In the previous post I revealed my Top 5 Cooking Tips that all the best chefs know. These are the tips I give my clients when I coach them how to cook for themselves at their convenience in their home. Today I’m focusing on my Top 5 Tips for Effective Meal Prepping.
Because, let’s be honest. None of us are strolling around the house for hours a day looking for things to do. We’re busy. We’re multitaskers. But we still want to eat good-quality, homemade, healthy food!
Work smarter, not harder
If you’re not familiar with the phrase: Meal Prepping, it basically means that you cook several meals at one time, and then package them up to eat throughout the next few days or even week. Basically, a little bit of work at one time makes a lot less work later on in the week.
1) Consult your calendar
Meal prepping takes a concentrated amount of time in order to pay off in the long run. I like to set aside 1-2 hours to create four dishes that will get me through the next 3 – 4 days (Usually a breakfast item like homemade Cherry Dark Chocolate Granola, a dessert like Vegan Chocolate Pudding, and two entrees like my Roasted Butternut Squash Salad and Grain and Dairy Free Lasagna.
So pull out your super cool pink and gold calendar, open up your phone, and budget in some time! Also, schedule in a food shopping trip too. Ideally you’ll cook within 1-2 days after food shopping. Just remember…a little work at one time = a lot less work later on.
2) Coordinate Ingredients for tried and true recipes
As you think about what dishes you want to enjoy for the week, choose familiar recipes and plan around similar ingredients.
First, meal prepping is not the ideal time to try new recipes or unfamiliar flavors. You don’t want four servings of something you realize you’re not that into. Second, choose recipes that use at least one or two similar ingredients. Not only will this help your wallet out, it will prevent potential food waste. No one likes a large bunch of cilantro sitting in the fridge that you only needed for that one. freakin. recipe.
And as I mentioned in my previous post, finding a good produce delivery service such as Milk and Eggs Grocery Delivery is a big time saver. You get to conveniently select fresh produce from your computer while either at home or at work (on a lunch break, of course) and then they’re delivered to your front door. Talk about service!!
So gather all the recipes for the week, hop on your computer and order your groceries. Piece of cake, right!
If there is one ego-centric item in your kitchen, it’s your oven. This is true. In order to be organized, save time, (and frankly stay sane) think about the cooking times and temperatures for each dish you’re making FIRST! If 3 of your 4 dishes require time in the oven, you might want to re-think your meal choices. I recommend choosing no more than 2 meals that need oven time.
Then, try to either choose meals with similar cooking temperatures or meals that have short cooking times. Let me give you some examples:
- Place both my Spinach and Onion Frittata in the oven at 350 degrees F. along with my Seeded Veggie Burgers (they both have a cooking temp of 350). Pull the burgers out after 10-15 minutes, and the frittata after about 20-25 minutes. Same cooking temperature, 2 dishes.
- Turn oven on to 450 degrees F. and bake a piece of salmon for my Baked Salmon over Leafy Greens. After about 10-15 minutes, pull out the salmon, turn the oven down to 400 degrees F. and pop in my Gluten-free Vanilla Scones for about 10-15 minutes. 2 different cooking temperatures, 2 dishes, but short overall cooking time.
While the oven is doing its thing, whisk together something in the food processor like my Strawberries and Cream Parfait or have something cooking on the stovetop like my Quinoa Tabbouleh. Don’t stress, I know it might seem like a lot at first. But it’s just like dancing; once you learn the steps and practice a few times, you’ll be moving through your kitchen like Baryshnikov.
4) Leftovers-your new best friend
Once you’ve made all your dishes for the next few days, let them first cool. This helps to prevent mold from growing. Once your food is cool, divide food into individual servings and place each serving into its own Tupperware, bag, wrap, or mason jar. Store food (usually everything will need to be refrigerated) and then pull out each serving as desired throughout your week. Proceed to do a little happy dance at your own brilliance!
One note about storing your food:
If using plastic Tupperware, please choose brands that use BPA-free plastic. Bisphenol-A is a chemical added to plastic to add strength and durability. However, it can leach out into whatever is touching the plastic (your food, in this case), especially when exposed to high heat. Therefore, avoid placing BPA Tupperware in the microwave, in the dishwasher, or placing hot food in it. The best idea is to stay away from BPA plastics or use glass storage jars instead.
5) Do all the dishes at once
Ok, the first time I ever food-prepped several meals at once, I thought a bomb had gone off in my kitchen. Dishes were everywhere! I was running out of counter space, stacking used pots and pans on top of each other. It was crazy.
Since then, I try to reuse as many kitchen utensils as possible when I food prep. For instance, the wooden spoon I use to mix together all the ingredients for my Cinnamon Spiced Granola, I’ll give a quick rinse and then use it to stir my Roasted Butternut Squash Salad. Just be careful about reusing kitchen items that have touched raw meat or eggs. Those should always be thoroughly washed right after their use! You’ll still have a lot of dishes to do, and for that you have my sympathy. But just know that it means you’ll have a lot fewer dishes throughout your week. It’s called Delayed Gratification, baby!