It's Wednesday night, you get out of work late, and one of the kids forgot to tell you that they have a science project due tomorrow. You could order pizza, but you already did that twice last week, and the truth is, the constant take out is wreaking havoc on your vacation fund, not to mention your health!
This is where my three quick and easy meal prep tricks will help you get organized with your meals, stay one step ahead of the unexpected, put delicious food on the table fast, and give you some peace of mind about that dreaded question – “What’s for dinner?”
1. Meal plan, even if it’s only for a few nights at a time.
Weekly meal planning and shopping seems to be the gold standard in the organizing world. And while I’ d like to say I am a great meal planner and an organized shopper, I am not. With just two of us, it can get wasteful for me to plan meals out for an entire week. We often eat out last minute or don’t eat dinner at all. Instead, I make sure to keep my pantry stocked for the nights when I haven’t planned ahead but don’t want to eat out, and then I try to plan for three nights at a time.
I will look through my fridge and freezer and see what I want/need to use up first, and then plan meals around those items. I make a list of what needs to be added such as fruit and veggies, etc. and then often use a service like Prime Now to pre-shop. It takes the same amount of time for me to pick these up from the store as it does to grab take out. Some services even deliver!
2. Prep as much as you can the night before you are going to cook that meal.
I often do this right before finishing the dishes from the just eaten meal – that way I only have to clean the kitchen once. The preparation includes washing, drying, chopping and then storing as many of the vegetables as possible, cleaning, prepping and storing the protein, measuring out the grain or pasta if using, and gathering specialty pots/pans, tools etc. and non-refrigerated items you may use for that recipe.
3. Create a space in your fridge and on your counter to store the prepped items for the next meal.
I have a system of a combination of bins/trays on the bottom shelf in my fridge.
The bin on the left holds my protein and anything that will be cooked with it.
The middle tray/bin is for the prepped veggies/sauce components, etc. that will go with protein.
The bin on the right is what I call “on deck”. This bin holds what I will cook in a few nights time. These items are not prepped yet, but they are stored together. Important note: if you store the raw protein with the other items in the “on deck” bin, it still needs to be inside of its own container, like a nested basket – safety first!
I have found that when I pre-plan and prep even a few nights at a time, we eat home cooked meals much more often. It’s actually a relief knowing I have a partially prepped meal ready to go when the day is running long. It’s also fun to have an on deck meal waiting – to anticipate something else yummy will be on the menu soon.
If there is anything else I can recommend to help your meals come together more quickly, it would be to take one of The Chopping Block's Knife Skills classes. They are affordable, filled with information about all types and kinds of knives and allow for some hand-on practice using different knives so you can learn just what knife is best for you!
If you want to get started on your knife skills at home before your class, download our free Knife Skills 101 guide.