From my mom making and freezing chicken pot pie and spaghetti sauce when we were kids to the drop in meal preparation business, people have been cooking food ahead of time for years. Recently, it's become popular to take this idea to a different level. Sense to Save, a personal finance blogger has been doing this for a couple weeks and I've been hearing about "Once A Month Cooking" around the internet a little more lately.

Ironchef My problem with this is I don't want to eat the same thing over and over again. I want to eat different things all the time. Sure, I'll eat leftovers once or twice but I am not a person content to eat the same thing week in and week out.

I thought I would give myself a challenge tonight: make 4 meals in 60 minutes including cleanup. I made "healthy" lasagna, marinated salmon with roasted sweet potatoes, pasta and bean salad, and chicken masala. Here is a moment by moment recount of my power hour:

0:00: Put skillet on stove over medium heat with a little canola oil in it., put the wok on the stove over medium heat, chop one small onion.
0:02: Put chopped onion in skillet to brown, preheat oven to 400 F, begin chopping sweet potato into small pieces
0:04: Spray down cookie sheet with cooking spray, put potatoes on cookie sheet and place in the oven, stir onions, add ground turkey to skillet
0:05: Take out the ingredients for lasagna assembly
0:07: Stir turkey, begin assembling lasagna
0:10: While ground turkey cooks, dice three chicken breasts and add to onion on the stove
0:13: Finish lasagna in container one, put in oven for the night's dinner
0:14: Add Indian spice sauce to onion and chicken, add frozen peas for extra veggies
0:15: Make second lasagna for freezer. What else are you going to do with ricotta cheese?
0:20: Make marinade for salmon.
0:23: Over the burner still warm from cooking the ground turkey, boil water for pasta (salt and oil help the flavor).
0:25: Stir Indian food, do dishes while waiting for water to boil.
0:32: Place pasta in water, clean counters and workspace.
0:38: Drain water, coat pasta with bean salad from deli. Add extra corn and beans from the pantry to make it go further.
0:44: Put pasta and bean salad into tiny containers for work lunches this week.
0:45: Turn off heat on Indian food to allow it to thicken.
0:46: Dry dishes and do some more. If you are done, put away some laundry or pay some bills. Set the table too.
0:55: Lasagna is done. Take out of oven and turn oven off.

I saved my last five minutes for later in the evening when everything was cool. I put everything in small containers easy to reheat later.

I was surprised at the amount of downtime I did have. I didn't have to rush around the kitchen like an Iron Chef to get this one done. The key was to keep things fun, not get hung up about doing everything from scratch (premade Masala spices and pasta sauce are lifesavers), and to pick a day/night to do this when I have lots of energy.

Tomorrow I'll share my recipes and photos of my little Monday night of kitchen fun. In the meantime, anything you like to make in advance?

Image: Like Iron Chef host dude, I would have had time to eat an apple in the middle of all this. From http://blogs.menupages.com/