Christina Chaey, line cook and freelance writerI recently left my job as an associate web editor at Bon Appétit to become a full-time line cook and freelance writer. In the weeks since starting my new job, I have very quickly realized cooking is the VERY last thing I want to do when I get home from 10 hours of making food for other people. Now, my primary goal during the week is to do as little actual cooking (and dishwashing) as possible, which is why big-batch cooking is my best friend. I'll spend a few hours cooking several dishes on my day off to mix and match during the week.
What I bought:
French lentils from the bulk bin: $3.44
"Cooked lentils are the basis of so many delicious, cheap, and nutritious meals; I especially love French green lentils because they hold their shape after they're cooked. I'll cook a cup at the beginning of the week (which yield about 2 cups cooked!) and mix them into a bowl of brown rice and roasted veg, fold them into yogurt with fresh herbs and spinach stuffed into a pita, or use them to bulk up a soup."
1 dozen 365-brand extra-large brown eggs: $3.79
"A big-batch staple. I'll medium-boil the entire carton at once in a big pot of boiling water, then store them in their carton in the fridge and use them throughout the week. There's no better way to elevate a kinda-sad-person dinner than by putting an egg on it. Or I'll eat them plain for a quick breakfast with flaky salt. If I have a bunch leftover at the end of the week, it's egg salad time!"
2 cans of chickpeas: $3
"I picked up a couple of cans of chickpeas because they were on sale. There's nothing that makes a lazy cook happier than being able to open a can and be halfway to dinner. Any leftovers will keep in a glass jar in the fridge for a few days, ready to use at a moment's notice."
1 whole chicken, $6.18
"This purchase was one of those 'I wasn't planning on buying you, but I couldn't not buy you' moments. It's a whole chicken! For $6! These birdies were on super-sale, which I will take as a sign, since I'm coming down with a cold and homemade chicken soup is calling. This also means I have many meals' worth of tender poached chicken for the week to throw into everything."
1 bunch organic Tuscan kale: $3.49
"Say what you will about kale, but it's in my shopping basket every week. It has a long shelf life, I find it genuinely delicious, and it can often be cheaper than other greens I'll see at Whole Foods, like Swiss chard. I destem, wash, and thinly slice the leaves when I get home from the store, then stash them in a resealable plastic bag with a paper towel in the fridge. This way they stay fresh for days, and when I get home from work during the week, all I need to do is grab a handful of greens and throw them in a pan—perhaps with a little bacon if I'm feeling flush."
1 bunch cilantro: $1.99
"Buying lots of herbs every week can get pricey, but investing in even one bunch is the best thing you can do to liven up an otherwise blah meal. I most often go for cilantro, which goes just as well with tacos as it does a roasted sweet potato and chickpea salad. I prep them the same way as the kale."
1 head broccoli, $2.99
"I'm fully convinced broccoli stems are one of the most underrated members of the veg kingdom—roasted with oil, salt, and pepper, they lose all their toughness and become a supremely delicious addition to a rice bowl."
1 package extra-firm tofu: $1.99
"If I'm really good, I'll start pressing a block of tofu the second I get home from the store by wrapping the whole thing in paper towels, then weighing it down with a heavy can. I'll cube it up and pan fry it in a little oil on the stove until the cubes are crispy and browned on all sides, season with salt, and store it in Tupperware in the fridge as a ready-to-go topping for grain bowls, stir-fries, and soba noodles."
1 bag sweet potatoes, $2.99
"I picked up this big bag of 7 sweet potatoes for $3, which is a deal in my book. Throughout fall and winter, I love simply roasting cubes of them with a little oil, salt, pepper, and pimentón, or Spanish smoked paprika, which gives them lots of smoky flavor. One of my forever go-to meals is roasted sweet potatoes mixed with spiced black beans, sautéed kale, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime—and perhaps a fried egg."