11 delicious meals for time-restricted cooks

Providing my family with healthy, home-cooked meals is very important to me. However, as a busy mum it’s not always easy to find the time to actually cook those meals from scratch. A lifesaver for me are my so-called double dinners – on a day when I have enough time to cook a proper dinner I cook a double batch of one main ingredient. I use the first batch for dinner that day, the other half goes into the fridge for use for a different, quick dinner on a day when I’m too busy to cook something from scratch. Below are a 11 ideas for such double dinners. Everything listed below can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days easily.

Ratatouille /pasta sauce

Cooking day: Cook a double batch of ratatouille and serve it for example with risotto, polenta or couscous, optionally with a serving of meat. Let the rest of the ratatouille cool down, blend it in a blender and store it in the fridge.

Busy day: Reheat the blended ratatouille and serve it with pasta (large, tube-shaped pasta like Rigatoni work best for this type of sauce) and grated parmesan cheese. We love this pasta sauce! If you want to add some protein you can cook some red lentils and blend them together with the ratatouille. 

Knoepfli / Knoepfli bake

Cooking day: Prepare two batches of plain Knoepfli or green spinach Knoepfli, the homemade Swiss pasta. Serve the first batch straight away with a brown sauce and meat or a ratatouille, and store the other batch in the fridge.

Busy day: Prepare a Knoepfli bake (recipe here) with steamed vegetables and the Knoepfli in the morning. Store in the fridge and bake in the evening for 20-25 minutes.


Boiled potatoes / rösti (hash browns)

Cooking day: Boil or steam potatoes and eat them as you like them best (in Switzerland we eat them as ‘Gschwellti’, which is boiled potatoes with various soft and hard cheeses, quark with herbs and cold meats).

Busy day: In the morning, peel the potatoes. Take a frying pan, melt a generous tablespoon of butter in it, sprinkle on a generous pinch of Aromat (or salt if you don’t have Aromat) and grate the potatoes on top of it. Cover with a lid and store in the fridge. In the evening, fry the hash browns with the lid on for 10 minutes, turn over and fry the other side for another 10 minutes. Serve with a fried egg or Frankfurter sausages.

Roast vegetables / vegetable salad

Cooking day: Chop a double batch of roasting vegetables like peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, fennel, potatoes, aubergines, courgettes or onions and put them into a roasting tray. Add a little olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs and roast in the oven until soft. Serve half of it as a meal with meat, roast chicken or however else you like eating your roast vegies and store the rest in the fridge.

Busy day: Serve the roast vegetable with a salad dressing as a salad, alongside any already cooked, cold meat (for example chicken breast or steak) with a honey mustard sauce or barbecue sauce. For a meat-free meal, crumble some feta cheese over the roast vegetable salad or add a cup of cooked yellow or green lentils to add some proteins.

Polenta / polenta bake

Cooking day: Prepare a double batch of polenta. Serve half of it immediately with  with ratatouille and fried chicken breasts, grilled pork chops, or semolina-coated and pan-fried halloumi cheese. Pour the rest of the cooked polenta onto a plate or chopping board and flatten it. Let it cool down and store it in fridge.

Busy day: In the morning put a little oil into an ovenproof dish. Put polenta slices into the dish, then add tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and salt, pepper and any herbs you like and store in fridge. In the evening, put into the cold oven and bake for 20 minutes at 220 degrees. 

Curry / fried rice

Cooking day: Cook two batches of basmati or perfume rice. Serve the first batch with a curry. Keep the rest of the rice in the fridge.

Busy day: Stir-fry some vegetables and chicken or prawns (optional), add a raw egg and stir until the egg is cooked through, then add the rice and some chilli flakes (optional). Add some fish sauce and soy sauce and cook until the rice is heated up. Serve with chopped coriander and lemon juice. 

Long grain rice / rice salad

Cooking day: Cook a double batch of long grain rice and serve one portion with some vegetables and meat with sauce.

Busy day: In the morning, chop some salad vegetables (cucumber, carrots, pepper) plus tinned corn and add it to the rice. Buy or prepare a salad dressing. In the evening, mix the rice salad and salad dressing and serve together with some bought cold meat or cheese.

Crepes with mince meat / mince and pasta

Cooking day: Cook a double batch of minced meat Swiss style. Cook crepes and fill them with minced meat as a tasty dinner (followed by crepes with applesauce, nutella, cinnamon sugar or sugar and lemon juice).

Busy day: Cook pasta and reheat the mince for Swiss style pasta and mince. Serve with a salad.


Warm couscous / couscous salad

Cooking day: Cook a double batch of couscous. Serve warm couscous with a chicken tagine or ratatouille and chicken.

Busy day: Chop some salad vegetables, parsley and olives and prepare a salad dressing and mix everything with the couscous for a salad. Serve with feta cheese or any other cheese or a cold chicken breast.

Pasta and broccoli / pasta bake

Cooking day: Cook a double batch of pasta and broccoli (you can cook both in the same pot at the same time, but the broccoli takes less time to cook, so add it only towards the end). Serve first batch as an Italian broccoli pasta: add olive oil, aromat (or chicken salt, or just plain salt if you don’t have anything else) and dried chilli flakes. Stir and enjoy.

Busy day: In the morning, prepare a salmon pasta broccoli bake according to this BBC Good Food recipe (you only need to prepare a white sauce, place everything into an ovenproof dish and store it in the fridge until the evening). In the evening, bake it for 30 minutes and eat.

Bolognese / Lasagne

Cooking day: Cook a double batch of bolognese sauce and serve half of it as spaghetti bolognese straight away. 

Busy day: In the morning (or evening before), prepare a quick bechamel sauce and assemble your lasagne with lasagne pasta sheets, bolognese, bechamel sauce and grated cheese. Chill in fridge. In the evening, put into cold oven and cook for 35 minutes at 220 degrees.

7 thoughts on “11 delicious meals for time-restricted cooks”

  1. Wonderful ideas and great tips! Can’t wait for the cooler days to make Spätzli and Lasagna again!
    I often don’t have space in my fridge so I store my leftovers in ziploc bags.

  2. These are such good suggestions. I really want to cook more efficiently and do more meals without meat so I will be using lots of these ideas. Thank-you. We often do our broccoli pasta with gorgonzola for extra indulgence… yum! x

  3. I really love these suggestions. I always like to have interesting and different food, but as a parent it’s always a struggle balance everything. I find I also forget about delicious things I love to cook because my brain is so fuzzy. These tips are so handy, and thanks for reminding me about polenta, I haven’t had it for years!

    1. Little Zurich Kitchen

      It is so difficult – fuzzy brain, picky eaters and not much time to plan meals. If I want to cook a good variety of meals I need to do some serious meal planning when I have a quiet minute!

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