And a 3/4 full jar of chipotle chiles in adobe sauce. I buy something for a recipe that only requires part of the container and I do not make plans to use the rest of it up. In another week I will probably end up throwing both items away.

  • I struggle with some of the same things others have mentioned.
    I get excited when I see all the wonderful fresh vegetables at my farmer’s market or in the organic section at the store. I wind up buying to much and not being able to use it all up before it goes bad. I rarely shop with a plan in mind. It seems if I decide what I am going to make before hand, such as eggplant parmesan, inevitably the eggplant will not look good that day I go to the market. Then when I have all these veggies I know I may not be storing some of them correctly and some go off that way. I would love to know how to set up my veggies to make better use of them.

  • My biggest difficulty is consistency. I’m all gung-ho about eating simply and well, and use Stonesoup recipes and feel good; then I veer off into some kind of lackadaisical state and things fall apart. Too tired to cook, things in the fridge go bad, I munch on unhealthy snacks. I’d love to be on a more even, healthy keel.

  • The biggest challenge for me when it comes to being an organized cook is making sure the main course and side dishes all come together at the same time – to have everything hot and ready to serve at the same time. Just looking at the recipes isn’t enough. A cook really needs to think about the timing of all the dishes. I would love to have recipes that have complete meals all in one place. Say I want to make chicken tonight. I find a chicken recipe I like that also has the sides with it, and tells you what you should do in the order it needs to be done to be sure the whole meal comes together with everything ready to eat.

  • My biggest difficulty is mostly getting fresh organic fruits and vegetables all-year round that haven’t been in storage, sprayed w/pesticides, non-GMO and gluten-free, and then having the time to get and prepare everything.

  • I have always struggled with my belief that I need to work hard to get that “wow” factor from others. This wears me down…I wish I could keep it simple and feel satisfied.

  • I am organised with a weekly meal plan or an idea of favourite dishes that fit the seasonal ingredients, but then get way laid if that’s not what we feel like eating or I am too tired, run out of steam or time to do the planned dish. Inevitably this ends up with produce left in the fridge that then goes off. I am also TERRIBLE at refusing a bargain especially with fresh produce buying because it is a BARGAIN but with no real plan how to use this efficiently! STONESOUP please help!

  • My biggest struggle is ideas – we always seem to eat the same things over and over and I don’t like to try new recipes too often because of the planning, shopping and preparation (even simple ones require more concentration than old favourites). I think if I could find a way to expand the things we eat the most so that we didn’t all get bored it would be great – but how to start?? I’m a mum of two, time is precious and my family are fussy!

  • I struggle with planning ahead… for 3 meals and 2 snacks every day. I have two kids and it happens more than I would like it that either one of them doesn’t want to eat something and then I have to improvise (usually the toddler). It happens also that we eat more than I thought and then there are not enough leftovers. … or bread… (I bake the bread myself… long process).

  • I always end up with far more dishes and utensils to wash than are probably necessary. Throughout the prep and cooking process, I find myself grabbing multiple utensils or containers even if I have been good about getting all the ingredients ahead of time. I hate doing dishes (no dishwasher here!) but at least I have a very patient partner who does the dishes whenever I cook. Still, I feel guilty about leaving him so much unnecessary work…

  • Great tips! At the moment my big struggle is actually clearing OUT the backlog of odds and ends that seem to have accumulated in my freezer. I need to work on getting my system back in order there.

    • Oh, the freezer: where food goes to never be seen again…I’m really bad about this as well.

  • I struggle to be thoughtful about what I make in bulk so that I can eat it before it spoils and also integrate fresh produce. I am only cooking for 2 but I often can only cook on the weekends.

  • I struggle to balance wholesomeness and convenience when planning the meals. I want to give my family a really good variety of delicious, nutritious, wholesome fresh food, but a week’s meal plan needs to include some dinners that can sit or be re-heated when we need to eat at different times, some that can be prepared in advance for when we get home late, and ingredients that can all be bought up to a week in advance when we can’t make multiple trips to the shops.

  • I struggle with being so far from a grocery store that if I need something last minute I’m in big trouble…. so planning a comprehensive shopping list ahead that has everything on it that I may need is a must.

  • My biggest problem in organizing is coming up with what to make for dinner most days. I’ve collected all kinds of recipes but what do I do for today type of thing, coming up with fresh ideas sometimes makes my brain freeze lol.

  • The most i struggle with is with unexpected plans. I try to plan the meals some days ahead but it very often finished messed up and with food wasted because of unexpected events!

  • I struggle with food spoiling during the week, because I have no time to put together the meal I planned on.

  • As a busy uni student, I struggle with making time and finding inspiration to cook something other than eggs on toast during a busy semester. Don’t even get me started on what happens during exams! The temptation to live off fast food for a month is all too great.
    Unrelated: wow, there’s another Celia!

  • I struggle with actually sitting down to plan out a week’s worth of menus and writing down a complete list of ingredients needed. I will form some vague plan, do a shopping trip and inevitably forget something. This means either changing what I was to cook (throwing off menus for the rest of the week) or making a last minute run to the grocers (making dinner later than planned).

