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  1. #1
    girlhk's Avatar
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    cooking food for the week

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    Due to time constraints, I wonder if I can cook a dish on Sunday/Monday and use it throughout the week? Mainly for my daughter, who brings lunch to school on weekdays.

    I'm really used to cooking on the day and eating leftovers by the next morning, so don't have much experience with cooking, freezing, defrosting.

    I'm thinking of making ground beef or other offal dishes for my dd.

    1. If I cook one dish for the week, do I need to freeze, or would it last 5 days in the fridge?
    2. The meats I buy are frozen-- can I defrost the whole thing and then refreeze the unused portion? Or better to just cook it all at once and use the cooked dish throughout the week?
    3. What do you store cooked dishes in?
    4. How do you defrost cooked dishes? I don't have a microwave.
    5. Once defrost, how long does a cooked dish last? I pack my daughter's lunch in the morning, and she eats it around noon. I worry it might spoil by then..

    Any suggestions for dishes that can be made in advance in a slow cooker would be great too.

  2. #2
    Reventon's Avatar
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    1. 5 Days... Unlikely, but I'm pedantic about that. I tend to keep stuff in the fridge 1, 2 days max, freezer for anything beyond.
    2. If by unused you mean uncooked, I'd not do it. Apart from fooking up the texture by constantly refreezing and thawing, people who I've seen do that usually give themselves food poisoning. Freezing in batches AFTER you cook stuff is a different story. That's the most time efficient method as well.
    3. The ideal thing would be temperature resistant ceramic or glass, or otherwise a stainless steel container. Failing that, plastic will do. Leeching from the plastic isn't ideal, but if it's what you got, it's what you got. I also use aluminium foil when it's dish appropriate and I feel lazy.
    4. To slowly bring it back to temperature, a water bath on a stove is fine. You can pop them straight into the oven, or in the case of a curry or stew, just put a pot on the stove and let it reheat. Depends on the liquid content and the dish in question, but the general rule is apply heat by whatever method you have available and is appropriate.
    5. Unlikely. Defrosted food won't last much less time than food you've just cooked fresh.

    Basically you want to make stuff as time efficient for yourself as you can. Curries, stews and loose meat concoctions like kaldereta or picadillo are also time efficient in the pot or pan. You don't need to go culturally fancy, just chuck some mince or chopped chuck into a pan with herbs and veggies.

    Pre packed salad bags are also pretty quick and easy. Giving your daughter one of those with some tins of sardines is also time efficient.

  3. #3
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    I often keep meat in the fridge for 4+days and I've never noticed any of it go off. Vegetables on the other hand have. Like broccoli and greens. They sometimes smell funky to me after 3 days or so, sometimes not though.

    I agree with Reventon about refreezing raw meat. I wouldn't do it. Just cook it all. Keep what you will use in 4-5 days in the fridge and freeze the rest. I use my FoodSaver a lot for freezing. I let everything cool off, usually in the fridge, before I put it in the FoodSaver bags.

    These meatballs are really good. I think they would make a great lunch:
    Whole30 Day 6: Asian Meatballs | Award-Winning Paleo Recipes | Nom Nom Paleo

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by girlhk View Post
    I'm thinking of making ground beef or other offal dishes for my dd.

    1. If I cook one dish for the week, do I need to freeze, or would it last 5 days in the fridge?
    2. The meats I buy are frozen-- can I defrost the whole thing and then refreeze the unused portion? Or better to just cook it all at once and use the cooked dish throughout the week?
    3. What do you store cooked dishes in?
    4. How do you defrost cooked dishes? I don't have a microwave.
    5. Once defrost, how long does a cooked dish last? I pack my daughter's lunch in the morning, and she eats it around noon. I worry it might spoil by then..
    There's what a food safety class will tell you (I have an NYC food handler's license), and then there's what common sense, years of experience (including lots of backpacking/travel, exercises in frugality/not wasting food that's really on its last legs, etc.)... I do/eat a lot of things that modern food safety would tell me not to, and I have yet to get sick from it *knocks wood*

    1. My general rule is that meat is good a week after cooking as long as it's kept in the fridge under 40F - (I've eaten stuff well after a week and it's been fine, especially if it has a lot of fat and/or salt, but that's an advanced "I ignore food safety rules because they're based on arbitrary numbers" technique). If it smells bad/rancid. Don't eat it. If it smells okay, eat it!

    2. Rule of thumb is that you're at a much greater risk of contamination if you refreeze uncooked meat. Cook it all and then freeze the cooked meat (you can even freeze in handy pre-portioned servings).

    3. I prefer glass/ceramic dishes that are oven/freezer/microwave safe. Costco has a good set of Pyrex snapware, and I have a bunch of other glass bowls & jars w/lids.

    4. Defrost in the fridge. To heat, either transfer into another container & cook or bring your oven-safe dish up to room temp & pop into a pre-heated oven. (I have a microwave, but I pretty much only use it to sanitize sponges.) There's also the officially non-recommended technique of defrosting on the counter (or in a lunch box), which we do all the time without a problem

    5. Again, about a week. I wouldn't heat your daughter's lunch, just defrost, as it certainly wouldn't still be warm/hot after 4-6 hours unless you have a thermal lunch box for her. However, there's almost zero chance of her defrosted lunch spoiling in that time unless it's left in the sun or something.

