The last part of meal prep is the best part! (IMHO) If you've prepared properly, batch cooking doesn't have to be the nightmare some people imagine it to be. For me, its actually meditative. A time to slow down and enjoy the process and at the end feel accomplished and ready for the week ahead. I'll dive into some of my favorite tips next, but first let's review the first two steps of meal prep:
1. Planning - We talk about identifying the meals you'll need and what foods you'll prepare ahead of time. Need a refresher? Click here.
2. Shopping - Tips on making a list of ingredients you'll need and buying them, easy peasy right? No? Click here.
Now, we're ready to cook! JK, not really. A few more recommendations of things you'll need and want to do before starting the actual cooking process:
- Make sure you have enough storage containers. This sounds silly, but I can't tell you the number of times I've finished cooking my food for the week only to realize I wasn't able to store them. I suggest glass (or BPA free plastic) containers with snap on lips and lots of 'em.
- Create a timeline. How type A of me. Seriously though, this is one of the most helpful tools I took away from my Intro to Food Science class. You don't need to (and in my opinion shouldn't) cook one recipe at a time. Look at all of the foods you'll be preparing and do your best to make an overall timeline. Start with prepping ingredients (see next tip) then move on to the pieces that take a long time, but don't need a lot of attention. Making slow cooker vegetarian chili? Throw that in the crock pot first. Roasting broccoli? Toss it on the pan and in the oven it goes. Just remember to set timers so you don't forget to take them out!
- Lay out and prep your ingredients! Or for you fancy folks, mise en place (French for set in place or everything in its place). I cannot stress this enough. Taking the time to do this step will make your cooking process far more efficient. So what does it mean? Have all ingredients ready to go before starting anything else. Don't even boil water. Measure, chop, dice, peel. Whatever your ingredients list says, have it ready as stated. Need 1/2 an onion diced? Peel and dice that onion and set aside. Measure and portion seasonings, spices, liquids and other dry ingredients. To save on space and the number of dirty dishes, ingredients that are added at the same time can be combined in ramekins and bowls. This makes cooking so much easier. I used to think I'd save time by prepping as I go...I didn't. And honestly, I messed up so many recipes because I was rushing. The good news? If you're taking my advice and not cooking elaborate recipes, you won't have that many ingredients to prep!
NOW you're ready to get cooking. And if you follow these tips, I promise you won't spend the entire day in the kitchen. My meal prep takes me on average 2 hours from start to finish.
Good luck and remember to have fun!