The way to cut down the time it takes to cook a meal is to make sure that the food in your refrigerator and freezer is prepped and ready to use. This is also a way to make sure that produce doesn’t go bad and the savings you get on buying a family package of meat isn’t wasted.
It can take less than 1 hour of your time to prep your foods. Here is how to do it.
Before you begin, clear off plenty of counter space. If you don’t have a lot of counter top space in your kitchen, use your kitchen table. Wash off counters and the table with a disinfectant spray before you begin.
Get your time-saving kitchen gadgets out. In this case, a mini chopper or food processor is very necessary. Containers and freezer bags are the next items to get out. Cutting boards (one for meat and one for vegetables) and knives and a vegetable peeler are next. Now that you have your tools, you are ready to begin.
Go into your refrigerator and get out the meats and vegetables that you need to prepare. Mentally decide what you are going to start with. If you plan on chopping fresh garlic or onions, leave them to last. Start with the vegetables that won’t leave a strong smell on your cutting board.
This is an example of my meal prep that I just completed. It took less than 1 hour and it feels very satisfying to know how much time has been saved just by doing a little pre-chopping and preparing meals in advance.
Out of my refrigerator I took a package of sausage meat, a Ziploc bag of chicken breasts that had been defrosted, a whole beef round roast, half a bunch of celery, a small amount of parsley, a bag with 5 carrots in it, 2 cucumbers, 1 egg, a yellow onion, a red onion and a bulb of garlic cloves.
What do I plan to do with these items? I will explain as I take you through the process.
First I took the sausage meat and put it in a frying pan and turned the fire on to low. My plan is to brown this and use it for tonight’s dinner. I am making Stromboli; both sausage and pepperoni.
While the sausage is browning, I begin on the vegetables. I peel the carrots. One small carrot goes in my mini food chopper to use in my special veggie packed tuna salad. The other 4 carrots get set aside in a Ziploc bag. They will be ingredients in a homemade soup that I will most likely make tomorrow.
Next I move on to the celery. I wash it well and put aside a few stalks for the soup. I take the remaining stalk and a half and cut it into pieces in order to put it in the food chopper. This gets added with the chopped carrot for my veggie tuna salad.
Next I wash the remaining parsley that I have and add that to the soup vegetables. Had it been a large amount of parsley, I would have washed it all and chopped some for later use. This I often put into a freezer bag so that I always have fresh parsley when I need it.
I stir around the sausage which is cooking at a slow enough rate that I am able to take care of my vegetables without fear of burning it.
I have 2 cucumbers that will make for great quick snacks or an addition to a salad or a lunch wrap. I peel them, slice them and put them in a clear container so that they can be seen and eaten.
There were only 2 chicken breasts in my Ziploc bag and a great way to stretch these is to make them into popcorn chicken. Popcorn chicken cooks fast and if you or your family is a fan of breading, they will love these. This is going to accompany the Stromboli I make for dinner. (I have a picky eater)
I cut the chicken and place it in a bowl with a beaten egg. When all the chicken is cut, I wash the cutting board. I will be using this for meat but I still wash it before I cut anything else on it.
I purchased a beef roast that was on sale and this will be great for grilling. I trim off the fat, slice it into thick pieces and piece each with a fork. This slices get transferred into a Ziploc bag, I add marinade and then it can be frozen (yes with marinade) until the morning of the day I plan to cook them.
Since I am done with the meat cutting board, I remove that and move on to my veggie tuna salad. I trim the yellow onion and put it with the soup vegetables, close the bag and set it aside.
I peel the red onion and cut off approximately 1/3 of it and place it in the food chopper. In a large bowl, I add 2 cans of drained tuna and my chopped vegetables. Just 2 teaspoons of low-fat mayo and this is good to go. I transfer it into a container and my tuna veggie salad is ready for using to make lunches.
The remaining red onion gets sliced and put in a container where it can be added to a salad or sandwiches. The garlic is last. After peeling all the cloves, I throw them into the food chopper. They get transferred into a small clear container for ready to use chopped garlic.
Meanwhile, my sausage is browned. I add 1 teaspoon of the chopped garlic and allow it to cool.
Phew! This literally took me about 40 minutes. It took another 20 to finish breading the popcorn chicken ( it will take no time to fry it later). If I wasn’t planning on cooking it tonight, this freezes well. Just line it on a cookie sheet and freeze. Remove it to a Ziploc freezer bag and you have homemade popcorn chicken ready to cook whenever you want.
I roll out my pizza dough which was purchased as frozen dough. It defrosts overnight and is so simple. I spread the sausage over the dough, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella/provolone mix and roll up. I place it on a cookie sheet and stick it in the refrigerator to cook later.
After cleaning up, washing a few knives, the cutting boards and a bowl, I have just saved myself so much prep time later.
This is just an example of what I do to save time later in the kitchen. Who cannot find time on a weekend or whenever to make sure that the food you bought doesn’t go bad and also save yourself time later on?