  5. #5
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    Well, the questions look pretty well answered, but as someone who works 15 hour shifts, I thought I could pop in with a little of my own experiences. I'm not trained in food safety, and I do violate the thaw/refreeze rule, but I'm pretty anal retentive about keeping things cool and clean. I've been food poisoned plenty of times, but never at home.

    Like I said, I do partially thaw, portion the still somewhat frosty meat, and refreeze. It's not ideal, but I can't pass up a leg of lamb just because I'm single and the oven's broken. If you're going to do this, be smart about it and keep everything cold and quick. I only thaw raw meat in the refrigerator, and I store it in thick "freezer bags" with as much of the air pressed out as I can. I also tend to go through my stores pretty quickly. I think I remember Jamie Oliver recommending to wrap in plastic wrap and foil for longer storage, but I don't keep stuff that long.

    Once it's cooked, meat keeps fine for the week, but seafood should be used as quick as you can. I only let seafood sit for two days after thawing before eating it, but that may be extreme. I typically make pot roast, stew, or some other braised meat dish because it will only benefit from sitting and allowing the flavours to develop. Frittatas are great for using up bits of leftovers and different vegetables. They should be eaten within a couple days. I don't like frozen eggs, but some people don't mind them.

    I store cooked foods in glass tupperware in the refrigerator, and I use the same stuff to bring it to work. I do have to be careful because the lids can come off if knocked around too much, and I have access to a refrigerator and microwave. A thermos and a small cooler + ice pack would be much more practical for sending hot or cold food and not worrying about it spoiling or not thawing without a refrigerator/microwave.

    I don't mind eating the same foods often, but lately I have been experimenting with reusing leftovers in different dishes. Leftover roasts, pot roast, roast chicken, cooked, frozen, or fresh vegetables work really well in soups or stews. Bits that might not make a meal can go into salads, frittatas, or sauces. I think planning and improvisation are both integral. On the weekends, I make a (rather rough) menu for the week, and I make sure to keep a fresh rotation of food so nothing spoils or runs out.

  6. #6
    girlhk's Avatar
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    Thanks, this is really helpful.

    So, if unused defrosted meat should not be refrozen, I need to cook it all at once. Probably 1 lb of ground beef would last up to 2 weeks. How long can cooked food last in the freezer?

    Why is it not recommended to defrost on the countertop?

  7. #7
    girlhk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yodiewan View Post
    These meatballs are really good. I think they would make a great lunch:
    Whole30 Day 6: Asian Meatballs | Award-Winning Paleo Recipes | Nom Nom Paleo
    Those meatballs do look good. I know my daughter likes meatballs, so looking into making them. I wonder how these hold together without flour??

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    Quote Originally Posted by girlhk View Post
    Thanks, this is really helpful.

    So, if unused defrosted meat should not be refrozen, I need to cook it all at once. Probably 1 lb of ground beef would last up to 2 weeks. How long can cooked food last in the freezer?

    Why is it not recommended to defrost on the countertop?
    The air temperature on the countertop is at the temperature bacteria can quickly multiply. You want to keep thawing food cool and let it thaw slowly, so the refrigerator is best followed by a COLD running water bath.

    I eat through my cooked food too quickly to tell, but it should last for a month in the freezer?

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    Quote Originally Posted by girlhk View Post
    Those meatballs do look good. I know my daughter likes meatballs, so looking into making them. I wonder how these hold together without flour??
    These hold together awesomely (I've never quite understood why people think meatballs/loaf need flour or breadcrumbs).
    I made the Asian meatballs almost every weekend this past summer for my cooler (I was doing a physical activity in the roasting sun, away from home for about 48 hours at a time, living out of a cooler each weekend). I also made non nom paleo's big-O burgers (slider sized) and shrimp stuffed mushrooms (but just the filling, pan fried in coconut oil).

    I found all of these made excellent satisfying meals (with fruit, veg & coconut water) that were easy to pack in zip-top bags (I broke a glass bowl the first weekend so I went for disposable bags after that, even though I don't normally like plastics), and easy to eat cold, hot, or anywhere in-between.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by girlhk View Post
    1. If I cook one dish for the week, do I need to freeze, or would it last 5 days in the fridge? 5 days should be ok, best to package it individually in final serving size container with little to no Oxygen in the container. I bought a case of plastic deli containers that can be frozen and they hold 12oz. You can get them smaller or bigger. They can be reused.

    2. The meats I buy are frozen-- can I defrost the whole thing and then refreeze the unused portion? Or better to just cook it all at once and use the cooked dish throughout the week? Bad practice, unsafe and degrades texture and taste.

    3. What do you store cooked dishes in? see #1

    4. How do you defrost cooked dishes? I don't have a microwave. In refrigerator or stovetop, slow or fast to remain out of danger zone.

    5. Once defrost, how long does a cooked dish last? I pack my daughter's lunch in the morning, and she eats it around noon. I worry it might spoil by then.. Thermos jar is what we use, stays hot all day if needed.

    Any suggestions for dishes that can be made in advance in a slow cooker would be great too. Curries, chili, soups, microwave a potato, mash with butter and cheese and put in thermos - instant mash potatoes, sprinkle some bacon chopped pieces on top.
    . .

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