  • a minha maior dificuldade é ter alimentos para uma semana que ainda mantem os nutrientes, alem de ser difícil garantir a variação de pratos com os mesmo ingredientes da época e organiza-los na geladeira pra manterem-se frescos.

  • I struggle with time and motivation. I recently started working four 10-hour days (don’t like it), and when I get home I don’t have much time to prepare a meal. I have long weekends, so do-ahead meals are a good option. I also have a problem staying motivated planning and cooking healthy meals for myself (I live alone). Thank you for this opportunity!

  • I struggle with having a variety of food to meet the palates of three family members – me (gluten and cow dairy free as well as trying to eat clean), my husband (a tried and true meat and potatoes guy who is willing to try new foods but would prefer a big hunk of chargrilled steak), and a typical 2.5 year old (some days all she eats for dinner is cheese and a bun with mayo and ketchup, despite my healthy choices on offer)! I don’t want to cook three meals but feel I need cater to everyone. Help!

  • My struggle is having all the ingredients I need for do-ahead cooking. I am trying to substitute what’s lacking with something else or something similar. I live about 12 miles away from a terrific supermarket in upstate New York, USA. It’s not always easy or practical (i.e. in wintertime) to get into town.

  • I struggle with getting into a food rut. I tend to make the same ten recipes over and over.

  • I struggle most with using up leftovers, whether it’s leftover prepared food or leftover ingredients. I think this is mostly because I am a sort of “moody” eater and don’t usually feel like eating the same thing several times in a row. I also don’t always know how to reuse leftovers for new recipes.

  • I struggle because I have a hard time thinking ahead. After I use part of an ingredient for a recipe that day, I have trouble looking ahead to realize what I can use the other items for. Eventually great ingredients spoil.

  • My biggest challenge is having all the ingredients on hand when ready to cook or not buying out the store when trying to get what I need for the weeks meals.

  • My biggest struggle is time management – I just never seem to have the time to pre-make my meals.

  • I struggle with going to the Farmers Market or a supermarket and I see all the veggies or the chicken or ground beef and I don’t have a recipe in mind at the time, although sometimes I do, and then I think what should I buy and if I buy it, what will I make with it? Also, I worry about fruits and veggie spoiling if I don’t eat them right away. I love to eat and my mom loves to eat but being a super taster and not being able to eat some things can be a pain. I love to cook too. I also have a problem with sorting out spices, which ones to have on hand, stuff like that. I hope I am explaining myself well enough as I am typing this from my dad’s hospital room and I am very worried about him.

  • My struggle is that when go to the supermarket I buy too many ingredients I dont eventually consume and end up going bad, because I hope to have new recipe ideas (or I have them when Im shopping), but most of the time I end up cooking almost always the same dishes over and over. I think it’s lack of inspiration, what therefore turns into laziness.. *sigh* which is a shame, because when Im inspired and try new things out, I love the process of cooking :)

  • I struggle with make ahead meals as I don’t have time to cook everyday so I TRYto make more food then sometimes I also have ti throw away cooked food that is no longer good to eat.

  • In my house, there exists a variety of dietary goals and priorities, and they often collide with each other! Finding common ground is the challenge, as well as tailoring simple, delicious meals to a schedule that is ever-moving. If I could line up tasty, nutrient-dense meals that can be batch-prepared and meet the majority of family members’ needs, I would feel like a most virtuous homemaker!

  • Generally, I am an organized cook, but sometimes, having enough equipment can be a problem, like not have enough measuring cups or spoons.

  • My biggest struggle with being an organized, efficient cook is that I suffer from a horrible, rare and immensely painful nerve disorder. I have undergone one failed brain surgery and am waiting for the next, hopefully successful one. The biggest problem I face is that I am exhausted and unorganized, so when I try to cook dinner quickly, before my two children have to go to bed, I use all of my energy simply finding ingredients and prepping them, so by the time dinner is cooking it is not ready until past bed time. I know that it would be immensely helpful not only to make a menu plan for the week, but to wash, chop, freeze ingredients, so that when 6pm comes all I’ll need to do is toss everything in a pot, slow cooker or the oven and dinner will be ready.
    My dear husband has tried many times to organize my cabinets, which last for a couple weeks until chaos overtakes the cabinets and all the food in the fridge, leading to rotting veggies which we do not have any money to replace, and misplaced cans of chickpeas, bags of lentils and other proteins we are using in place of too-expensive and unhealthy factory farmed meat.
    The most helpful thing for me, as I know I will not be well or have a burst of energy anytime soon, is to prep meals ahead of time, find simple recipes that don’t require that I stand over the stove for any length of time, cook double batches of meals and also freeze meals on the days I am in the least amount of pain so they’re ready for the nights I cannot drag myself out of bed. I love cooking from scratch for my family, and as this disorder worsens (along with the state of my liver, as I just found out yesterday) I feel sad and responsible as all of our diet’s – the one thing I was proud to be in control of- steering my children, husband and I to whole foods, more fruits, vegetables and lots of fruit flavored water, now veer back to the land of processed foods, GMO’s, artificial ingredients and way too much sugar. I would love help getting organized so I can be back to cooking in my kitchen, in a way that will not completely drain my limited energy. Thanks!

  • I struggle with coming up with a plan and having the groceries bought and in the house when I need them!

