In all my years of blogging (this is actually my third blog), I don’t think I’ve ever dedicated an entire post to just one cookbook. But Cassy Joy Garcia’s new book Cook Once, Eat All Week has blown my mind.
I’ve come up with solutions to meal planning and prep so many times I can’t even count. But they all last a few weeks and then they are just like the others - a time suck. And often expensive as well, but mostly a time suck. Cassy’s new book - and I waited a full six weeks in before posting this to make sure it was the real deal - is the furthest thing from a time or money suck.
For a quick description, in case you haven’t heard me fangirl about it all over Instagram, Cook Once, Eat All Week is 26 weeks worth of meals where Cassy and team have done the meal planning (three meals per week, see more below), the grocery list making, and planned the prep. I didn’t realize how much of a time suck planning the prep was, in addition to the actual prep, until I started using this book.
Each week is organized around one protein, one vegetable, and one starch or starchy veg. This reduces prep time and costs, but I promise the three meals are so varied in their flavor profiles (does saying that make me a food blogger now?) you won’t even really notice you’re eating many of the same foods.
What I love about Cook Once, Eat All Week
If you want more than just “I love this book, everyone needs a copy”, here you go!
The mental part of planning and prepping is done for me. I used to dread writing out our menu each week because it would take forever to come up with the meals and find/write the groceries. I tried making lists of our favorite 20 meals, doing a month long menu, having repeating weekly menus, everying. But nothing really made this task easier. Now, I hand P the book and tell her to pick a week that looks good. It takes me about 20 minutes to add our breakfast, lunch, and snack items to the shopping list from the book and input the order on Instacart. Such a time saver and I look forward to doing it on Friday afternoons instead of dreading it.
The physical part of prep, the actual doing it, has never taken more than 90 minutes. I am someone who spent years spending HOURS on Sunday prepping food, then got so burned out I have basically refused weekend food prep for the last few years. I love that I can do it one shot, knowing I’ll be done in less than 90, sometimes right around one hour (you may have to plan ahead to cook protein overnight in a crockpot or something, but not hands on). Or, I can piecemail it throughout the weekend as I’m doing other work in the kitchen.
The ingredients and cooking are simple. The fanciest thing you’re going to have to buy is a bottle of coconut aminos. There is nothing crazy expensive in this book, or something that you’ll use one tablespoon of and find it again in five years. Some weeks I’m really surprised
The portion sizes are generous. The meals are designed for four adults and I’d say they still verge on large for that. Which is great, because leftovers! I find that if Greg is out of town a few nights, the three meals are all we need for the week. Sometimes they even cover my lunches, too. At most I add one additional dinner meal to our menu, though we do have a standing takeout date night on Fridays and sometimes grab lunch out on the weekend as well.
The recipes are flexible. While taco casserole sounds delicious, I know what is going to happen when I put it on my kids’ plates. A whole lot of nothing. So instead, I work with the recipes to use them in a way my family will eat them, and the recipes are flexible enough to support that. Which means a lot of times a dish that is meant to be a one pan meal becomes a bowl for Greg and I and the separate ingredients for the kids.
You learn as you go. I learn Cassy’s style the more I cook and I also know what works for us and what doesn’t. For example, we always have rice leftover and I find the rice based dishes a little rice heavy. So now I know to just make less rice these weeks and use less in the recipes.
And a Few Things I Don’t Love
It wouldn’t be an honest review if I didn’t share a few things that I don’t love.
Fewer veggies than we are used to eating. In general, the recipes include one veggie and sometimes one of the three recipes includes only protein and a starch. To supplement, I usually add plain greens (like arugula) and some salad fixings (romaine and some easy salad veggies - or just leftover veggies in the fridge) to my shopping list and if a meal feels like it needs more veggies I have something ready in the fridge.
Well, I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes and can’t come up with another. So there you go.
Who It’s For, and Who It’s Maybe Not For
So not every book is for everyone and that’s definitely true for cookbooks.
If you are a large family or good with leftovers, I recommend. I love leftovers (like LOVE love), so even though our family can’t eat every meal in full, I see this is a plus. But I know some people don’t care for leftovers. If that’s the case, and your family can’t eat 4 (large) adult sized portions per meal, then you likely will end up wasting some food.
If you are omnivores, I think this book does a great job of mixing up meats, veggies, and starches (though as I said above a few recipes can be low on the veg). I would not recommend this book to a vegetarian or vegan family - I just don’t think you’d be able to swap out the animal proteins that easily.
If you want quick meals that require almost zero brain power and minimal prep, this is for you. If you want gourmet meals with tons of variety, you may find that the recipes are a little basic (a huge plus in my book, but again I know not everyone is looking for the same thing I am), and that the same protein could feel repetitive.