Some days I really wish I had a cooking show. Not because I’m a great cook… honestly, I started a fire boiling eggs. Don’t ask! I don’t even want a cooking show to be famous or to justify my early evening glass of wine. Truth is, I really just want a kitchen assistant. You know, the one that does all the prep work before the show starts so that the on-air personality can show you how to make a fabulous dish in only 10 minutes.
But since it’s just my, myself, and I (and my glass of wine) in the kitchen… I decided I’d make it easy on myself and start prepping my meals ahead of time. And holy crapola! You would not believe how blocking out a little chunk of time for food prep saves bunches of cook time later! Playing kitchen assistant now makes putting together your week’s meals so much quicker and easier.
5 Fabulous Food Prep Tips
1. Wash your fruits and veggies as soon as you get home from the grocery.
It’s much simpler to wash the whole container of fruit than it is to wash it per serving as you’re already hurried to pack lunches or feed little mouths.
2. Cut up your veggies before they enter your fridge.
If I don’t cut up broccoli or a head of cauliflower as soon as I buy it and it goes in my fridge, it’s as good as gone. Pathetic, I know. But the longer it sits in my fridge uncut, the longer it will probably sit there. It usually takes my hubby getting on me about it (or mold) to make it move from it’s original spot. If, however, I give myself produce prep time after coming home from the grocer, it gets eaten quicker, more often, and made into a delicious dish. No more waste or procrastinating!
3. Use a food processor or chopper.
A knife doesn’t have to be the only cutting tool used in the kitchen. Speed up cutting and by putting all those spontaneous small appliance purchases to good work!
4. Cutting bunches of veggies at once? Work with them according to color.
Start with onions or cauliflower. You don’t want white veggies stained red from something like a juicy red pepper. Plus, this saves extra washing of cutting boards in between veggies.
5. Pre-cook your meat and freeze it.
I’m not saying make a whole freezer meal. However, I like to buy meat in the family packs at the store to save money. I know I won’t be using all 3 pounds of meat in one recipe. So before that meat meets my freezer, it gets a little makeover. If I know I am going to brown some of that meat in the skillet, I will get it started first so that it can cook while I chop veggies. This little multitasking tip has been huge in keeping my time in the kitchen down on meal prep day. Here are some ideas on how to make up your meat in advance:
- Brown ground meat. Out of a 3 pound package of ground turkey (or beef), I will brown up 1 pound with taco seasoning and the other 2 pounds unseasoned. The unseasoned meat can be easily be used for any entrée. Add seasoning (if desired) when you’re ready to make your entrée. Think casseroles, soups, Hamburger Helper, or chili.
- Grill chicken, slice it and freeze it! This is great reheated for fajitas, grilled chicken salad, BBQ chicken pizza, etc! And its all done at once!
- Make hamburger patties ahead of time and put them in the freezer. Do the work now so you’re not as hurried later. And just so you know, even fabulously flavored burgers do well in the freezer. For some new flavors, check out my roundup of the BEST Burger Recipes!
- Divide and conquer! Make two meals at one time. Buy double the ingredients and while you’re making something like Chicken Enchiladas for tonight’s dinner, go ahead and make another batch up for another night. Pop the second batch in the freezer for a day you don’t have time (or the desire) to cook! What can I say, make-ahead freezer meals are a life saver!
My advice to make prep time go quicker is invite your family to keep you company. When my boys were little I used to have them print a coloring book or playdough to the counter to keep them busy. Now that they’re older, they will bring their computer to the counter and help me find a recipe or will look up things to put on their birthday list. I love just having them hang out with me. It brings the best, non-forced conversation where they just get to talk about what’s going on in their world.
But if my kids will totally turn me down or I just want some time to myself, I turn on music and pour a very large glass of wine. Even though it could seem like a daunting task, making meal prep fun makes the work better. And at the end of the day, you’ll be ecstatic to have a stocked freezer and full fridge!
Happy cooking, my friend!