It's no secret that our weekdays can be hectic. Whether you work outside the home, from home, or your job is being a full-time parent, life keeps us busy. Throw in housework, extra-curricular activities for the kids, and pets if you've got 'em and maybe you're barely keeping up! Cue food prepping or meal prepping!
One of my little tricks to cutting down on my time spent in the kitchen (while also ensuring that there are always healthy food options ready to go) is prepping the food over the weekend. Some people will prep their entire week's worth of meals into individual containers. I don't take it this far.
But by spending a little of my time each Sunday preparing foods for the coming week, I can cut down on prep work during the busy weeknights. It also keeps the kids from having an excuse for not grabbing fruit with their lunches. Want to start adapting some super easy habits to make your weekdays and nights a little easier? Let's get to it!
Clean that fruit!
The number one thing I like to do each weekend is to clean the fruit we bought at the store and have it ready to be eaten. My kids are much more likely to choose fruit with their lunches instead of chips or other junk if they don't actually have to take the time to clean it. Yep, it's a kid thing.
Washing fruit is simple. I like to soak my produce in a mixture of water and vinegar. The small amount of vinegar really seems to help break apart wax or dirt on the fruits and allows them to rinse clean. Don't worry, your produce will not taste like vinegar. This is a really quick and easy process that is mostly hands-off.
To wash your fruits or vegetables, simply:
Make sure your kitchen sink is very clean. I always scrub mine first with baking soda and vinegar and then rinse it thoroughly with hot water.
Fill the sink about halfway with lukewarm water. There is no need to measure precisely.
Pour in about one cup of distilled white vinegar. Again, you don't need to be exact. You can simply eyeball it.
Soak your fruits in the water and vinegar mixture for about ten minutes. I remove berries after three minutes since they are more delicate. I don't want to risk them taking on a vinegar taste.
If you'd like, you can gently scrub thicker-skinned, sturdy fruits like apples or oranges with a soft vegetable brush.
Remove the fruit from the water and rinse everything well. See all that dirt left in your sink? Yuck!
Lie the fruits flat on a dish towel to dry completely before storing them.
I store my fruits mostly in Mason jars with airtight lids. Quart-sized jars work well for blueberries and strawberries while half-gallon jars are great for large bags of grapes. Apples and other sturdy fruits can be stored as-is in the produce drawer of your refrigerator. Now, whenever someone wants a snack, fruit is just as convenient of an option as pre-packaged snack foods.
Chop veggies in bulk.
Another great way to reduce the time you spend in the kitchen during the week is to chop vegetables for multiple meals at one time. Many veggies hold up well when sealed in airtight containers in the refrigerator. When you have things already chopped, minced, or diced, it can really save you time. This is especially true if it is a vegetable you use in meals multiple times each week.
We put onion in nearly every dinner we make. So instead of dicing only the amount of onion that I will need for one meal, I will chop up two or three whole onions. The onion keeps very well in a container in the refrigerator, and when I need it I can simply measure out that portion.
Other vegetables that will keep well include:
thick-walled peppers such as bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and banana peppers.
cucumbers (will keep without drying out for around 4 days if stored in an airtight container.)
You can also wash things such as fresh green beans or snow peas ahead of time and store them whole for later use.
Some things that do not store well long-term and that I recommend only cutting at the time you need them include:
lettuces and other greens
Having some of your meal ingredients already prepped and ready can cut down on the time you need to make dinner at night. This can help make it easier for you to make a delicious and healthy meal, even on the craziest of nights.
This gorgeous dish came in a set of three and it has a valve on the lid that helps keep most of the air out. That means these yummy Vidalia onions stay fresh all week!
Slow cookers are your friend!
You can cook large amounts of chicken, beef roasts, or pork roasts in the slow cooker on the weekend and have the meat ready to be used in multiple things throughout the week. This can be a real time saver.
One Boston butt pork roast can yield quite a bit of pulled pork. I like to season mine with only a little salt and black pepper. This way the meat does not have a specific flavor that would limit its uses. You can add barbecue sauce for sandwiches, roast some carrots and potatoes for a pork roast dinner, or just enjoy it on its own with some vegetables.
A slow cooker is a wonderful way to cook a large amount of food with very little effort. You can turn it on and not think about it for hours. If you don't own a slow-cooker, I highly recommend you make the investment. They are affordable kitchen appliances that can save you lots of time and energy in the kitchen.
As you can see, I do not spend all long every Sunday meal planning and prepping every meal for the entire week ahead. Plenty of nights we don't decide what to make for dinner until late in the afternoon. But when I already have some of our ingredients ready to go that doesn't matter.
One closing thought:
While not necessarily strictly a meal prep tip, the way you store your foods can really make a difference in the ease of cooking as well. I am not a tall person by any means, and most of my pantry shelves are out of my reach without a step ladder. I combat this by storing the things I need most often on lower shelves, and everything else higher.
I keep things such as pasta and dry beans in Mason jars. This way I can see it all at a quick glance and reach for what I need in a hurry. There is no digging around through half a dozen bags of dry beans looking for the right one. It's also easy to keep tabs on what may be getting low this way too. Plus, who doesn't love the look of a Mason jar-filled pantry?!
These three simple steps really save a lot of time during our busy school and work weeks, and they allow us to eat healthier. A small investment of my time each weekend that yields much time saved during the week? Yes, please! I hope these tips are as helpful for you as they are for me!
Do you have anything you do to help make meals during the weekdays a little easier? Let us know in the comments!