  • I struggle with finding a balance between simplicity and variety in my meals.

    I also have a hard time finding oil free recipes and I want to eliminate all oils from my diet.

  • i need help with freezer organization and confidence in what i make~i have a very picky eater in the house…. thanks jules — you have helped me so much with storing veges and meal plans so far….

  • My biggest struggle in the kitchen is having healthy, at home meals prepared in a TIMELY manner for my entire family. I’m a stay-at-home mom of six kids, and I find that juggling meal prep with our always changing daily schedule makes serving a nutritious meal to my family before it’s bedtime quite the challenge. Being more organized would be a huge boost to our budget and our sanity!

  • I struggle with timing when I’m cooking, and also with fresh ideas to a) keep the grown ups interested and b) keep introducing a wide variety of foods to my two little boys.

  • I love to buy fresh vegetable at the farmer’s market but it takes so long to prepare than i often be discouraged.

  • I’d like to learn to be more flexible when plans change. I try to cook healthy things but when I’m running late I can resort to convenience food.

  • I struggle with being imaginative enough to visualise a whole week’s menus at a time. On the odd occasion that I do manage to plan for seven days, I find it hard to stay motivated and on track to make the dishes I spent time planning and shopping for.

  • freezer space. I know that sounds silly but id love to buy my meat in bulk, and have a big meal prep day once a month but I cant store it anywhere atm. though it is a great idea to make a double batch and just start storing bits and pieces.

  • Keeping everything fresh and figuring out what things to prep ahead so meal time comes together quickly.

  • My struggle with being an organized cook is creating a complete yet evolving plan of action. I want that pantry of “Little Black Dresses and other essentials” that I can accessorize according to the vagrancies of time, budget, season, whim and diet. Something I can dress up for parties or dress all the way down to “nuke and eat.” I need a formula with enough clarity that my evolution as a cook is simple plug and play… With my wardrobe a simple sleeveless tunic length LBD, some leggings and a long skirt, a cardigan and a coat and I’m ready for any weather regardless of what accessories I choose. How do I translate that knowledge into cooking?

  • I struggle with cooking for 8 people with food allergies and strong food preferences, and remembering to get everything that is needed for meals.

  • I struggle being too rigid in my menu planning which often leads to food wastage. I have the best intentions but just can’t seem to make it quite work!

  • I meal plan and love the order, ease etc but find we just eat the same dishes again and again. I lack the ability to be creative and we end up with unimaginative but planned food. There must be a way to plan and be creative!

  • I have lost my MOJO for cooking. I need some help to get it back. I would love to love cooking. Food always tastes different when love is in the ingredients but I cook daily out of duty to my tribe.

  • I burn everything getting all caotic following the recipe. Many a saucepan is ruined in my kitchen and we often end up eating a tin of beans on toast or spagetti no sauce due to the spoil. I have a sneaky feeling being unorganised is at the root of my issue here but have no idea where to start.

  • Formulating a group of meals for the week that uses the same ingredients or components of leftover meals. If I find a new recipe to use the leftovers, I find myself needing to go buy more ingredients to make it, thus totally defeating the purpose. Meanwhile, previous unused ingredients for previous meal go bad.

  • As I’m afraid of sharp objects, I can’t use proper knives to prepare meat and vegetables. Over time, I’ve accumulated enough ‘shortcuts’ and ‘tricks’ to get by but preparation still takes me a long time. I usually plan meals for the week after way ahead, do all the shopping and ‘chopping’ I need over two days and cook for a whole week on the third day which is often Sunday. This is also because I’m busy and cannot cook during the week. Being organized like that, it still takes me three days to cook a week’s worth of meals for only one person.

  • I can never seem to get all the components of my meal to be hot at the same time without using the microwave.

  • With 5 teenager/young adult kids and their friends frequently staying plus a fair bit of entertaining, house guests and a full-on business run from home, it can be a bit of a struggle when it comes to being an Organized Cook!

    The main thing is having enough of the right food in the house to be eating healthily – have overcome to an extent by growing a lot of herbs in big pots alongside the kitchen. Would really like a supply of homegrown greens like baby spinach and lettuce but haven’t managed that yet…

    Aspire to have half the plate full of salads or veggies but still nowhere near achieving that… Yet…

    Would really love to win the prize as it would be so helpful!

  • my enthusiasm for cooking has gone completely – disorganisation is to blame — I need some inspiration to help me sort it all and be ready on time so we can eat together again – older folk need to eat properly too .I’d love a spot in your new class Jules it sounds like just the thing to help me out .

  • I get overwhelmed and then paralyzed by the number of options. I like to make components ahead of time that can be mixed and matched into different meals. Sometimes I make too much and food gets wasted. Other times, not enough variety.

  • I would love to get excited about food all over again. Since having a child, meal times have become a chore. It would be a dream for my little guy to be as passionate about food as I once was :)

  • Being organized is difficult as I never have the right ingredients when wanting to cook a recipe so I tend to cook the same thing each week and being able to use different vegetables/meat to be creative. I was given some venison cutlets the other day and freaked out as I never have cooked with them before.

  • I always try planning ahead and fail, usually due to time constraints. I really struggle with wastage and always end up having to throw ingredients out before I get anything done with them.

