July 17, 2021

Time-saving Tips to Reduce Prep Time

The practice of meal-prepping saves time and supports healthy diet changes. But it is difficult for most people to understand that spending a few hours at the beginning of the week to prepare healthy dishes will save them time during the week. I know you want the shortcuts, so here are a few tips for meal prep!!!

“What are the top five food prep tips to save time?”

1. Plan Ahead.

First things first, set up a routine. Pick a day and time to plan a menu, another day to do the shopping, and another to do the meal prep. Put it in the calendar and set a reminder.

Pro tip: Match ingredients between recipes to save money and reduce prep time.

From the menu, create a grocery list. Save time by categorizing this list by department. For example, deli, dairy, produce, meat/seafood, frozen foods, etc.

Staples are ingredients used in multiple recipes. These carbohydrates and fats have a good shelf-life, so keep them on hand for cooking:

  • Olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Broth or stock
  • Spices and flavorings

When it comes time to shop, get as many ingredients as possible in bulk. The local farmers market is a low-cost alternative to bigger chain grocers. Wholesalers like CostCo, Sams, and BJs are the next best option.

Keep the fridge stocked with eggs, too. Hard-boiled eggs make great protein-rich snacks and baked egg muffins are a healthy on-the-go breakfast.

Finally, stock up on frozen foods like vegetables, chicken breasts, fish, and grains.

2. Organize your kitchen.

  • If the kitchen is disorganized, it could easily take another hour to get things ready. Here are some things to consider:
  • In addition to the dining table and counter-tops, consider getting a folding table for extra space.
  • Gather the meal storage containers. All the rage right now are Mason jars for everything from overnight oats to salads and soups! If purchasing new containers, purchase the same brand. Don’t mix and match or it’ll be extra work searching for the right lids and trying to get everything to stack in the fridge. Zip-lock bags are versatile and have varying capacities for cooking large or small meals. Or consider using more earth-conscious products. New to the market and voted most innovative product is the Zip Toppie.
  • Gather measuring cups and spoons, knives, and cutting boards. When cooking several different dishes, use a separate cutting board and knives for meat and fresh produce.
  • Store pantry staples in easy-to-dispense containers. Pouring rice from a bag is more difficult and messier than scooping from a canister. Purchasing containers to store staples also keeps the pantry more organized.
  • Lastly, stock up on baking sheets.

3. Purchase Pre-Cut Produce.

This tip doesn’t save money, but when it comes to eating a balanced diet, the more color the better and if you don’t have to chop, dice, slice, or grate the ingredients, you will be more likely to include them in meals.

Pre-cut fruits and vegetables also come in pre-packaged individual serving sizes for extra convenience.

4. Batch Cooking.

Rice, quinoa, lentils, and oats can be cooked in large batches and frozen in individual serving sizes to pair with meals. Bone broth, soups and stews, sauces, and marinades can also be cooked in large batches and frozen in ice cube trays. This makes it convenient to use whatever broth, sauce, or marinade sounds good as a quick flavoring option for a fresh-cooked meal.

Fresh vegetables can be roasted in batches for make-ahead meals. Vegetables that roast well include: carrots, asparagus, onions, potatoes, beets, winter squash, and other root vegetables. Bonus: roasted veggies generally reheat well and maintain great flavor.

Rather than purchasing pre-cooked chicken; boil, grill, or bake fresh chicken. This tip saves money and helps to control what’s inside the chicken breast.

And don’t forget about the go-to high-protein snack, hard-boiled eggs. Cook a dozen at a time to last through the week.

5. Shop Online.

A top time-saving tip is to shop online. With new technology like ClickList and Instacart, it is easy to shop online and pick-up groceries at the store or have them delivered. Shop from the grocery list online, double-checking the pantry to make sure not to purchase ingredients that are already stocked.

This is a convenient option if it’s available locally and helps avoid temptations in the check-out line (well, hello there, York Peppermint patty).

Spice it up.

Use Caribbean Jerk seasoning to spice up fish and rice. Add some pineapple and cilantro for extra flavor and color. Suddenly, the boring lunchroom is transformed into a tropical beach.

Craving pasta? Cook quinoa with Italian seasoning and top with a pre-cooked chicken breast to curb cravings and increase healthy, lean protein intake.

Roasted veggies sprinkled with Southwest seasoning are a great topping for grilled chicken breast. Add half an avocado with a sprinkle of lime juice for a well-balanced, nutritious, satisfying meal.

Whole Foods are the Best Snacks.

If time is an issue, stick with whole foods for quick snacks. Fresh fruits and vegetables combined with nuts and seeds are healthier than dried fruit “trail” mixes and will keep clients fuller longer.

How to Get Started

 

Make-Ahead.

The make-ahead method includes batch cooking healthy dishes and portioning them out into containers or Zip-lock bags. These meals are cooked in one day and ready to reheat and eat for the rest of the week. 

Freezer Meals.

As in the make-ahead method, all the chopping, cooking, and pre-portioning of meals is completed in a couple hours. The added step is freezing them. This is a nice option for big families or people who enjoy a lot of variety in their menu. These meals last longer, but be careful to choose the right recipes. Some meals just don’t freeze well.

Use this information to help you with your nutrition goals. If you have any additional questions feel free to contact me, and I will answer any questions you may have

Ryan

 

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REFERENCES

Adams, Casey. "Hearty nutraceuticals: a comprehensive review of the research behind scores of nutraceutical ingredients that help keep a heart healthy and happy." Nutraceuticals World, Apr. 2008, p. 36+. General OneFile, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A178616868/ITOF?u=lirn86548&sid=ITOF&xid=27335658. Accessed 9 Jan. 2019.


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