Packing four lunches and making healthy breakfasts and suppers each night can wear a girl out! Through some simple, savvy prep, however, I can greatly ease my burden throughout the week and that makes for much smoother sailing. Here are my top eight prep tips that will save you time on those super busy days and nights:
- Assemble lunch components. I do not have room for four lunchboxes in my fridge. It just isn’t happening. I do, however, have enough space to toss a few sandwiches or small tupperware containers, along with water bottles, yogurt, cheese sticks, etc. I find that by grouping these items together, packing lunches in the morning is lightning fast and a no-brainer.
- Thaw in the fridge. Think ahead and get your meat into the fridge. I know this can be tricky, but it will save you headaches. Thawing on the counter is not considered safe (though I’ve done it, in a pinch) and thawing in the microwave usually leaves the meat a weird texture. Just get it in the fridge a day or two (or three, if it’s a ginormous hunk o’ meat) ahead and you’ll be all set.
- Do double-duty. Speaking of thawing, why not let your protein marinate while it thaws? Those shrimp up there are taking a nice soak in a spicy ginger soy bath as I type.
- Dice, slice, chop, and julienne. If you menu-plan, then you know what veggies you’re going to need for the next few days. I like to just dirty the knife and cutting board once and do a massive veggie prep session– this works for most true veggies (i.e. not the fruits we call veggies, like avocado or tomato). Broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, cauliflower, and more can easily be prepped ahead of time.
- Prep the ‘pot. Got a slow cooker meal coming up on the plan? If you’ve got a space if your fridge, you may as well throw the ingredients in the pot and be all ready to go. Right now, I have all the components of tomato soup in mine, ready to go for tomorrow’s chaotic day. It’s a true blessing to just insert the crock and turn it on!
- Organize the freezer. You probably can’t pull EVERYTHING for the week out of the freezer right now. Some things will need to be thawed later on. What I like to do, though, is move the freezer items I’ll be needing later in the week to a very convenient spot– a shelf, side, or basket– so that I can easily get what I need when the time arrives. It doesn’t take long, but it saves many minutes down the road!
- Bake ahead and freeze. Know you’ll need muffins for Tuesday’s breakfast, bread for with Thursday’s soup, and kaisers for Saturday’s burgers? May as well bake them all at once! While you’ve got the flour out and the oven heated, just knock ‘em all out. It may not be a fast baking session, but I guarantee the total time spent will be significantly shorter than if you spread those things out.
- “Don’t count your chickens…”, but count your eggs! Check your staples– milk, butter, eggs, flour, etc. These are things we sometimes just assume we’ll have, as we make the menu plan. Make sure you do, indeed, have enough to make what you’ve listed. Nothing says “wasted time” like having to run to the store because you came up short on butter.
I’m the queen of cranking out two or three or six of those things while I’m also making Sunday brunch. It’s a bit of a tradition around here. What’s your favorite way to save time in the kitchen?