By Rachel Wyman
Clinical Nutrition Educator
We all want to save time on meal preparation. But we also don’t want to sacrifice healthy meals along the way. These six methods will help you cut down on your time in the kitchen while maintaining your health-friendly meal planning.
- Get organized – Organization is paramount. Choose a consistent time each week for meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation. A dry-erase calendar posted in the kitchen can be a helpful visual planning tool. Create a library of menu ideas with a recipe card file, binder or phone app. Clean out pantry and fridge clutter. Buy clear airtight reusable containers of various sizes to keep prepped foods fresh, visible and appealing.
- Try online grocery shopping – Many grocery stores, including Harris Teeter and some Walmart supercenters, provide the option to order groceries online and pick them up. Other grocery stores, like Whole Foods and Publix, work with home delivery companies like Shipt and Instacart. Most of these websites create a “favorites” list of your frequently ordered foods, so new orders are even faster to build. No more crowd weaving or impulse buying!
- Chop for the week ahead – Once you get your groceries home, review the recipes you will be preparing this week. Identify ingredients you can prewash, chop and measure. Rather than having to chop onion for turkey meatballs on Sunday, then chop onion for lentil chili on Monday, and chop the rest for black bean tacos on Tuesday, just go ahead and do all your onion chopping on Sunday (or Saturday). With the exception of tomatoes, which should not be refrigerated, most prepped veggies stay fresh for about 4-5 days. Store-chopped produce and frozen produce can save even more time.
- Batch cooking – You can take food prep one step further and cook entire meals in advance. One day per week, get one meal slow cooking in the crockpot, another roasting in the oven and another simmering on the stovetop. Double each recipe to make enough for two nights of dinner; and you have six days covered. Another batch cooking option would be to cook a larger amount of your base protein and repurpose it each night with a different twist. For example some of Monday’s roasted chicken could be repurposed into Tuesday’s chicken stuffed peppers and Wednesday’s chicken vegetable soup.
- Quick cooking methods – If you’re not too keen on leftovers, but still want to save time in the kitchen each day, try out quick cooking methods. Preheat the oven broiler while dicing your protein and vegetables into 1-inch cubes, skewering them and seasoning with your favorite herbs and spices; then broil for 4 minutes on each side.
- Easy clean up – Before beginning to cook, fill a sink with soapy water and toss in items (except knives) to soak as you go. Keep clean dishtowels handy to wipe up spills immediately. Cooking liners such as parchment paper, silicone baking mats and BPA-free slow cooker bags eliminate the need for tedious scrubbing and can free up dishwasher space.
Rachel Wyman, RD, is Clinical Nutrition Educator at Mission Weight Management.