Christine Zellers, Assistant Professor/Educator Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Department of Family and Community Health Sciences Published September 28, 2022
Back to school and busy schedules in the fall might make meal planning difficult, but double duty meals can save time and money for even the busiest person. Double duty meals are meals prepared to allow for two healthy meals rather than just one. This will save time, prevent food waste, and help cut the grocery bill. Finding ways to double meals for extra uses will relieve the pressure of answering the question, “what’s for dinner tonight”.
To get started creating double duty meals, cook enough of one basic ingredient like a lean or plant-based protein so there is enough to make two meals. The American Heart Association suggests lean protein like chicken, turkey, black beans, or quinoa be made in advance and then used for two different meals. This means, less time, less waste and better eating when time is short for cooking. When using chicken for double duty meals cook 8 chicken breasts rather than just four. Add low sodium seasoning like cumin, chili powder and oregano to the chicken and grill or bake. The first night serve the chicken with a garnish of fresh cilantro and a squirt of lime juice over brown rice with a steamed vegetable. Store the extra 4 chicken breasts in an airtight container once it has cooled in the refrigerator. Later in the week use the chicken for an enchilada casserole or chicken fajitas. Save extra meals for nights a quick meal is needed or freeze them to use the next week. Incorporate other lean or plant-based proteins that can be used for doubling up meals and cutting down on prep time. Beans or quinoa can be used to make bean burgers or quinoa burgers then the other half of the prepared food can be used as a side dish another night or in a salad for lunch. Don’t forget the veggies for multiple uses as well, chop and roast ten cups of vegetables in the oven with a little olive oil and use them during the week to flavor meals, as a side dish or to top salads at lunch. In the fall root vegetables like potatoes and carrots mixed with cubed butter nut squash and roasted with some fresh rosemary make a great side dish for pork or poultry and add a sweet savory taste. Make extra quinoa and use some for a side dish with roasted vegetables and herbs then add it to a salad for lunch. There are so many ways to be creative by planning ahead and making dishes delicious twice!
Food safety is essential when using proteins more than once, be sure to take extra care to store and heat food properly. When reheating food, it should be heated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, check the food using a food thermometer. Reheat sauces, soups, and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil. The refrigerator should always be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less and the freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Never leave food out more than two hours and always cool food on the counter before placing it in the refrigerator in a sealed container. Use cooked food within four days to avoid spoilage. Being safe and creative can support low-cost healthy eating with double duty meals.