Food Prep Basics (6 tips to save you time)
There are many ways to approach food prep, some complicated and some very simple. I have tried complicated recipes, planning, and the basics. All have their pros and cons, but both offer the ability to have meals and snacks ready all week taking the thinking out of eating. Below I have accumulated the basic tricks and ideas that have helped me form the food prep routine that I have today. Read through these and pick one that appeals to you, test it out, then pick the next tip and try that one out. Implementing them all at once can be overwhelming. Create your own food prep plan from the tips below and find what works best for you and your family!
1. Pantry items
There are some things that if kept stocked in the pantry can help make cooking easier and less time consuming, and the meal more flavorful. These items are used most often in basic recipes and can help add flavor to meals that don’t quite have enough. Think your basic grilled chicken with potatoes and vegetables. Add some spices and you have a whole new meal!
Here are my staples to always have on hand:
Salt, Pepper, Paprika, Cumin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Red Pepper flakes, Oregano, Basil (dried whole leaves), Garlic (powder, minced, and fresh), Onion powder, Olive oil, Coconut oil, Coconut aminos (or amino acids), grass fed butter
Recipes and variations are available everywhere these days with Pinterest and Facebook. Find ones that best suit you and your family. Read the ingredients; can you find these at your local store? Personally I still love a good ‘ol fashioned hard copy cookbook. I go through them and mark all the recipes I want to try. Once it comes time to plan meals for food prep I go through and pick two meat recipes and two to three sides recipes. From there I look over the ingredients and make lists and calculate if there is a need to double anything for the week. If you make too much, just freeze what you won’t use this week for next.
3. Don’t be afraid of basics
Sweet potatoes, rice, vegetables, chicken, beef, and pork. These are foods that can be versatile. If all else fails buy these items, refer to your spices, they can make all the difference. Find new and tried and true recipes for these basics, explore ways you like them cooked. Not everything has to be fancy, sweet potatoes and grilled chicken with veggies can go a long way.
4. Explore ways to cook that save time
A crockpot can be your new best friend. What better way to make a large meal, spend little time in the kitchen, and have it taste delicious. Using the crockpot has allowed me to limit my actual cooking time in the kitchen and have more time to do other things to prepare for the week. Potatoes, whole bone-in meats, stews, soups, casserole variations, sauces, all can be cooked in a crockpot.
Personally in my home I have two crockpots and a pressure cooker, meaning I spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my family. Make some crockpot meals ahead of time and freeze them for when you're strapped for time. Keep some favorite slow cooker recipes on hand for those days when you want to make a lot fast. The biggest help are crockpot liners; it makes cleanup a breeze! Throw it in the trash, wipe out the interior, put it away for next time!
5. Buy in bulk
I’m not talking buy large quantities, I’m talking about buying meat in bulk pieces. Think whole with bone-in. Large cuts of meats with bones-in is typically lower cost and less processed to be put in the package. Whole chickens are cheaper and can be easily cut up or cooked as a whole. Don’t be afraid to try cooking a whole chicken, it's great in the crockpot! Larger bone-in cuts of beef and pork are also typically cheaper and make great roasts and stews. And the less processed the meat the better.
6. Food prep once to twice a week
To limit time in the kitchen every day plan to prep all foods on one or two days of the week. Sunday is a good day and when planned ahead can be done in just a few hours. Make a plan, write your grocery list, gather all your ingredients and foods, then check your cooking methods and times and you're ready to start! This is where the type of recipes you have chosen comes in.
For a food prep day, it has worked out best for me to try one new recipe, and one tried and true recipe. Bake some potatoes in the oven, have meat and veggies in the crockpot, a chicken in the oven, and rice on the stove. You're done in no time!
*For frozen vegetables I recommend cooking them the day of your meal (say at dinner), frozen veggies tend to get over cooked faster and can become mushy when sitting in a container for a few days. Fresh vegetables do better made ahead and stored in the fridge.
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