Cook Once Eat Twice: Easy Alternative to a Week of Meal Prepping
With restaurants closing, we’re eating at home more often. And for people not used to cooking so often, or even those who are, cooking every day can be exhausting. While meal prepping is an option, the traditional 4 or 5 day meal prep is a LOT of work. The cook once, eat twice method, which I first discovered in this video by Thoughtworthy Co, is, in my opinion, a great alternative.
Cook once, eat twice is a lower effort approach to meal prepping that still leaves plenty of the benefits. I’ll explain why it's easier than traditional meal prep, why meal prepping with cook once, eat twice is good for you and the planet, and I will share how I use cook once, eat twice in my daily life.
Lower Effort Meal Prep
Meal prepping for the week ahead is a cooking technique being marketed to busy individuals as an easy alternative to cooking daily, and a cheaper and healthier alternative to eating out. If you’ve ever tried this type of meal prep, especially for more than 1 person or for multiple meals, you’ll realize how difficult and time-consuming it can be.
From the mountain of dishes you end up with, to the amount planning required to gather all the different ingredients and cook multiple dishes at once, to the hours of cooking required, this kind of meal prepping can quickly leave you burnt out. That’s where cook once, eat twice comes in.
The idea is remarkably simple, both in its description and in its execution. When you cook, you consciously cook twice as much as you need. Then you have food for tomorrow!
You may ask, isn’t this just eating leftovers? And to that I answer yes… and no. Generally, leftovers aren’t intentional and often aren’t enough to feed the same number of people as the original meal did. With this method, what may be considered "just leftovers", is actually a whole other meal cooked ahead of time.
Personally, “leftovers night” in my house growing up meant almost everyone eating a mix of different foods from dinners of the past week, and other nights we ate either a home-cooked meal or from a restaurant. Because of this, the idea of cooking once and eating twice is totally revolutionary to me! Let me know if you grew up in a household where cook once eat twice was the norm, I would love to hear how that affected your perception of cooking and leftovers.
Why Should We Meal Prep At All?
Okay, maybe you haven’t tried meal prepping for a whole week and have no intentions of trying. So why should you try cook once eat twice?
Meal prepping, even a simpler version such as cook once, eat twice, is an easy way to reduce the amount of waste you produce. Furthermore, having something ready to eat at home will reduce your likelihood of caving for takeout.
While eating out is okay in moderation, we all know it's not as good for our health, wallets, or the environment as home-cooked food is. Meal prepping makes it easier to make the choices we know are right. Sometimes, we need a push in the right direction.
Just like a big meal prepping marathon, cooking every day can lead to burnout. If your schedule usually leaves plenty of room for cooking, you may only use cook once eat twice when you have an unusually busy day tomorrow. However, for people who find themselves often caving for easier alternatives to cooking at home, cooking once and eating twice maybe what they need.
How I Cook Once and Eat Twice
As I explained early, the cook once eat twice method is as easy as cooking twice as much food as you need. For a household of two, this works out pretty well as many meal recipes are made for four (or more) people.
A lot of products in grocery stores are sold in sizes for four or more people as well (looking at you, jars of pasta sauce). Using all of a product for two meals initially is a much better option than putting the leftover in the fridge and hoping you remember to do something with it.
If you don’t feel like eating the exact same thing twice in a row, there are still lots of options. Here are some of my favorites ideas for cooking once and eating twice:
1. I love taco seasoning, and I’ll often make a big batch of taco ground beef or chicken, as well as shredding cheese, making guacamole, salsa, and refried beans. From this, you can make tacos, quesadillas, nachos, burritos, or taco salad! This way you get variety, with minimal cooking required on the second day.
2. Making extra rice is super easy, and rice that’s a day or two old is better for making fried rice. You can use the rice on the first day as a side dish or with stir fry, and then make fried rice using eggs, leftover protein, and/or any vegetables you have in your fridge.
3. I occasionally lean towards serial frugality, and buying whole chickens is such a better bargain than pieces, especially pieces that have been deboned and deskinned. While cooking a whole chicken at a time is a bit much, I like to (get my boyfriend to) butcher the chicken, and then we freeze the one chicken as two separate meals. But each of those meals is actually 2 (or 3) meals itself. So from 1 chicken, you get somewhere between 4 and 6 meals.
You can use the carcass, and any bones and skin you didn’t want on the meat, to make stock (I love using my crockpot for this). Stock is also a super-easy way to use up vegetables in your fridge leaning towards going bad. Seriously, you can throw anything into stock and it will be delicious. And then you get to make soup! You can also use the stock for anything you would use a store-bought stock for, like cooking flavourful rice or adding to sauces.
The day your stock is cooking, you cook some of the other chicken pieces for lunch or dinner that day. So you’re eating chicken one day, and chicken soup the next! This is one of my favorite ways that I cook once, eat twice (even though it’s kind of more like cook once and a half, eat thrice) because using every part of the chicken without making any waste (and finishing off old vegetables) makes me feel warm and nice inside. Almost as warm as the chicken soup makes me feel.
Have you tried cooking once and eating twice? Have I gotten you in the mood for chicken soup? Leave a comment and let me know!
Remember, there’s no right way to do anything, but it’s better to do something than nothing.