Last Thursday, I taught a cooking class for a group who is getting farm fresh veggies each week. If you missed it, my last post outlined the recipe that we used for 5 Simple Steps to Make Soup With Whatever Veggies You Have!
As part of the class, we also talked about some time saving tips. Cooking at home with farm fresh veggies is super nutritious, everyone knows that. However, what prevents people from doing it is the fact that it’s not particularly convenient! You have to be creative to find ways that make it convenient.
I found most of these tips from the Cheap Healthy Good blog post: 15 Time Saving Food Prep Tips. They are altered to what I think is most important and here are the first 8!
Time Saving Tips for Cooking Fresh at Home
- Make a meal plan. This is the single most important thing you can do to improve your eating. It removes the worrying of ‘what are we going to eat’ and streamlines your food prep task list when you get home.For more on meal planning, check out my post here: Meal Planning: Your Index to Fighting Cancer and here: Meal Planning Part II: The Grocery Store. I can’t believe it’s been over 5 years since I wrote them… might be time for an update! For an electronic meal planning program, my co-worker HIGHLY recommends Plan to Eat. It looks great!!!
- Choose recipes with specific time limits. This goes hand in hand with meal planning. If you want dinner to be ready quickly, plan for quick recipes! Buy a 30-minute or less cookbook. My favorite cookbook ever, ever, ever is Lickety Split Meals for Health Consious People on the Go by Zonya Foco.
It’s my go-to cookbook to recommend and give people whenever possible!
It has 1 minute mini-meals, 5 minute meals, 15 minutes meals, 30 minute
meals, crock pot meals, oven-exercise-eat meals, desserts and all are
healthy! What’s not to love?!?!? I have also used some of the Weight
Watchers 15 minute, 5 ingredient cookbooks. There are a bajillion of
them and I found one at Target.
- Prep your veggies on one day each week. Especially if you are getting a veggie box or purchasing vegetables in bulk where it will require that you wash, peel and cut, I find it easy to do all the prep on one day. They can be kept in containers or plastic bags in the fridge and are ready to be eaten or thrown into a recipe instantly! For example, I might take garlic, peel several cloves (1 or 2 heads at a time), throw them in the food processor and then put them in a jar with just enough oil to cover. Voila! You have your own minced garlic at a much cheaper price- and fresher!
- Figure out what pre-chopped/prepared items are worth your money. This is a great complement to #3. If there are food items that you do not get in your veggie box, then it might be worth your money to purchase them pre-cut. Sometimes it’s actually not much more expensive that way, given how much time it takes you and how much of the original food you might have to toss. For me, I often buy the onion/celery/carrot mix from trader joe’s. It’s perfect for all those soups! You can also buy onion cut and frozen, which is VERY convenient! And of course, there’s the pre minced or pre pealed garlic.
- Organize your kitchen logically. Keep your most-used ingredients and equipment in easy-to-reach places. I don’t have the largest kitchen to work with, so I try to keep the items that I only use a few times a year (angel food cake pan, waffle iron, bread maker, etc.) in the basement. That leaves all my kitchen space for the regularly used items like crock pot, blender, cuisinart, etc. Keep the knives and cutting boards in easy reach and the lesser used items in higher places.
- Preheat and defrost when you get home from work. Get your cooking started as soon as you get in the door from work. That might be preheating the oven or defrosting something from the freezer.
- Read through the recipe at least twice. This is to eliminate the ‘duh’ moments! Some might call it “senior moments”, some might call it “chemo brain”, and others “pregnancy brain” or “baby brain”. It’s when you completely miss a very important part of the recipe and don’t realize it ’til it’s too late! Reading through the recipe twice will make sure you don’t miss anything.
- Place the recipe where you can see it. Such a simple recommendation, but a few seconds about 25 times during your cooking will save you several minutes and a lot of stress and squinting!
Part II with the final 7 tips will come next week!