  • After cooking a big meal to ensure I have left-overs for the following night I go to my fridge only to discover my husband has already demolished them. However I seriously need help at planning.

  • Like most people I’m running around busy, I shop on a Sunday, my resolve, inspiration and planning slips by Wednesday and has gone by Thursday.
    I feel so much better eating more veg, and love your ethos of eating simply, using less ingredients. But when it comes to organization, planning and inspiration I need some help! (apart from triple batch and frozen spaghetti Bol – which is great sometimes too!)

  • hi jules
    as a single male working long hours i just dont feel like cooking when i get home .my slow cooker broke so i get around to weekend stew right now. any tips for us singles?

  • I used to get a lot of enjoyment preparing meals for family and friends and loved trying different recipes. I need help in organising my pantry so I have the ingredients ready and the enthusiasm for cooking returns. I’m in a new relationship and would love to impress my man. ;)

  • I sporadically plan and cook ahead but most things I save for later are variations on a theme, where the theme is ‘sauce that goes with pasta’. Any help to increase my repertoire would be much appreciated!

  • I definitely have trouble with the process of planning meals and shopping for ingredients. Most of the time I give up and just order take out even though I know being more organized in the kitchen would help me to be healthier.

  • The problem is time and to get into the discipline in making time for planing and cooking. I am not the first one to say – the main culprit is full time job, travelling time from work to home and coming home at the end of the day with two small kids.There are many things to be done before it is all done for the evening and by that time I am too tired and exhausted to do any more. Problem number two is that kids will rarely eat what I would eat so we always end up with preparing different quick that I don’t end up using up all those ingredients because we may just not feel like eating that particular meal. This is where I lose all the motivation and enthusiasm ????

  • The problem is time and to get into the discipline in making time for planing and cooking. I am not the first one to say – the main culprit is full time job, travelling time from work to home and coming home at the end of the day with two small kids.There are many things to be done before it is all done for the evening and by that time I am too tired and exhausted to do any more. Problem number two is that kids will rarely eat what I would eat so we always end up with preparing different quick that I don’t end up using up all those ingredients because we may just not feel like eating that particular meal. This is where I lose all the motivation and enthusiasm.

  • The main problem I encounter with doubling the recipe with a view to saving leftovers is that the family over eats and doesn’t leave enough for another full meal! It isn’t that they are particularly hungry, but more that the food is there so they eat it. If I put half aside or serve out the meals they go back for more. Then admit they over ate! Does anyone else encounter this problem and if so what measures have you tried?

  • I am actually quite organized when it comes to preparing my own meals…I chose vegetarianism about a year ago and have loved experimenting with new foods because I have only myself to please! My husband, however, has not embraced the meat-free lifestyle and has many health issues that limit what he is supposed to eat. He does not want to plan his meals…choosing instead to run to the store daily to pick up something that he feels like having or just ordering take-out. Preparing meals can become a nightmare when his last-minute decisions mean not having enough burners on the stove to prepare both meals or when each of us needs the oven—but at different temperatures! Is there any hope for us?

  • I struggle with coming up with ideas for interesting food to prepare that my husband will also like since he is a hamburger kind of guy and loves any other kind of meat.

  • Meal planning is my downfall. I bulk cook sporadically and this is a great help BUT ONLY if I actually remember to defrost these extra meals in time for dinner. More often than not I am still wondering what to cook late in the afternoon. What would also be a help for these “what am I going to cook?” moments would be some easy quick recipes which can be cooked from pantry staples (like chickpeas, lentils etc) and what ever fresh veg is on hand to avoid a last minute dash to the shops. Thanks, love you website! Jane

  • Thank you for this opportunity. I am currently overwhelmed with cooking for two small households as I have a relative who needs a lot of help with meals which I cook for her. I am getting lost with planning and having prepared meals ready and also for the freezer, and ensuring variety and interesting and nutritious meals available. I try to plan but need and would really appreciate guidance and inspiration. Regards, Elizabeth

  • I struggle with ideas to use what is in my fridge and pantry. Also how long to store food for and what I can use leftovers for. I don’t want to have heaps of ingredients that then go to waste and a lot of recipes use too many obscure ingredients to get flavor, so I end up cooking meat and veg. Also I often cook for one and this poses problems with quantities when cooking from recipes. I do freeze food, but then leave it too long to use.

  • I have found your advice both helpful and inspirational but still need help in making my meals both nutritional and attractive. Thank you

  • I am stuck. Stuck for inspiration for dinners and especially ones I can do ahead. Myself and my daughter have been diagnosed coeliac in the last six months and, while it is easy to rely on corn pasta-corn pasta-corn pasta – I am trying to come up with new things. But battling with two small kids when it’s something unfamiliar. I’m sick of those frustrating moments when you’ve put effort into cooking something (you think is) awesome, and they ask for… plain corn pasta.

  • I struggle with planning meals so just have to cook with what I can find in the pantry and freezer.

  • I live 250 kms (500km round trip) for the nearest major shopping town and we do a monthly shop, so it is making the best use of what is left in the pantry when it is getting low…..meal titles may be the same but quite often the ingredients are not! It makes for interesting cooking!

