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One Thing a Day: Bake Some Potatoes

Welcome back to our irregular “one thing a day” series, the edition where we bake potatoes! Yes, this is the series where we increase our future selves’ happiness… when our current selves focus on accomplishing just: One thing a day.

“Bake some potatoes” seems ridiculously simple, doesn’t it? Sometimes, though, the simplest things actually have the most impact.

So, this past Sunday I baked up about six large potatoes to keep on hand for use throughout the week. I do this pretty often, actually: Every week or two, I pick up a bag of large baker potatoes at ALDI. These generally run around $2.69 for 5 lbs in my area (or less, during fall potato season!).

If you end up with a couple of extra potatoes in the bag after baking what you need, you can also use these larger baking potatoes anywhere you’d use regular russet potatoes — roughly chopped alongside a roasting chicken, chopped up and oven roasted, pan fried, and more.

How to use baked potatoes?

Baked potato with broccoli, cheese, bacon bits, and more

Baked potatoes keep nicely for 5-7 days in the refrigerator, and are super easy to bake up on a Sunday afternoon. I just scrub the potatoes, cut out any bad spots, poke a couple of holes in the skin, and bake them in the toaster oven at 425 degrees.

This generally takes an hour or more, depending on size and how many I cook up at once; they’re done when the skin is crisping up and the insides are soft. Don’t forget to poke a few holes… I made that mistake but once, and let me tell you: Cleaning exploded potato off the inside of an oven is not my idea of fun.

And yes, you can also bake these in the regular oven, but why heat up the whole house? (I do sometimes throw a couple of potatoes into the oven if I’m roasting up something else at 400-425 degrees, just to take advantage of the already-hot oven.) And yes, per my long-ago starving student days, you can also microwave baked potatoes, but the skin gets… weird. This is never my preferred method.

So, why does it benefit us to have baked potatoes at the ready in the fridge? Let us count the ways…

Enjoy a baked potato bar

Baked potato bar -- put out potatoes and toppings

The kids always appreciate baked potato bar dinners! We just did one of these yesterday, and it’s an easy choice for a busy night. Make baked potato bars even easier with pre-baked potatoes — just warm them back up before putting them out, along with bowls of any toppings your heart (or taste buds) desires.

Just a few suggestions for your next potato bar:

  • Steamed broccoli florets
  • Bacon bits or crumbled bacon
  • Chopped green onion
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Chili
  • Chopped onion
  • Pickled jalapeno or other peppers
  • Chopped sauteed bell peppers
  • Sauteed onions
  • Chopped cooked ham

…really, you have so many choices! Mix things up according to your own family’s tastes.

Bulk up leftovers

While we’re talking easy dinners, baked potatoes make a great, filling base for all sorts of leftovers. Try topping them with leftover:

  • Chili & cheddar cheese
  • Chicken tikka masala
  • Taco meat & fillings
  • Stew
  • Pot roast

… or any of a number of hearty meals. This is a great way to stretch out your leftovers, if you don’t have enough to feed a whole family as a main dish. (Or, heat up various little bits of leftovers and put them out with your baked potato bar as additional topping choices.)

Create new recipes

pan fried leftover baked potatoes

You can also use baked potatoes to make something new. Turn leftover bakers into super seasoned pan fried potatoes, or scoop out their insides and mash them into a hearty potato soup. Turn them into twice baked potatoes, or chop them up and make home fries.

Serve as a side dish

ribs, baked potato, and asparagus

Baked potatoes are a delicious and easy side for many meaty mains: Meat & potatoes is an old classic for a reason, right? Serve baked potatoes alongside steak, ribs, corned beef, fish, or any simple main — then just add a green vegetable for a complete hearty meal.

Having an already-baked side dish on hand that you just need to heat and eat helps relieve some weeknight dinner pressure. We can all use a little of that, right?

What one thing will you do today?

One last question, while we’re questioning: What one thing will you do today? Don’t get me wrong, we all still have to eat (and those of us with kids and families still have to make sure that they eat).

When I say “one thing,” I’m not saying, don’t get dinner on the table. Instead, I’m saying: What’s one bonus food-related task you can do today, that will make you happy (relieved, excited) to have done in the future.

What are some other examples of one thing a day? Well, how about:

What one thing will you do today?