Do you find that cooking dinner every single night wears you down at the end of the week? Meal prep certainly has that power, especially when you cram cooking into your already-busy schedule. You might be sprouting gray hairs just thinking about cooking another meal, but these habits will turn your time in the kitchen back into the adventure it should be.
First and foremost, you need to make a plan for yourself. Think ahead of time what meals you'd like to make, if you'll prepare fresh food when you have leftovers sitting around, and what groceries you'll need. Meal prepping is a wonderful way to relieve some of the stress from your life by thinking ahead as opposed to scrambling last minute for items.
A large part of meal prepping is, of course, cooking meals in advance. Sunday meal prep saves you the time you desperately crave throughout the week.
Whether you're preparing food for a family, you can feast on leftovers if you cook specific foods in bulk on Sunday or Monday. Dishes like rice, beans, pizza dough, meatballs, and different kinds of sauce will keep for several days in the fridge or freezer. When you prepare these items ahead of time, you'll shave minutes off your prep time throughout the week.
In order to make the most of your week, you'll need to optimize the time you have on Sundays. Make a thorough list of what groceries you need, how much you'll realistically need, and keep track of items you run low on during the week. Keeping a stocked fridge ensures you won't need to scramble for ingredients. It also guarantees that you won't skip out on a home-cooked dinner altogether when you're missing one or two key ingredients.
Have an updated list of leftovers in the fridge to avoid duplicate meals or unnecessary meal prep. This works well when you have a family to care for, as they can consult the list and choose what to eat. You can also incorporate some leftovers in with fresher meals you make. This eliminates the excess food in your fridge without feeling like you're eating the same meal three days in a row.
Invest in a whiteboard, chalkboard, or even sticky notes to place in your kitchen. Some kitchens even have chalkboard backsplashes!
It isn't just smaller dishes you can prepare in bulk. When you make larger meals for yourself, you have something to eat a day or two later. There are just some of those days when you're in no mood to cook, and that's understandable. Save yourself the money from ordering out and have a hearty dinner of leftovers.
Time is essential, though, depending on what you make. Don't push it with meals that have been in the fridge for too long.
When you're really pressed for time, but still craving a home-cooked meal, you can turn to your slow cooker. Based on their name, they obviously won't prepare dinners at lightning speed, but they do give you the freedom to accomplish other tasks.
Life often gets in the way of our plans, but that's no reason to run from the kitchen. You can still whip up some tasty dinners. On busy nights, opt for breakfast foods for dinnertime. Between waffles, omelets, pancakes, and fruit smoothies, you have a lot of great options at your disposal. Breakfast also takes way less time to prepare, giving you a healthy dinner while also saving you on time.
While you can cook more than one item at once, who wants to every night of the week? Sometimes it's nice to just stick some ingredients in an appliance to take the load off. One pot meals like ham and cheese tortellini, spaghetti, stews, and casseroles will present your family with a great dinner and take the pressure off you. One pot pasta recipes like easy pasta, cheeseburger pasta, or cajun chicken pasta are also options you can try.
There's no reason you should feel bad about ordering in for a night. You're busy and tired and it's okay to not be in the mood to cook dinner for the umpteenth time in your life. Consult with your family and grab some grub from your favorite take-out place. This obviously isn't a feasible option to indulge in every time, but once in a while is more than fine. Plus, you may have leftovers you can indulge in later in the week.
As nice as it is to cook meals for your family, they can do a little of the work as well. Dishes like tacos require some assembling from your family or friends. You can make the spread, but leave it up to them on how to put their perfect meal together. Everyone still gets a good dinner, and you can relax for the evening.
Other dishes like baked potatoes are a good way to get some help from those you're living with or inviting over for dinner.
Nothing turns someone off to the idea of preparing another meal like seeing a sink full of dirty dishes. As unpleasant as it is to do the dishes, it's an essential part of making food at home. Enjoy your dinner first, but before you go to bed you should aim to get those dishes clean. It also saves future you the hassle of having to do them later on.
When you're living with a partner or children, there's no shame in asking them for a little help. They don't need to do everything, but they can work on smaller tasks like peeling potatoes, washing fruits and vegetables, tearing lettuce, or gathering ingredients. When you're only cooking a few times in the week, getting some help from housemates really helps relieve the stress.
Keep the magic alive in your kitchen by preparing some new foods. Look into online recipes, a cookbook, or recipes from friends to try new things. Bringing varying cuisines into your kitchen not only provides exciting new meals but also keeps you on your toes when cooking. You don't want to feel like you've slipped into a rut by making the same dishes day in and day out.
Preparing food should be a fun way of expressing yourself, not a chore you dread. Bring the fun back into your kitchen with these habits!