  • Friday night tired, late home from work, standing aimlessly looking into the void of a fairly empty fridge filled with a few fairly uninteresting food items – ugh! what now? How to pull together something health and quick that will nourish and replenish me – or head for the ‘fill the belly fast’ fall back option of something on toast (even though I know I don’t feel that great afterwards)……. That’s the sort of situation where I find myself stuck most.

  • Hi Jules, I struggle with over-catering and having a whole lot of wasted food, with planned meals being derailed by real life (SO and I both end up working or at the gym til 8:30/9 then get take away because it’s “quicker” (not always!)), or with running out of motivation mid week.

  • I struggle the most with planning ahead for a week – I need to learn to sit down and organize what I have, what I feel like eating, and then go grocery shopping. I tend to make one large entre and eat that everynight with a different vegetable – not very creative. I also don’t have a lot of time – being organized and planning would be good skills for me to develop.

  • good taste equals good health. that has always been my mantra. achieving this with four teenage children and a full-time business, even with a fantastic partner who will happily share the cooking can be difficult. sometime i leave the meat out to defrost but i havent actually thought through what i may like to cook with it, so dinner has to wait till i get home. inspiration isn’t my problem as i love experimenting with spices to create dishes from around the world. what is my challenge is getting organised to share with the family the ingredient list and making sure we have these items or let them know what to substitute so anyone can help with the cooking.

  • There are seven I serve the evening meal to every night…but with so many dislikes or needs(lactose free. low cholesterol etc) I end up with the same boring dishes. I am fed up with baked beans that I normally end up feeding myself because I haven’t time to make myself a separate meal. My husband is allergic to seafood and churns even at the smell of fish but I’m supposed to eat it twice a week….so it doesn’t happen. Sigh..just can’t figure out how to bring all our needs together so it always feels like a burden to have to eat.

  • I struggle with limited counter and freezer space.

    Hopefully once I move to an accessible apartment I can find a way to rectify both issues

  • I basically lack inspiration & find that to be my major stumbling block to being organised!
    I have recently started getting your lovely meal plans & although I haven’t been able to fully use them as a plan, I am enjoying them and have been incorporating the recipes into our weekly menu.

  • I get home closer to 7.30pm most nights and after travelling to and from work for often over 4 hours a day the last thing I feel like doing is cooking! On my trip home I regularly have about 6 or 7 things I want to cook but by the time I get home I dont have time or I dont have all the ingredients. On a rare occassion (birthday or anniversary… like I said… RARE) my husband will have dinner on the way for me when I get home so I can just get in my PJ’s and sit on the couch… (maybe I should have entered him in the competition instead?!) but back to my point; I struggle getting help unless its an occassion or a BBQ (only ever the meat… I still have to prepare the sides) so I’d really like help pre-preping in the kitchen to make all those yummy dishes I often think about on my way home in less time.

  • I love your idea of being an organised cook, especially in this day and age where so many of us are just so time-poor. I try and do that the best I can; but my stubbornness in not making a list means I always have an ingredient I am missing which I only realise while cooking!

  • I don’t tend to plan ahead and so making dinner takes twice as long and twice as much mental and emotional energy than it needs to take. I dream of the day that I am organised with a meal plan, because I know that will save me in numerous areas, but I am not there yet.

  • Since my children have all left home I find I struggle to find inspiration for cooking for two and then when they all come for a meal I feel overwhelmed at the enormity of feeding 12 or more at one time. I also feel I have lost the sense of normality that I used to have for being prepared so struggle to get started??? Not sure if this is normal or not!

  • I find that I often buy too much in my enthusiasm and then waste more than I would like, especially since I have limited freezer space also.

  • Meal planning………..why oh why do I procrastinate in doing this EVERY time. The times I do get to it, make my week or month sooooooooo enjoyable. Am I lazy…NO – super organised in other areas…too busy…NO – this is a time saver once its done….needing inspiration….NO – keystrokes could solve this……what is it?!? I think that must I love the 3pm creative sweat call – “what’s for dinner?” I have found a partial solution by locking-in Thursday nights as homemade pizza nights and so that means Wednesday night is home made pasta night so that I have enough sauce for pizza the next evening. But there are still five other nights that present the challenge……….

  • I find we end up having the same boring meal most of the time and when I go to make something new when never have the ingredients plus we also like to stick to a budget and not overspend. When I do get the chance to make extras my husband either eats it straight away or takes it to lunch.

  • I struggle to match up my available time and my motivation. Often I get home after work and exercise, and just want to eat something immediately. Which works if I have pre-made something and frozen it. Yet, on weekends, when I should have time to cook and freeze, sometimes I cant get myself going.
    The biggest thing I struggle with in cooking, is being intuitive about what will work together. normally I just follow recipes to the letter, because I don’t trust myself to throw in a bit of this or substitute with a bit of that.

  • I love, love LOVE the idea of batch cooking ahead, but somehow never quite organise myself enough. With a newborn taking a lot of time in the afternoons/evenings right now, right at the time when I need to preparing a meal, do ahead meals would be perfect, if only my partner and I did it! Afternoons would be nicer if I could give some time to the kids rather than rushing about making meals. We could also use some help with ideas to ensure our make aheads don’t end up being that one same meal over and over.

