If you’re like me, you have the best of intentions of cooking a homemade meal each night. You even go as far as writing out the recipes, and doing all the grocery shopping, making your fridge full to the brim of delicious and fresh ingredients. If you’re also like me, this can become a best laid plans scenario when the reality of the weekly grind sets in…ten plus hour work days don’t usually make me want to rush home and cook for two hours. Drink a bottle of wine, yes…cook a meal, no.
But lately I’ve been on my cooking game (if you follow along on snapchat username waitingonmartha then you’ll know what I mean). And the secret? I’ve been taking about two hours on Sunday to meal prep for the entire week storing everything in my favorite glass tupperware (I always use glass tupperware because it’s BPA free which means for leftover you never need to worry about if microwaving is an issue). Because let’s face it: typically the cooking itself isn’t difficult or time consuming…it’s the prep that kills you.
So what exactly do I mean? On Sunday, Monday, whatever day works for you set aside a few hours, put on some good tunes, pour a glass of wine and begin chopping, marinating, pre-cooking, de-thawing everything you need for your weeknight meals. Take this picture, for example, which was my prep for last weeks’ meals. Here I’ve prepped a ten plus important ingredients for entrees and sides for the week and provided a few tips below. Just remember while some meal prep ideas are common sense, it’s important to read up on what you can cut ahead of time, and for how long it will keep in the refrigerator. For example, when you cut onions they will attract bacteria at a substantially higher rate than any other cut vegetable because of all the cell/membrane walls that your opening, so it’s best to cut an onion right before use.
Tell me, do you have any make-ahead tricks of your own? Truly, MKR
No. One...Shrimp. I love having shrimp ready as it’s a very low calorie option and takes about 5 minutes to make. Simply remove the shell and devein the shrimp making them ready to be thrown in a sauté pan with a little high quality olive oil, salt and pepper.
No. Two…Sweet Potatoes. I’ve peeled and cubed sweet potatoes since a sweet potato or squash is the perfect vegetable to have on hand for future roasting (I roast mine with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, curry, and cinnamon). And don’t think of it just as a side; sweet potato tacos are a game changer!
No. Three...Pasta. Pasta is always a crowd pleaser, and it’s the easiest meal to prepare in advance. Simply boil your noodles until they’re al dente, then when you’re ready to cook, add them to any large saute pan with your desired sauce and vegetables. Or even serve it room temperature like one of my all-time favorite dishes.
No. Four…Fruits & Veggies. I stock up on fruits, lettuce, and vegetables such as carrots, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, pineapple cantaloupe, and many others that can be pre-chopped (I’m obsessed with this gadget for smaller chops) ahead of time. By spending the time and pre-cutting, you’ll be ready to throw them into a plethora of weeknight dishes like stir fry, a great salad, or simply roast or steam them as a side. Not to mention, you’ll always have a healthy snack on hand in a pinch. Salad isn’t a favorite of mine, but I’m much more likely to eat it if it’s easy to prepare and it’s chopped-style, so I always pre-chop lettuce to be the base of said salad or as an easy weeknight side. And lately I’ve been doing a lot of zoodles (recipe HERE & HERE) which you can spiralize up days ahead of time.
No. Five…Eggs & Nuts. Since eggs and nuts are staples in my pantry, refrigerator, and diet, I always have these ready-to-eat. I don’t eat meat, so I’m always conscious of my protein intake. Hard boiled eggs and nuts are an easy way to keep those levels high, whether they’re atop a salad or just enjoyed as a snack.
No. Six…Utilize the Crockpot. I’m a lover of the crockpot; it just makes meals so easy. So for the meat eater in my life (the hubs) I always do a dish or two in the crockpot each week and marinate or make them up in advance. I’ll marinate chicken in an Italian dressing or vinaigrette with green onions and jalepenos then throw it in the crockpot with potatoes and peppers and a few hours later you’ll have the heartiest of meals. Another great meat to make ahead: meatballs. They only take a moment to cook, and you can serve the meatballs on top of a pasta, or low-carb style alone with some veggies.