Your kitchen prep, how do you plan ahead?

How do you prep your kitchen for the week/month? Do you? As I am taking my six olive oil drizzled bulbs of garlic out of the oven, it struck me how automatic prepping food stuffs has become. This week, I prepared a cashew cream, puffed tofu, cut up a boatload of fruit, cut up raw veg, cleaned a fish, portioned a couple of chickens, made stock, threw a few spice mixes together and roasted garlic, carrots, eggplants and parsnips. All for meals I will eventually get to or use next week.

Have I gone retirement crazy or do most of you get into this mindset of prep’ing food in advance?


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Possibly, mate, possibly. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

And, yes, that’s a serious comment. When we retire, there’s an awful lot of hours to fill that used to be filled with working/commuting/etc. It can lead to inventing “stuff to do”. When I took early retirement, I got excellent advice from a colleague who had retired but had returned a couple of years later to do some temporary part-time work. She suggested not taking on new long term projects until some months after retirement. The danger being that you take on a lot to fill the time and then find you have difficulty putting them aside when life has slowed down in a few months.

However, here, it doesnt seem as though you’ve invented “stuff”, simply decided to undertake prep as a distinct and separate process from what you would usually have had to have done to prep for dinner. Personally, I’m happy to prep as an immediate prelude to cooking.

Now, if you need to fill some time in the run-up to the festive season, how about taking up making preserves - jams, chutneys , pickles, etc. They can make lovely Xmas presents and, of course, are a delight to eat. I made my pickled onions at the end of September and, whilst I’ll try one in the next few days (in case something has gone wrong), they won’t really start to be eaten until with the pork pie on Boxing Day. Oh, and I still have a jar of the Seville orange marmalade I made early in the year.


Thank you. All true. Don’t be surprised when I tell you I stopped by the hardware store to pick up more mason jars. I’m pickling peppers, garlic, artichokes and cauliflower. My wife is the jam/jelly/chutney experimenter.

I have signed up for a few non food related classes come the new year to get out of the kitchen. I also accepted two short term gigs in the spring. I’m guessing retirement has to be a mixed bag. Tackling my property and vacationing on the list.

I appreciate the observations.

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I wash and dry produce as soon as I get it home and store it in Debbie Meyer green boxes. Because sometimes the difference between cooking and ordering delivery comes down to whether I feel like scrubbing a potato (I’m not retired). I also make and freeze individual portions of soup, pasta sauce, refried beans and chile relleno casserole.


What’s your refried bean method? I haven’t done anything more than open a can of my favorite low fat version.

How do you assemble your pickled onion recipe?

The onions get 24 hours in a brine. Then drained and dried off. Then into Kilner jars with a spiced malt vinegar. I usually buy a ready made spice mix which goes into the vinegar which is then warmed through and left to stand for 24 hours for the spices to do their job - but this year I’m trying a ready spiced vinegar (but am still adding a couple of pnches of pickling spice into each jar just to give them a bit more of an edge). Important thing is to get the right strength of malt vinegar - minimum 5% acidity with 6% being preferable. There is then the absolute need for a three month maturing period and they’re easily going to last a couple of years in the cupboard, lasting even once opened. They should be firm, vinegary with a good hint of spice (including chilli) - ideal fro cutting through the fatty richness of that pork pie I mentioned or with a mature Cheddar.


I use dried beans, pintos or red beans or whatever. Cover with an inch of water, bring to a boil, let sit for an hour. Drain, rinse and re-cover with a few inches of water, simmer until very soft. Drain and reserve cooking liquid (very important!). Saute minced onion and garlic, add beans and some crushed canned tomatoes, oregano, cumin, cayenne, salt & pepper. Cook for about ten minutes, mashing occasionally with a potato masher and adding bean liquid as necessary until the consistency looks right to you. I don’t eat meat, in case you’re wondering about the lack of lard, etc.


Do you recommend a specific brand on the malt vinegar. I have Sarson’s 5% on hand. What is in the pickling spice mix? Which spices?