  • Keeping everything hot before I serve. I have four burners on my gas cook top. I cook for three adults. There is not enough room on the cooktop to put more than two (at a pinch) pans or pots. I end up cooking the protein first, then the vegetables and carbs. It’s so frustrating. I’d like to be able to cook every thing at once using the cook top without resorting to a fry pan.

  • I have been struggling in recovery from back surgery. Due to this, I no longer work and find myself in the kitchen to fight the boredom. Have found some good websites, like this one,but trying to eat well on a tight budget is tough and my kitchen is the smallest space on this planet so being organized is great but I have to clean a space and move things as I cook so I can just get the meal finished. Any special hints or tricks to accomplishing these tasks while making good food would be a godsend… Love the site.. ;)

  • I sometimes struggle with using the produce that I get from my CSA before it spoils. When I get home from work, I end up going back to the quick meals I already know, rather than the long recipes I found for that weeks turnips. I wish I were better at figuring out how to substitute new ingredients into tried and true recipes.

  • My husband is a picky eater with Parkinson’s and I am sensitive to strong or spicy flavors. The result is we are both bored with what is served in my house.

  • I plan and feel organized and then my mood changes and what sounded good a day or two ago is not what I’m craving now. I don’t have the ingredients for the new meal I’m craving and I don’t use the previous ingredients either.

  • It’s so funny that this post has come up, I’ve been thinking of ways to cook ahead or batch cook. The biggest problem I have with cooking at the moment is the amount of food we seem to consume as a family, there are seven of us here, just when I think there will be enough for two days it gets gobbled up by the insatiable hunger of the tiny army. I cook everything from scratch and being more organized would definitely help to get me out of the kitchen and having fun with my kids.

  • My greatest problem is finding the time. I can gather the ingredients over the course of a couple of days, then the weekend gets here, and I have housework and gardening and running around to do, and my great plans of filling the freezer never seem to come to pass.

  • Hi Jules,
    Stonesoup has helped me sort out my pantry basics and I now have a good set of 5 ingredient meals which I can make from memory without much planning (this has been a game changer – thank you). There is lots of room for improvement in my organisation though. First up is fresh herbs. I love fresh herbs, but I live in a tropical climate and find that they wilt within a couple of days – in the fridge. I have a balcony so maybe a small fresh herb planter could work, but I really wouldn’t know where to start or how to care for them. I’d love some tips for growing and storing fresh herbs at home. Second is freezing fresh food and meals. My freezer has some random frozen items in there but I never seem to get around to defrosting and actually using them. I currently also don’t freeze any meals for later but have been thinking this would make life easier during the week. I’d love some tips for how to defrost frozen items safely (eg: for how long and on what setting in the microwave/oven should I re-heat things like fish, chicken and mince?), and also tips about which kinds of meals would be suitable for freezing.

  • I struggle with having the many components of the meal all ready at the same time. (What do I start cooking first? When should I put the side dish to heat on the burner? Etc.) I often have only a few minutes left to make a side salad before my main dish is ready. Then my family has to wait 15 minutes until the salad is ready. (We love lots of veggies, which means lots of chopping.) Some days dinner is ready at 5:30 and other days at 6:30. I hate the inconsistency.

    I like Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes book because he creates an entire meal into a step-by-step procedure on one page. He combines all the meal components on a time schedule to complete in order. It works, even if it takes 30-45 minutes of preparation per meal.

    I would love to see your recipes combined into meals for dinners and to see how to cook several recipes at the same time so they will all be ready to serve together.

    Thanks for these opportunities for your fans to write and tell you what we want. We all feel that you listen and care about us. You’re the best, Jules!!!!

  • Hi Jules – Thank you for all the recipes and ideas you share, they have been so helpful. I struggle with creating a meal that will work for me, my bland husband and my picky little boy. That combined with planning the shopping and making sure produce doesn’t go bad seems to keep me stuck in a boring “easy” routine that is not making our family dinner time as special as I would like it to be :)
    Keep sharing all your great ideas!!

  • I struggle with living alone and cooking for one. Making big batches of food tends to result in me getting sick of eating the same old thing 5 nights in a row and there are only so many frozen meals that one can fit in the freezer! Conversely, it is difficult to get up the motivation to cook something small and different each night, as well as the fact that buying single serves is often more expensive than buying in bulk. Cheap, easy, tasty meals for one would be a great help :)

  • I struggle most with remembering what I have in the freezer! And I’m never quite sure of the dates and what’s still okay to eat… so a lot doesn’t get used. I drive myself nuts!!!

  • I think my problem is planning ahead. Sometimes it is hard to know on a Friday night what we are going to want for dinner the nex Thursday night.

    But it would be great to have my fridge and freezer well stocked so I can just pull something out.

  • I love picking up bargains at the supermarket but when I get them home I find I don’t have the “matching” ingredients I need to create a meal. If the bargain was meat, it ends up being frozen – which is the same as forgotten – until I remember to get organised properly with suitable ingredients.

  • I’m cooking for one and living with flatmates which means less storage space in the fridge. I have trouble using up things that I’ve needed for a recipe: for example a bunch of celery. I use half in a soup then had so much soup and not room to make/ store more. A ‘traffic jam’ occurs in my fridge where I can’t keep making/ storing foods I’ve prepped – ingredients like celery, half packet of tofu etc end up going bad before I can use them.

