Cooking can often feel like a daunting task, especially if you have a bustling household, are a busy mom juggling multiple responsibilities, or you’re on a journey to shed a few extra pounds. As a mum of four and business owner, who also strives to maintain a wholesome diet, I am certainly familiar with all of this! Luckily, with time I have learned a couple of time-saving techniques and cooking hacks that can truly make a difference in your day-to-day meal prepping. 🔪
In this article, I will share with you my favorite kitchen hacks and meal prepping tips that save me every time I am in a rush -which, by the way, happens very often! 🏃🏽♀️
Evaluate your Current Cooking Routine 👩🏽🍳
Before we dive into the world of kitchen hacks that can revolutionize the way you prepare meals, let’s take a moment to reflect on your current cooking routine. This is key to evaluating potential struggles and understanding what you can do to eventually overcome them.
Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself:
- What are your typical weekly challenges when it comes to cooking?
- Do you find yourself struggling to make time for healthy meals amidst your busy schedule?
- Are there aspects of your current cooking routine that are working well, and if so, what can be improved?
- Do you plan your meals in advance, or do you often find yourself deciding what to cook on the fly?
- Do you have a structured grocery list plan, or do you frequently end up making multiple trips to the store during the week?
In asking these questions, it’s extremely important to be honest with yourself in order to set more realistic goals and expectations, and be able to play with your strengths!
Then, it’s time to proceed with an assessment of your cooking skills and with an inventory of the tools and equipment you already possess.
- Do you have the necessary kitchen gadgets to make your cooking endeavors more efficient?
- Are there any tools missing from your arsenal that could simplify the process?
In this case, the best thing to do is to invest in some good quality kitchen utensils which, as we will see in a while, can truly help you speed up the cooking process.
Last but not least, it’s important to evaluate the cost of your meals and the budget you can realistically allocate for their preparation.
- Are you spending more than you’d like on takeout or processed foods, and could you make more cost-effective choices by cooking at home?
- How can you improve the nutritional content of your dishes without spending a fortune?
With these considerations in mind, you’re ready to embark on a journey towards more efficient, nutritious, and enjoyable meal preparation.
The Must-Have Kitchen Tools 🔪
When it comes to efficient and enjoyable cooking, having the right tools and equipment can make a world of difference. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, these must-have kitchen tools are essential for preparing healthy meals, saving time, and achieving culinary success.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these indispensable items:
- Knives: High-quality knives are the backbone of any kitchen. Invest in a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife for cutting, chopping, and slicing various ingredients with precision. Here is the professional knife set I use.
- Cutting Boards: Having multiple cutting boards, ideally one for vegetables and one for meat, can help prevent cross-contamination and keep your workspace clean.
- Pots and Pans: A set of durable pots and pans in various sizes is crucial for cooking a wide range of dishes. Consider both non-stick and stainless steel options for versatility.
- Mixing Bowls: Mixing bowls of different sizes are essential for combining ingredients, marinating, and preparing sauces.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accurate measurements are vital for successful cooking and baking. Invest in both dry and liquid measuring cups, as well as a set of measuring spoons.
- Prep Tools: Essential prep tools like a peeler, grater, zester, and garlic press can streamline your meal preparation process.
- Thermometers: Food thermometers ensure that your meats and baked goods are cooked to the right temperature, promoting both safety and flavor.
- Baking Sheets and Dishes: Baking sheets and dishes are indispensable for making sheet pan meals, casseroles, and baked goods.
- Storage Containers: Quality storage containers come in handy for storing leftovers and prepped ingredients. Opt for a variety of sizes with secure lids for convenience.
- Slow Cooker/Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot: These multi-functional appliances are perfect for busy individuals and families. They can be used for simmering, braising, pressure cooking, and more, saving both time and effort.
- Food Processor: A food processor is a versatile tool that can chop, slice, dice, shred, and blend, making it an indispensable asset in your kitchen.
For an even more extensive list of must-have kitchen tools, you can refer to this article containing all my go-to kitchen essentials.
Embrace the Power of Weekly Meal Plans 📖
Weekly meal plans are a game-changer for efficient meal preparation. Take time at the beginning of the week to plan your meals and make sure to include a wide variety of dishes that can cater to your family’s nutritional needs and preferences. There are several meal planning apps, such as PlateJoy or MealPrepPro, that can simplify the process, helping you create meal plans, generate grocery lists, and even discover new recipes.
A great tip I recently learned is to consider theme nights like “Taco Tuesdays” or “Stir-Fry Fridays” to simplify the decision-making process and come up with nourishing yet delicious meals. In addition, I love to integrate leftovers into my meal plan, ensuring that no food goes to waste. Plus, it’s a great way to be creative in the kitchen and try new dishes and flavor combinations. Lastly, to accompany your meal plans, create a detailed grocery list that will help you buy only what you need and avoid multiple trips to the store during the week.
Become a Meal-Prepping Pro 💯
Meal prep is the ultimate time-saving strategy for busy mums and, more in general, people looking to make healthier choices. Here are some tips that will help you incorporate meal planning into your weekly schedule.
Design a Weekly Meal Prep Schedule
Plan a dedicated day each week for meal prep. This ensures that you have ample time to prepare and store meals for the coming days, saving you precious hours on busy weeknights.