Excellent outline for me to follow. I don’t care for lard so your method is helpful.

Sarsons - perfect.

My current spice mix is from Schwartz. Contents on this link, which gives something of an idea of relative quantities if you’re going to make your own.

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Those sound amazing…!

There’s lots of make your own pickling mix recipes out there if you have a well stocked assortment of spices. Just be careful with any star anise, i once made a pickling spice that included it and that flavor overwhemed about everything

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They’re pretty good. And once you get sick of the beans as a side dish, you can add stock and/or water, puree, and turn them into soup. See also: re–purposing your sister’s mashed potato casserole and spinach souffle as pierogi fillings. (These are mostly just excuses to throw sour cream all over everything.)


I don’t. Which explains some of my 5pm panic.

Just kidding - sort of. It’s true that life does not allow me to do a lot of meal prep, and we have greatly simplified our menus since baby’s arrival. But I do two things each week that help a lot:

  1. Plan at least 5 dinners and shop accordingly. Try to cook the most perishables first and then dig into the freezer and pantry-stable stuff.

  2. Keep my pantry staples, spices, condiments, and oils well stocked and varied - so I always have what I need to follow my selected recipes, pull a meal out of a hat, or just make what sounds good even if it goes against plan.

These two things save me.


Your routine, is about what I do, but I do keep a close ye on my staples in the fridge, freezer, & pantry.
Since we are quasi empty nesters, mother-in-law lives in a separate apartment in our house, at times it is hard to pass up on a special item, and I say" well I will make some for mom"…but really we do not need to buy it.

We do determine each Sunday, which day of the week we are eating out and not cooking. Since I have had the option to work as much as I want to , I try to have something work related to do each and everyday, even if it is just going to my office and review some items, and chat with some of the employees.
This allows me to do other tasks such as visit with the grandchildren or take a class or just walk around Home Depot and buy a new screwdriver or two…


I plan but I also get sidetracked shopping, or reading a recipe or method or pulled into entertaining by family and friends.

Our freezer is the only way my wife and I can keep some sort of action plan/backup plan solid.

It’s hardly a complaint. What I was really wondering was how food minded people stop themselves from making so much of the day about food, lol. It’s like in a few months I went from eating meals in mom and pop joints across the country to being the pop who prepares the meals.

I just surprised myself that the same skills I used during my full time working life are kicking in at home. Good thing I joined a gym and swim. My wife was suggesting I take two days off a week from any food related planning…

And, my mind immediately wandered to the pie crust I wanted to put together after dinner…lol!


In the past when i was doing a lot more cooking sundays I generally prepped a big batch of my lunch greens (basic massaged kale salad, it’s even better a day or two later, i add whatever else sounds good morning of), one or two batches of salad dressings, and in the winter a batch of soup or stew every weekend. Several portions of the soup go to the freezer and provide future quick dinners or come for lunch.
Otherwise I’m fairly handy with a knife so I just chop whatever sounds good for veg that night, and most vegetarian proteins are quick cooking.
There’s a not great market on my walk home from the subway so I’ll stop in to pick up whatever i need for dinner if I didn’t think far enough ahead when shopping on the weekend or doing my delivery grocery order

I rarely plan ahead. Most often meals are decided on by what’s in the fridge, on the counter, in the pantry and in the freezer. Very often there is one item which dictates the direction the meal will go. That’s just the way it’s been for a lot of years. Not sure as I move closer to retirement that my meal planning will be different. I guess I just like cooking “off the cuff” with what I have on hand. It’s rewarding when it all works and exceeds expectations

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Each weekend, I plan roughly what to buy for the coming week, but husband usually returns from stores with more stuff than on the shopping list or stuff that he couldn’t find and he buys whatever and doesn’t buy at all, so most of the time I need to improvise with what in the fridge and look up for recipes just before cooking. The pantry is always full, so that helps. Only about 30% of the cooking I planned ahead. I work as freelancer at home, actually I could have do much more for food prep when I am not busy, but they stays in my head than acting out. Is retirement going to change this? I’m not so sure.