  • Thanks to blogs like yours, I have picked up some great ideas about being organised but would like to extend this even further. I have three boys aged 10 and under and work three days a week. As my husband doesn’t cook I prepare all meals, including school lunches. It is not uncommon for me to spend at least two days in the kitchen cooking for the week. To make life slightly more challenging we are mostly vegetarian, although my youngest child (4 years old) claims that he is vegetable intolerant! My aim in life is to raise boys who can cook (and eat a wide variety of vegetables). With this in mind, I am trying to involve them in meal planning and preparation. Ideally I would love to see them enhancing the “do-ahead” meals themselves and serving them to the family at dinner time.

  • I struggle to be organised because I have so many different food likes and dislikes to think about. It annoys me!! I have a very fussy husband and 4 fussy children. It’s costly time wise and money wise trying to please everyone, so I end up just cooking the same old same old!

  • Thank you for sharing this. Cooking ahead is something that both my husband & mum have encouraged me to do. I love to cook, and can spend hours in the kitchen, but with a baby on the way, I don’t have the energy I used to, and time is more limited as well. I eat mostly paleo, with a few additional intolerances, so variety can be a challenge.

    To put it in a nutshell… Time management & inspiration!

  • I am extremely limited for prep space in my kitchen so I struggle to get meals prepped and cooked in a reasonable amount of time. Learning how to prep certain elements together ahead of time to reduce the clutter would be great. Also learning how much ahead of time is still safe would be brilliant.

  • I make weekly schedules: what to cook each day of the coming week and do my grocery shopping accordingly so there’s less waste. But it’s hard at times to find inspiration for what to make.

    A lot of the time I plan on large-batch cooking but sometimes things don’t go according to plan (something comes up making it impossible to dedicate a large chunk of the day to cooking) and I end up wasting fresh produce. I struggle to set aside a day or several hours to make big batches of food.

  • I am a victim of buying whatever looks good to me when I’m in the market and, usually, starving. When it comes time to prepare a meal, I always find I’m short at least one essential ingredient. Then my whole plan falls apart.

  • I struggle getting simple healthy meals on the table with 2 babies under 2 years old in 2 years of marriage. Especially since I lack so many cooking skills and knowledge. I barely knew how to fry an egg when we got married! Such skills and knowledge weren’t passed down to me when I was single and now I struggle to catch up so we can survive.

  • I struggle with time – I often have to think a day ahead so the meal for the next evening is semi prepared.

  • I struggle with time. My wife and I work long hours and at the end of the day we’re exhausted and even organizing meals in advance is hard to think about and actually put into practice. We keep on attempting the once a week thing, but we are continuously trying to figure out a menu that would work and make sense for us in terms of storage and what we want to eat.

  • Just signed up and love your site already! I have recently become an empty nester and am now only cooking for two. I struggle with what to do with leftovers and how to turn them into a new meals. Also have problems knowing what l can freeze to save for another time and how to freeze meals so they don’t deteriorate.

  • Hi there,
    I usually love your inspirational recipes but this one I just don’t get- not sure you can call a bit of parsley and almond meal with lemon juice Tabbouleh. It’s lacking a vital ingredient which is fresh mint.

  • Q: What do you struggle with when it comes to being an Organized Cook?
    A: Vegetables.

  • Shopping for the ingredients and getting the quantities right! Like instead of using 2 carrots in a week I have half a packet left still :(

  • My struggle is keeping the variety in our meals, and keeping it quick. As a mum who has recently returned to work, I have found that we end up feeding my son (either what we ate the night before, or from a store of meals I cook in batch and freeze) then cooking our meal after he goes to bed. It would be awesome to be able to cook and eat as a family during the week.

  • The right ingredients (aka propper shopping list); good order (so I can take less time to do everything); meals with the at least one comum ingredient (sorry for the spelling, I mean the same) so I can “re-use” the same food for another dish and snacks that can be stored.
    I eat snacks 3 times a day, mid morning, mid afternoon & late afternoon when I have a late dinner or late at night when I have an early dinner).
    They are one of my problems because I can’t eat the same 3 times a day so I eventualy eat something I shouldn’t .
    I can’t seem to find enough alternatives I can make ahead and store for the week so when I got hungry I can just reached for it.

  • Since moving to London I have lived in a share house. Though social and a great living experience, my husband and I have only 1 small cupboard between us and a drawer in the fridge. I can only really store a handful of spices, grains/breans, oils; everything else I need to be able to buy in the portion I need or use any surplus within a day or so. Efficient cooking is essential!

  • I cook for two and there is always too much for one meal but not enough for two meals. Ideas and quantities are needed.

  • Oh my I so need this…. I have been cooking for my mom for a few months now, I freeze them then transport it to another state once a month…repeat again the next month. A few weeks ago we found our grandson, who is very active plays hockey and drives a race car in college, has high B/P due to another health issue. Starting this month I will also be cooking for him and will try and provide 3 or 4 of his dinners per week. He is 20 and at college, not your best place to find healthy choices. I am hoping to find meals he loves and will find this new way of eating “diet” is a good thing not something to dread. On top of this I do cook for my husband and I daily…I so need to be a ORGANISED cook:) Cannot wait to learn more and apply it to my kitchen.

