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How to Be a Weekday Warrior

September  4, 2014

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Early September is a tricky time in the kitchen. You still feel the presence of summer behind your shoulder; the mornings are still sticky-hot; and you can’t bring yourself to turn on your oven. But the leaves are starting to fall and magazine stands beckon with apple pie, chicken stews, and spiced muffins

If you’re not feeling ready to dive back into a weekly schedule of packed lunches and planned-out dinners (and we're with you), let our latest Weekday Warrior collection help you. It's dedicated to eating better, even when you're busy. Here are the highlights:


1. Prep in advance. Planning ahead helps. The easiest strategy is to cook batches of grains (barley, rice, and quinoa are great) on Sundays. Keep them in the fridge -- all you need to do is heat them up and top them with vegetables or meat sauce for a quick dinner. Or toss them with dressing, greens, and grated Parmesan for a cold lunch. We pack ours in freezer- and oven-safe glass containers. To beat midday slumps, portion out snacks into reusable cotton bags at night and grab them on your way out the door the next morning. And to wake up right, freeze coffee in flexible ice cube trays so you can take iced coffee on the go -- just add the cubes to a thermos or mason jar with milk.

2. Embrace the shortcuts. Ideally we’d whip up homemade bread and from-scratch aioli for sandwiches daily, but life sometimes gets in the way. But being pressed for time should never mean compromising on good food. We rely on high-quality canned fish, granola bars, pasta sauce (choose one with a short list of very good ingredients), and rotisserie chicken (which we use to make the best quick chicken salad ever).

More: Learn a trick for saving time in the kitchen.


3. Have more fun. You will eat lunch every day. You will sometimes wish it were a lobster roll and an ice cream cone, consumed on the beach, instead of a turkey sandwich and an apple. So cheer yourself up with a not sad desk lunch: Put a love note in someone’s lunch box! Pack yourself some chocolate! Swap your peanut butter for key lime cashew butter. Eat outside in the sun. You get the idea.

More: Join the not sad desk lunch movement.


4. Stock your pantry. Some days you won’t plan ahead and you will want to call for delivery pizza. Ready yourself for that moment by filling your pantry with ingredients and tools that make ten-minute, three-ingredient dinners possible. If you have grains or pasta, you have a meal (and if you also have garlic, onion, and canned tomatoes, you have a very good meal). Always keep fresh fruit on hand -- in an emergency you can slather an Asian pear with almond butter and call it a day. Chorizo and other charcuterie are good no-cook options: Toss them in a salad or eat them plain. If you have yogurt, cheese, and flour, you’re minutes away from warm biscuits. Simplicity is your friend -- with a few basics, the possibilities are endless.

Tell us, what’s your best tip for weekday meals?

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.

1 Comment

Radish September 4, 2014
My husband and I are retired. We go out to eat for lunch just to get out of the house. I am wanting to eat more at home, but it is such a drag. If I had a good shopping list for lunches, I think it would be easier. I am going to join the not sad lunch movement.