If you know me, you know that I try to find the most efficient way to do just about everything. This is especially true for meal-prepping. As much as I love cooking, I don’t particularly love spending half of my day on Sundays in the kitchen. And now that it’s summer, I’m less motivated to spend Sunday mornings or evenings cooking up a storm when I can be out by the pool or on a patio enjoying the sunshine with friends.
My meal-prepping has come a long way over the years and I’ve figured out a thing or two about being efficient in the kitchen. Read on for my tips on climbing your meal-prepping mountain (because that’s what it feels like some weeks) and making the most of your time in the kitchen.
1 | HAVE A PLAN
When it comes to meal-prep, being prepared and having a plan is key. The first part of your plan is knowing what you're cooking. Before you even go to the grocery store, decide what you’re making for the week ahead. Have your recipes planned out before you start. This will eliminate a lot of thinking once you get in the kitchen.
The next part of your plan should be deciding what you’ll cook first and who is doing what. Whether you cook by yourself, with your roommate, your significant other, your cat, or your entire family, assigning each person a job will keep everyone out of one another's ways and will keep the train moving. If you cook by yourself, it’s helpful to breakdown the order of how you’re going to cook things. This will also help with eliminating congestion in the oven.
At our house, Chris and I prep together as much as possible and we are all about dividing and conquering. One of us chops veggies while the other starts tackling breakfast bakes. One of us is peeling eggs while the other is weighing and trimming chicken breasts to throw in the crock pot. And since we’re both super competitive you already know it’s always a game to see who can finish their tasks first.
2 | CHOP AHEAD OF TIME
Chopping all of your veggies ahead of time will make your cooking time much faster. If you have time as soon as you get home from the grocery store, try to get into the habit of washing your veggies and cutting them before you even put them away in the fridge.
One of my favorite things to do this with is sweet potatoes. Chris and I eat close to 10 lbs. of sweet potatoes each week, so as soon as I get home from the grocery store I wash them and chop them all up and put them in a big Pyrex bowl in the fridge. Then when we go to cook them the next day or even a couple days later, all we have to do is toss them in coconut oil, add seasoning and pop them in the oven. Easy peasy.
I recommend doing this with all of your veggies, even if you’re not cooking them right away. Having containers of chopped veggies in the fridge is not only a huge time-saver on meal-prep day but also during the week.
3 | BATCH YOUR RECIPES
If you followed step one and created a plan, you should know exactly what you're cooking come meal-prep day. Instead of approaching each recipe as an individual task, think about batching your recipes together. Chances are some ingredients will overlap and you may need boiled eggs or roasted veggies for more than one recipe.
This is also helpful for preparing meat. If you're using chicken or ground beef for more than one recipe, think about trimming and cooking it all together. You know I love to use the crock-pot whenever I can, and it’s great for preparing large quantities of meat. Cooking like-ingredients all at the same time and then separating them amongst individual recipes is much more efficient.
4 | CLEAN AS YOU GO
Before Chris and I moved in together I had an EXTREMELY small space to work with. I had a 2-burner range and a mini oven so small that I had to turn a standard-size cookie sheet sideways in order for it to fit. It obviously was not ideal but it wasn’t impossible, either. Even now, Chris and I don't have a ton of counter space in our loft. Both of these situations have forced me to come up with a good system for cleaning as I go other wise I’d run out of counter space real fast. This is how I learned the value in cleaning as you cook.
AND, there's nothing worse* than finishing a few hours of intense cooking only to still have to wash ALL the dishes and clean the whole kitchen. *(That may be a bit dramatic, there are probably a few worse things, but not many!)
This is an easy one especially if you cook with someone else. Have one person be on dish duty while the other continues to cook. If you cook by yourself, do the dishes whenever you transition from one thing to the next. That way when you’re done you can be done. You can relax on the couch or go for a walk or get on with the rest of your day and not spend another hour cleaning up your mess.
Try putting these tips into effect as you take on meal-prep this week:
- First, create your plan. Figure out exactly what you're cooking, when you're going to the grocery store, when you're cooking and who's helping.
- Now that you have your plan, make your grocery list and hit the aisles.
- Wash and chop all of your veggies as soon as you get home from the grocery.
- On meal prep day, take a look at your recipes and figure out how to batch like-ingredients together before you start. Then, action your plan and be sure to clean as you go!
So there you have it, a few tips to shave off a few minutes in the kitchen and cut down on the overwhelm of meal-prepping for the week. If you have any more tips on things you do to save time in the kitchen, I’d love to hear about them! Let me know in the comments below!