>> Friday, December 6, 2013
Planning is a big part of eating well. Even a little thought ahead of time can make a big difference. Today's tip is all about the prep-work. Maybe meal-planning is fun for you -- imagining all the delicious, healthy foods you'll eat in a week. Or shopping for deals. But if you don't love cooking, or sometimes even if you do, the execution of this plan can be difficult.
If you're catching up:
- Tip #1: Stock up on frozen veggies
- Tip #2: Buy greens and actually USE them
- Tip #3: Create simple, go-to meals
- Tip #4: Learn to love alternatives
// TIP 5: Prep/Make Ahead + Store
Too often, making meals becomes an afterthought because life gets, well, so busy. Whether you work full-time (or super full-time!), stay home, or something in-between, there's really no perfect situation. Eating well and enjoying meals made with whole foods takes a little bit of work.
So, treat cooking like a job. Give it a time slot -- even if only an hour -- on a certain day. Create a To-Do list, just as you would at work. Have goals. Continually try to make your process more efficient. Seek out information to broaden your understanding of (simple) cooking methods and (easy) recipes.
How to start?
// 20 Prep/Make-Ahead Ideas:
- Write out your meal plan for the week somewhere visible
- Hard-boil eggs to eat alone or in sandwiches or salads
- Mix together a crock pot soup or stew
- Chop veggies for use in stir-fries, hot or cold salads, and more
- Chop fruit for use in smoothies or as snacks
- Bake Breakfast Cookies or muffins or mini quiches for the week
- Pulse together a batch of Energy Chunks or bars
- Make 15-Minute Stove-Top Applesauce for sides or use in baked goods
- Press tofu and cube or slice for effortless frying
- Whip up a tasty homemade hummus for sandwiches or dipping
- Portion out lunch items or pack ahead for the entire week
- Simmer some pizza or pasta sauce
- Roast vegetables for easy grab-n-go
- Blend together a few purees to add to pizza crusts, healthy mac 'n cheese, etc.
- Make a batch of Homemade Freezer Waffles for quick breakfasts
- Hand-mix some Veggie Burgers and consider freezing in bulk
- Create a dry oatmeal mix to bring to work -- just add hot water!
- Create a list of pantry items that are IN-STOCK and OUT
- Make a large meal, like $10 Lasagna, that works for multiple days/nights
- Bake bread (my favorite? Sourdough) for toast, sandwiches, etc.
It's really up to preference and intent for use. You can try freezer cooking for an entire month if you like. Top considerations include freezer space (we have a dedicated upright in the basement) and reheating methods.
Here are some tips + recipes:
Otherwise, I try to make sure I keep things fresh by using air-tight containers.
- For dry goods, like oatmeal, energy chunks, flour mixes, etc., I like using OXO Good Grips containers in various sizes.
- For storage of produce, I have a set of Rubbermaid Produce Saver containers. They each feature a vent and crisp tray circulate air and keep items fresher, longer.
- I also use large Wide-Mouthed Ball Jars for storage of lots of ingredients and even soups and stews, applesauce, etc. (including freezing -- here's how).
- In the refrigerator, I often use gallon Zip-Lock bags, though I'm trying to quit that habit because of the waste involved.
What's your prep/storage method? Do you agree with making cooking a side-gig for better success?