Invest in Multi-Compartment Containers
Use multi-compartment containers for batch-cooked meals. These containers allow you to separate different components of your meal, preventing sogginess and maintaining the freshness of each ingredient.
Use a Vacuum Sealer
Pre-cut vegetables and proteins, vacuum-seal them and store them in your fridge or freezer. Vacuum-sealing helps maintain the quality of your ingredients for an extended period, ensuring that they’re fresh when you need them. This is the vacuum sealer I’ve been using for the past couple of years.
Label and Date Everything
When storing prepared ingredients, label and date each container. This helps you identify items quickly, reduces food waste, and ensures you use ingredients before they expire.
Create Grab-and-Go Portions
Divide your prepped meals into single-serving containers for easy grab-and-go options. This is perfect for busy individuals, ensuring you always have a nutritious meal at hand.
Cook and Freeze in Batches
Prepare meals in large quantities and freeze them in individual portions. This makes it convenient to defrost and enjoy a homemade meal even on your busiest days.
Make Use of Short Time Blocks
If you can’t dedicate a full day to meal prep, set aside shorter time blocks throughout the week. Even 30 minutes to an hour can make a significant difference in preparing ingredients and planning your meals.
Batch Cooking Tips 🍱
Batch cooking is a meal preparation method that allows you to cook larger quantities of food in advance, which can save you time and make mealtime more convenient. Here is how I like to do it!
Set Aside a Batch-Cooking Day
Designate a specific day in your week for batch cooking. On this day, prepare larger quantities of your favorite dishes and store them in portion-sized containers. This simple strategy will save you time throughout the week, as you’ll have ready-made meals at your fingertips.
Chop and Prep in Advance
Dedicate some time each week to prepping ingredients like chopping vegetables, marinating meats, and portioning out snacks. Having these elements ready to go makes meal assembly quick and hassle-free.
Cook in Batches and Freeze
When preparing dishes like soups, stews, or casseroles, double the recipe and freeze the extra portions. This way, you’ll always have a homemade meal on hand, ready to defrost and enjoy.
Stock Up on Frozen Staples
Keep your freezer stocked with a variety of frozen vegetables and pre-cut ingredients. These items can be easily incorporated into your recipes and are a lifesaver when you’re short on time.
Turn last night’s dinner into something new and exciting. Get creative with leftover ingredients, and transform them into sandwiches, salads, or stir-fries. Leftovers don’t have to be boring.
Maintain an Organized Kitchen 🍽️
A well-organized kitchen can help you save time, reduce stress, and inspire healthier eating habits. Here is how I manage to keep a clean and functional kitchen even during the busiest weeks.
Declutter and Reorganize Regularly
Maintain an organized kitchen by decluttering and reorganizing your pantry, fridge, and cabinets regularly. Knowing where everything is saves precious time when you’re cooking.
Set Up a Prep Station
Before you start cooking, set up a dedicated prep station with all your ingredients, utensils, and tools. This approach ensures that everything is within reach, making the cooking process smooth and efficient.
Clean as You Go
While cooking, make it a habit to clean as you go. Wash dishes, utensils, and countertops as you finish using them. This keeps your workspace tidy and minimizes post-cooking cleanup time.
Other Cooking Hacks I Swear By 🤩
Maintain a Master Shopping List
Create a master shopping list with your frequently purchased items. Update and customize it as you go, making it easy to shop for essentials quickly without starting from scratch each time.
Plan Ahead for Online Orders
Opt for online grocery delivery or curbside pickup to save time and avoid the hassle of in-store shopping. Plan your order in advance, using your meal plan and grocery lists, and schedule deliveries or pickups that fit your schedule. Alternatively, you can take advantage of meal delivery kits such as Splendid Spoon or Smoothiebox.
If you have family members or roommates, don’t hesitate to delegate tasks. Cooking can be a collaborative effort, and assigning roles like chopping, stirring, or setting the table can make meal preparation more efficient and enjoyable for everyone involved.
Last-Minute Meal Prepping: Making the Most of Limited Time and Ingredients 🍓
Last-minute meal prepping can be a lifesaver when you find yourself with limited time and a sparse pantry. Here are a couple of questions that can help you in the process of cooking quick, yet wholesome and delicious meals.
How much time do I have?
First, assess the time you have available. Are you working with just a few minutes or perhaps half an hour? Knowing your time constraints will guide your meal prep strategy.
What do I have available?
Check your kitchen for ingredients that need to be used up soon. Prioritize items that are on the verge of going bad. This could be vegetables that are starting to wilt, fruits that are becoming overripe, or meat or seafood that’s approaching its expiration date. Using these ingredients first prevents food waste.
Fresh is greater than frozen. Frozen is better than canned.
When deciding what to prepare, remember the hierarchy of freshness. Fresh ingredients should be your top choice, followed by frozen items, and then canned goods. Fresh foods often pack more flavor and nutrients. If you have fresh ingredients that need to be used, focus on them. If not, look to your frozen ingredients, such as frozen vegetables or pre-cooked proteins. Canned goods are your last resort, as they are often less nutritious and flavorful compared to fresh and frozen alternatives.
With these considerations in mind, you can whip up a meal in no time, even when you’re working with limited resources. Get creative, experiment with flavor combinations, and embrace the challenge of turning those last-minute ingredients into a delicious, home-cooked meal.
Did you know any of these cooking hacks? