Since produce is a huge part of my diet, it requires the most attention. I pick 1 day out of the week to do my major food prep work. It is usually when I do my biggest grocery shop, often on the weekend. An hour’s worth of prep can save you time for almost the entire rest of the week! I often need a smaller second prep day later in the week, but it is much less work than the ‘major day.’
I will clean all my produce first. I use Veggie Wash instead of soap.
Sometimes I will put some fruit out in a bowl so we are reminded to eat it whenever we are in a snacking mood. Then I will chop up veggies that will be for additional snacks (cucumbers, carrots, sweet turnips, etc.) and put them in containers or bags for later in the week.
I chop up lettuce and put it into a large bag so that salads are ready to throw together when I get home from work.
For meals that I know I will be making within 24 hours, I will prep those foods as well. This includes things like peeling and spiralizing beets or daikon radishes, making collard green ribbons, or even peeling carrots into ribbons. I put those prepared veggies into containers or bags and label them for specific recipes so I don’t forget what my ‘plan was’. Then when I am ready to cook those meals, I just toss them into a pan or pot…and they are ready within 5-10 minutes.
I use frozen vegetables a lot. They help save money and a great deal of prep work on certain foods. I buy organic, frozen veggies such as: broccoli, cauliflower, haricot vert (green beans), artichokes, peas, and mixed veggies. If I am not steaming them for something specific, I will roast them in large batches on cookie sheets all at once. Then I store them in the refrigerator for later in the week. I prep my cookie sheets with a layer of foil to keep clean up simple and fast; then I put down some parchment paper to keep things from sticking to the foil or the pan. I take a whole bag of cauliflower (or broccoli, artichokes, green beans) and put them onto a cookie sheet and let them roast while I am prepping the other fresh produce. I can usually get 3 different sheets in the oven at once depending on the size. Within 40 minutes, I have vegetables ready to go for tons of recipes and meals!
I cook my meals ahead of time.
For example, on a Monday night, I will often cook dinner for Tuesday. I usually do this after we have had dinner and then when I do the dishes, I am cleaning up all at once instead of twice.
Once I get the food in the oven or the soup in the pot, I leave it while I do other things like laundry or watching what is on DVR.
If I am going into work late in the morning, I will sometimes cook dinner in the early morning hours (between 6-8am). For example, I will have breakfast, walk my dog, and then spend 30 minutes cooking. I watch the news usually while I am keeping an eye on things in the kitchen. Then I get ready for work. If I get up early enough, everyone else is still asleep here at home, so I have this time to myself.
I must say that with good planning, this is SO much easier than coming home at 6:15pm and first starting to cook dinner. With my ‘plan ahead’ strategies, we can eat within 10 minutes of walking in the door most nights of the week! If you are not a morning person like me, then do your cooking later in the evenings.
By the way, with your major prep earlier in the week, cooking ahead is even easier! This morning, I cooked some honey mustard chicken. The veggies were all ready to go (roasted green beans with shallots and pre-chopped salad components). When I got home from work today, I warmed up the chicken and green beans; I threw the salad components into the bowls. Dinner is ready! We had chocolate, coconut milk ice cream for dessert. Yum.