Cooking with a Friend: Week One

Editor's note: Last week Jennifer Maiser introduced you to this series, in which she and a friend cook a week's worth of meals together to reduce food costs. Here, we see how week one goes.

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By the time the weekend came around, J. and I had separate marching orders. I had a list of vegetables and meat to pick up from the farmers market, and she had pantry items to pick up at Trader Joe's.

As someone who regularly touts the benefits of eating locally grown food and supporting local farmers, I had a strong interest in having our ingredients be from as many local sources as possible. But I didn't want to be pedantic about it. I recognize that in cooking with a friend, I couldn't hold too strictly to dictating every single food source, so I made a decision about what was critically important. I took care of the vegetables and meat so that I could choose the source and requested that the milk J. bought be organic.

We had a good time cooking together. I think a key point to making this an ongoing project is to have someone who you work well with. J. and I have known each other for a couple of years, so cooking this many dishes together was an easy transition. Overall, it took us about four hours to put the food together and package it up. [After the jump, the menu and what it cost.]

Variety Is Key

The variety was enough for me to keep interested, which is a huge hurdle. If I make a large batch of one type of food and then try to eat it over a week, I get bored and annoyed and end up ditching the food altogether. Instead, J. and I managed to parcel food into manageable amounts and freeze the rest. That will help in upcoming weeks, when we can depend on the food in our freezers.

My favorite dish of the week was the pork stew, as I ate it one day with rice and another day with corn tortillas and lettuce to make pork tacos.

Moving forward, I want to figure out a way to incorporate a small amount of prep and cooking into the week instead of only reheating. I missed having freshly made food and I especially noticed this with the greens. I tend to spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen during the week and use cooking time to wind down from my day. J. would rather not spend as much time in the kitchen and seemed to like having everything premade. We're going to have to work to find a happy medium for prep time during the week.

Since one of the motivating factors for beginning this project was cost, I am very happy with our total cost over the week. While I did end up eating out, it would have been completely feasible to eat lunch and dinner all week on the food that we made together.

Final Menu, Week 1

  • Baked ziti with spicy sausage and spinach
  • Lentil soup
  • Pork stew
  • Sautéed greens
  • Salad greens and dressing
  • Farro salad with market vegetables
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Bread (bought, not made)
  • Banana bread

Cost: $31 each.

Goals for Next Week

1. Prep food but do not precook everything.
2. Lighten up the menu with regard to fat and calories.

Previously: Reducing Food Costs: Cooking with a Friend

About the author: Jennifer Maiser writes about locally and sustainably grown food. She is the founder and editor of the Eat Local Challenge website and writes at Life Begins at 30, her personal weblog.

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