Save Time in the Kitchen with a Little Prep Work {Eat Well, Spend Less}

Save Time in the Kitchen with a Little Prep Work

As our family has taken baby steps to better eating habits over the past couple of years — reducing and eliminating processed foods that were previously staples in our kitchen — I’ve found myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen.

Although I’m learning to enjoy cooking as I experiment and learn more, I also have a business to run, children to homeschool, books to read (ahem!) and more, and I will admit that there are days and weeks when the stress of trying to juggle all of those things gets to me and I’m tempted to revert back to frozen pizzas or take out.

One thing that has made a huge difference in our eating habits is simply having healthy food on hand and ready to eat. I know it sounds obvious, but for a long time I had good intentions. I’d buy lots of produce…but it would sit in the produce drawer waiting for me to wash and cut it, until it went bad. Or I’d buy the ingredients for healthy homemade snacks…and they’d sit in the pantry waiting to be made while the girls scrounged in the snack drawer for snacks that were ready to eat.

What I realized is that in our busy home it’s not enough to just have a pineapple sitting on the counter; it needs to be cut up and ready to serve.

The same is true with adding healthy foods like beans or brown rice to our meals. They are not difficult to make, but they do take time, and there are days when I simply don’t have the time to make them before dinner time rolls around.

Because we’ve realized that we’re much more likely to eat healthy, fresh food if it’s already prepared, I try to take time on Sundays to cut up a ton of fruit and veggies and prepare other food for the week.

Our schedule is a little off this week because we were out of town over the weekend, so my prep day was actually yesterday. I cooked two big batches of dried beans, which I froze in 1-cup portions, roasted and shredded a whole chicken for various meals (some for this week and the rest to be put in the freezer for a future meal), made a big batch of chicken stock, created dozens of instant oatmeal packs for easy breakfasts (from my friend Jessica’s new cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook), mixed a big container of pumpkin pie yogurt and cut up celery and carrots for snacks.

I try to prep enough of a single ingredient to last for several weeks (except for fresh produce, which we do weekly) so that each week I can focus on different staples, freezing jars of pasta sauce one week and granola bars the next.

Having fresh produce washed, cut up and ready to eat means that our girls can grab fruits or veggies for snack time without any help from us, and it also means that less produce goes to waste.

And having pasta sauce and ground beef cooked and waiting in the freezer means I can throw together a quick meal of spaghetti in less time than it would take us to run out for fast food (after all, we do live in the boonies!).

For me, it’s a lot less stressful to invest a couple of hours at the beginning of the week, especially on a laid back Sunday, than it is to try to fit in all those prep tasks on a daily basis. And it’s well worth the investment to know that my family is eating the kind of food that I feel good about serving!

Eat Well, Spend Less

For more time-saving kitchen tips, be sure to visit the other Eat Well, Spend Less bloggers:

And don’t forget to check out Jessica’s new book, Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook. It will change the way you think about freezer cooking!