March 3, 2014

Streamline: Meal Prep

How much time do you spend cooking each week? Do you spend more time figuring out what to cook than actually cooking it? While I'm a strict meal planner for our dinners I tend to ignore breakfast and lunch. There's leftovers and sandwich fixings in the fridge so I'm good, right? I want to share something that's been working really well for us the last few months. I'm taking a few hours at the beginning of the week to chop, cook and prep a number of foods that can be mixed and matched to create lunches and breakfasts for us.

 First (borrowing an idea from Shana), I wash, chop and divide my favorite smoothie ingredients into single portions. I don't have a smoothie every morning so I aim to have 3 to 4 sandwich bags in the freezer ready to go. Then I can just pour the bag into my blender, add a little almond milk and breakfast is done. I had been storing everything but the apples and spinach in the freezer anyway, but by combining it all into single portions it makes the whole process so much easier. Bonus: if that spinach is starting to wilt you get it in the freezer before it goes bad. Now I'm throwing out a lot less.

I also like to prep big batches of steel cut oatmeal and chia seed pudding. They are both easy and healthy breakfasts that require almost no work in the morning. Perfect to make before that coffee kicks in!

The next step is prepping lunch stuff. Some weeks I make a soup or salad meant for lunchtime only. This week I'm going to make Coconut Carrot Soup, so I took time to prep the carrots both for that recipe and for snacks. We try to keep lots of veggies that are easy to snack on like sliced carrots, baby tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers. The kids won't always eat them, but if the prep work is done I can convince myself to eat that instead of the cookie or piece of cake I really want. One downside to blogging about food but trying to watch what you're eating is having delicious things in your freezer or pantry all the time!

If I'm making granola bars or pumpkin bread for snacks this is the time I would make that as well. Right now I'm focusing on cutting my sugar intake down a bit (see the aforementioned piece of cake) so there are lots of fruit and veggies available and not so much cookies or cakes.

Once all the chopping is done I start cooking. I usually pick one or two vegetables a week and roast them. This week I chopped and roasted some sweet potato and some zucchini. The zucchini I added into some quinoa to make a salad base. There's a batch of brown rice, a batch of quinoa and plenty of spinach to use if I want salads during the week.

This week I also baked up a few chicken breasts (with just simple salt and pepper seasoning) to add on top of salad, use in a quick soup or to make a batch of my favorite avocado chicken salad.

Now it sounds like a lot of work, but it really takes me less than an hour in the kitchen. I chop anything the needs to be cooked first, so that can be in the oven while I'm working on everything else. I keep all my containers out on the counter while I'm working so I can grab the right size and pour everything in right from the cutting board. I also keep a stash of painters tape and a maker to label and date all the containers. That way I know just how long those veggies have been at the back of the fridge…it really helps keep things from turning into a moldy science project back there!

Now it's your turn! What are your favorite ways to streamline your work in the kitchen each week? Next week I'll share my meal planning tips and tricks. 


  1. I don't do quite this much prep work ahead of time... Mostly I just cook my oatmeal ahead of time and hard-boil some eggs.

  2. I'm definitely a meal planner as well. I think making prep-time faster takes a bit of practice and a great cook once told me that it's like a science experiment (she talks my language since I'm an engineer). I plan-out in my mind what takes the longest (like you said, about the oven) and then prep other stuff along the way. Still takes me an hour to get dinner on the table. Would LOVE if I could do it in 30 :). Definitely prepping mise en place on weekends would be a good start.

  3. I prep my smoothies ahead of time. I make up 4-5 freezer bags with enough for one smoothie in each. I LOVE doing it that way. It makes eating a healthy breakfast SO much easier!!


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