With busy schedules, often taking us in the opposite direction of home, we need quick meals. We’re in a busy season of life, and I bet some of you are too. Even if you just don’t love prepping meals, some of these tips will help you to prep less often! Here’s what we’ve learned works for us!
*Do it once. I chop onions once a month or so. They go into a freezer zip-top bag, and the chore is done. (I particularly don’t enjoy chopping onions, as I am prone to sob-snotty, blubbery, red eyes, etc. It just isn’t pretty, folks.) Doing that chore once a month works well for our household. I add onion to just about everything, so having them chopped and ready is great!
*Chop veggies or fruits as dinner cooks. There are meals we enjoy that need to be babysat. Fried chicken comes to mind, as do hamburgers. I wouldn’t leave the kitchen while those cook, but I don’t have to stand and do nothing else. I usually get out a cutting board and cut up the produce that’s threatening to go bad! Fruits for smoothies, veggies for stews, celery and carrots for soups, etc. If you’ll notice, all those things freeze well, and can be just thrown into appropriately sized containers or baggies.
*Soak and cook foods on an ‘at home’ day. There are days when we are at home, and I use them to the fullest with either bone broth or dried beans cooking. Pinto beans can then be frozen in snack size bags, which is about the equivalent of a can of beans. I use these in chili and refried beans. If you cook your chicken breasts this way, then mix them up in the mixer to shred, you have protein in the freezer, ready for a busy night ahead.
*In the microwave moments, like waiting for something to finish cooking, or when a dish is actually in the microwave, do your dishes. I don’t do dishes during the day, except to unload the dishwasher every morning. When dinner is cooking, I load everything from that day. Dinner dishes go in right after they are used, then dishwasher is run every night, at about bedtime. In the summer, this keeps the cooling costs down. In the winter, it keeps us a little warmer to get ready for bedtime! For me, this system means I only deal with dishes twice a day, because honestly when you have four kids and two adults in the house, there are always dishes out!
*Search Pinterest for the fastest, easiest way to cook your favorites. We love chicken marsala, and that’s no easy dish. I’m still searching for my favorite way to make that dish faster! I love the ‘one pan’ meals coming out, and am often thinking of ways to combine two processes to make life easier and a touch quicker! Perhaps if I made my mushroom/marsala mixture ahead of time I could add it to baked or fried chicken!
*Conversely, planning a whole day around cooking might make lunches and weeknight meals a breeze for you. There are plenty of appetizing ways to make meals ahead of time, like cooking chicken and shredding it ahead of time, cooking and freezing ground beef, cooking fish for fish cakes, etc. I think the key to freezer cooking for me is doing it in moderation. I don’t love all my meals dumped into the crockpot or instant pot and soft when it comes out, so I balance them with freshly prepared meals when time allows!
Variety is the spice of life! =}