Thoughts of making a delicious and nutritious meal can often be curtailed by the amount of prep time to pull off such a feat. You've been gifted some extra time- let out of work early, a snow day, hurricane day, or an unexpected surge of energy during the evening. This all has left you feeling ambitious about what to concoct for your next meal. BUT where to start? AND there is so much on the already to long to-do list.
- Let's start with the basics - preparing a meal doesn't need to take all your time! That is of course unless it's your profession, passion, or way to relax.
- Build your meal in categories, it is much easier to visualize. For example: what will fill into the protein, vegetable, grain/carbohydrate slot? (healthy fats we typically add in during prep by adding oil, avocado, nut butters, or nuts. Fruits are welcome to be added in, but for some might sound better as part of a dessert.)
- What do you have on hand already? Any leftovers (that haven't turned to the dark side) that can be re-purposed? Are there vegetables that need to specifically be used up?
- What are you in the mood for? Sweet, salty, savory? Narrow down your taste preference to prepare a meal that will not only keep you satiated but be the taste you envisioned!
- Get started! While one item is cooking tackle something else on your to-do list or prep the next part of the meal. Most items don't need you to watch over them as they cook. This could be a great time-management opportunity.
Some other suggestions that I recently have been putting into practice are as follows:
- If a meal was made that was particularly delicious, write down the components and how long it took you to make. It can make its way into a weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly rotation.
- Timing is everything. Let's say the prep for the meal took too long but it was oh-so-tasty...no problem! Next time see what can be made in advance or tweaked to cut down on the prep time. Grains can be made in a large batch and used throughout the week.
- While peeling, chopping, and cleaning produce can be one of the most time consuming parts of preparing a meal I came across an ingenious idea I'd like to share with you. If you have pieces that are too small, not the right size for your dish, peels that aren't dirty per-se but don't make the "cut" for your meal DON'T TOSS THEM. For those of us who have compost, great job in putting the scraps towards an alternate use. For those of us who don't - no need to fret! Start a "scrap bag" and store it in your freezer. When the scrap bag is filled, utilize it to make a vegetable broth! Instant meal #2. The broth can be used right away, frozen and saved for later, and can be used for any dish that requires just a bit more of taste and adds plenty of good-for-you nutrients. Anything that enables me to prepare not 1, but 2, or even 3 meals at a time is up my alley!
- Batch cooking and baking is the way to go -even if you're not short on time! When making a recipe that you especially enjoy, doubling it and freezing the rest, can be a wonderful way to have a freezer reserve for those moments when you are particularly short on time. Baked goods, chicken, meat, fish, soups, and stews all freeze well. As long as they are packaged in the quantity that you'll use the next time around you are good to go. We always have a stash of cookie dough, cookies, muffins, breakfast bars, and chicken dishes in the freezer. When it comes to late night Shabbat cooking these items come in handy!
I'm looking for you to make the most of your time in the kitchen! That way you can STILL have time to focus on the many other responsibilities and obligations that pull all of us in so many different directions. Enjoy your more timely and time managed meal preparation!