Updated: Feb 13, 2019
In the last blog post I covered the first four tips to making meals easy. (Click here to go back to Part 1!) As promised, here's Part 2!
5. Maximize your time. Despite what some people might think, I’m not one of those people who loves to cook for hours on a Sunday. However, I do love the benefits of batch cooking. Instead of doing it all at once, though, I prefer to batch cook throughout the week when I am already in the kitchen. That means I might double the amount of meat I am preparing in order to have already cooked protein on hand for another meal that week. Same with roasted veggies – I’m almost always roasting 2 sheet pans at once since I enjoy them with just about any meal. It’s always easier to just double what you’re doing than start all over another night.
Another way I maximize time in the kitchen is preparing a few things at once. This might mean prepping veggies for lunches while I’m also prepping them for dinner or making overnight oats and energy balls at the same time since they use similar ingredients. No doubt, it requires a little thinking ahead, but once you get into a routine, it saves you a ton of time!
6. Stock the freezer. Once you are doing more batch cooking and multiplying what you are making, don’t forget to give the freezer some love. You will be so thankful when you are not motivated to cook, but can simply thaw your own homemade frozen dinner. Just about anything will freeze (minus eggs and raw veggies that you plan to eat raw), including cooked meats and beans, soups and stews, grains, mashed root veggies, overnight oats, and more. Consider freezing both parts of a meal (cooked grains, shredded chicken) as well as entire meals (soups/stews, overnight oats).
I like to freeze things in single or double servings using mason jars, quart size Ziploc bags, or even ice cube trays. That way I can pull as little or as much out as I need to use at that moment instead of having to thaw the whole batch.
7. Save time where you can. If budget allows and it’s not important for you to make it yourself, do not be afraid to take shortcuts! For example, purchase spiralized veggies, shredded carrots, healthy salad dressings, chopped butternut squash, rotisserie chicken, and other items that save you time. Sure you can prep these yourself, but maybe it makes more sense in your life to purchase them.
Similarly, identify your favorite quick and healthy grocery or takeout meals or components that are already prepared for the nights when you don’t feel like cooking. It’s much better to purchase store bought rotisserie chicken and a bagged salad than to get overwhelmed and head for fast food. Or, pair a frozen pizza with steamed frozen green veggies on the side.
Lastly, there are meal planning services and meal delivery services. We’ve all seen the ads and heard of friends who have tried various options. There is no harm in using these services a few times a week, and some people find they want to cook even more when they have a few days already covered. I often discuss the best fit options with clients in order to fill in the gaps as they start to cook more.
8. Baby steps. That’s right. Take it slow and go easy on yourself, just like you would with a new fitness routine. Start with prepping ONE more dish or even one more side dish your first week. Consider roasting a big batch of root vegetables, baking egg and veggie cups for breakfast, or just making lunch the night before. Then, when that feels like it’s part of your routine, add on a new dish to prep each week.
When making your map, make sure to include a few super simple meals or even takeout meals so that you can focus on only a few new things. I recommend not taking on more than 1-2 new meals a week or you might get overwhelmed and give up!
Katherine Andrew is a dietitian in Raleigh, North Carolina and works with clients to create a unique plan based on personality, lifestyle, family and environment that is sustainable and nourishing.