  • The question: What do you struggle with when it comes to being an Organized Cook?

    Me: I struggle with 2 things: cooking ahead for the week, and lunches! I’ve got a decent handle on stocking my pantry (thanks, Jules!), I’m getting a good groove going with keeping and using fresh veggies, but I’m still hung up on setting aside an extended period of time to cook for the week. I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen, even though I do really enjoy cooking. And lunches…We rarely have enough food left over after dinner to bring for lunch the next day, so we find ourselves buying our lunch. I feel like a need a plan for big batch cooking that will help me create delicious lunches and dinners, without the whole “blah leftover” thing.

  • I used to plan meals a week at a time when my children lived at home. Now, though, we both spend more time at work, often staying late. So the meal that I planned doesn’t get made that night. Then we go out to eat another night, and the ingredients I bought just sit in the fridge

    And realistically, cleaning, peeling, and chopping does take more time than pre-packaged, expecially since I try to have 3-4 veggie servings, plus a fruit, at dinner. I didn’t mind spending 45 or 60 minutes fixing dinner for 4-5 people, but for just two, the cost-benefit ratio just isn’t the same.

  • Plans change at the drop of a hat. In our household there is my husband, me and (when she’s at home) my younger adult daughter. During the week my daughter and/or the two of us are helping the other daughter taking children and step-children to soccer training and games, guides etc. This means some dinners are eaten out of a thermos. On the weekend, my husband and I might suddenly decide to go out for a drive. So, although I do a lot of meals ahead of time, with a limited freezer space there isn’t a lot of variety.

  • Thank you for that subject on cooking. I am struggling with putting order in my kitchen and in my thoughts. If my kitchen is clean and the ingredients are here and I take time to make a vision of what I am going to cook, then it can work and the meal can be good. Otherwise it is hard for me to get concentrated and confident. And that’s my point. I don’t have a systematic approach to build the “context” and the “vision”. My dream would be to take 10 minutes to get ready.

  • I think you never cooked daily for 3 6-ft+ guys and 3 smaller ones! :) Maybe you have tips for me? I get rather burned out cooking and planning meals especially because it takes so much and knowing what to make out of the cheapest stuff I can find. We are on a sugar fast so that eliminates a lot of food. A 9 x 13 casserole, a loaf of homemade bread, a head of lettuce, and a half a watermelon can disappear in one sitting. Then 2 hours later they’re saying, “What is there to eat?” My struggle includes planning ahead for that much food all the time!

  • I always buy too much and then I forget what’s in my fridge and stuff goes bad before I can use it. I’m embarassed about throwing out food – plus moneywise it’s really dumb.

  • I have always loved to cook and try new recipes, but now that I am only cooking for one, I’ve lost some of that enthusiasm. I went through my herbs/spices and threw out a ton that I had for years. I now grow my own and have a limited amount of spices that I use frequently. It’s tough to cook and eat the same thing all week or freeze when you often forget about it. I try to eat as much fresh fruits and vegetables as possible, but they often have a short shelf life. I would welcome your advice on how to organize my kitchen and plan healthy meals for one!

  • Hello Jules,
    We live in a small A-frame house. I struggle with room for even the basic ingredients I should have on hand all the time.

  • I sometimes struggle with leaving the menu as is and not trying to improve it half way through preparing it.

  • To answer the question, I struggle being an organized cook because I find it hard to anticipate what I’m going to want to eat when it comes time to make dinner!

  • I struggle with having a plan of what to eat for the week that I will be satisfied with each day also with what to do with leftovers because we never seem to eat them.

  • I have been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s and I would like to be able to continue to cook great meals as long as possible for my husband and myself. I think that preparing and cooking interesting meals in quantity for a week ahead is the answer for me. I would enjoy learning your secrets of doing that.

  • Inspiration and having all the ingredients there and ready (such as the meat defrosted and all the ingredients in the pantry).

  • my children make it hard to be an organized cook. when you get home from work and have a screaming 4 year old and 10 month old. it makes it really hard to get dinner done.

  • I find I have an idea of what to cook for a particular night but then life gets in the way and my plans go out the window. I can rarely stick to a whole week of planned meals and end up scrambling something together at the last moment.

  • I have trouble finding the time also. It takes me forever searching through the internet to find healthy recipes for the week that are easy and quick. Go shopping for all these ingredients and somehow only end up making 2 or 3 of the meals I wanted to stretching them out so I won’t have to cook anymore. Even though I would rather have different meals every night.

  • I struggle with deciding what to provide for the meal and having sufficient of the right ingredients in the pantry or fridge which are still good to use. I’m just beginning to use your weekly menu plan and finding that I’m improving (thank you), but I still have a long way to go to be well organised in advance with the time to produce good meals at irregular hours and for varying numbers of people. I’m just glad I’m not a Restaurateur!

  • My main problem is that I am very disorganised, and no matter how hard I try to be organised, it just doesn’t work. I believe it’s genetic.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

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

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

  • 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…..

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!!

  • 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.

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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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