Updated: Aug 23, 2020
Is there even a need for an introduction to this article? H-E-double-hockey-sticks no. Just understand you are not alone in the meal prep time continuum! We spend way too much time in the kitchen after work or maybe you’re a stay at home parent and you pretty much live in the kitchen. I love cooking, but I don’t want to slave all evening in front of the stove. Please try some of these tips!
Plan ahead! I cannot stress this enough. If you are not planning your meals in advance, this will not help you
Chop your raw snacks (i.e. fruits and veggies) as soon as you get home from the grocery store. This will save you so much time because let’s be honest--chopping often takes the most prep when making dinner or meal prep! Besides, you’re more likely to grab a healthy, fresh snack than a pre-packaged one if they’re already sitting in your fridge and ready to grab.
Repeat elements from other meals into new side dishes or a completely new meal. I love to take a vegetable or two and highlight them, so to speak, because it often forces you to use up what you’ve bought and get creative in the kitchen. You could easily do the same with a meat or complex carb, too!
Pre-cook or marinate elements off your menu for the week. This is something I love to do along with pre-chopping snacking veggies or side dish veggies because it will save you so much time on the day of cooking. Obviously this will not always work and not everyone has enough time right after going to the grocery store to complete this task. However, you can plan ahead so your trip to the store can be when you have the time to do all the other mundane tasks required to make your during the week full of doing what you want instead of what you don’t want.
Double batching. Who has mis-planned or really didn’t want to eat what was planned for dinner/lunch that day? I’m guilty of last minute switches, for sure. How do we keep ourselves from ordering out? Or eating something we don’t want? Double batch your favorite dinners and freeze them. This will be hard if you are a fan favorite of fresh wild caught salmon, crunchy broccoli and baked potatoes. I’m talking about those labor intensive dinners like Eggplant Parmesan from scratch, our favorite soups or even sheet pan recipes. Most of these meals can be pre-made and frozen until ready for consumption.
Freezing leftovers. Yes, leftovers get tossed so often in our household! It saddens me. What we’ve tried to do is freeze the leftovers within 48 hours if they can be frozen and reheated tastefully. This can make an excellent lunch or extra dinner.
Timing is everything. What takes the longest to cook? Start it first. This can be tricky if you struggle with following recipes to begin with, but promise me you’ll try this tip. For whatever reason, some of the recipes I follow are not optimal with regards to simple time saving techniques like this one. Be aware of the ingredients and read your recipe first to see where you can cut time. Especially in the beginning of the week if there are elements that can be pre-chopped.
Plan to re-purpose side dishes. Need rice for a teriyaki bowl? Great! Double the amount while you are making the rice for your teriyaki bowl to use what is left for your rice pilaf. This can be done with potato or pasta side dishes and more! Be creative and inspire yourself to plan the week to use your menu in this way.
Use your slow cooker and/or pressure cooker (instant-pot). I cannot tell you how many nights these kitchen gadgets have saved me from having to go through hoops to get my ‘shredded’ meat or cook something from frozen to fresh. We’ve all had times where we forget to take the meat out of the freezer and suddenly it’s 5 pm and we’re S.O.L. These instant-pot pressure cookers have a bit of a learning curve, but once mastered, they are wonderful time savers.
Pick dinners or meals that require less time from start to finish. Although this appears like a ‘DUH’ tip, you’d be surprised to hear that so many people end up with dinners that have a bazillion steps in the recipe. Recipes that always take less time and have plenty of make-ahead components: shredded meat tacos or fajitas, soups, salads, meat and potatoes kind of meals and one pan/pot dinners. Even if you’re a foodie like myself, there are many delicious meals out there that are full of 5-star flavors without the 5-star difficulty rating.
There you have it peeps! Please comment below if you have any tips I may not have mentioned here that work for you. As always, be well and live free. !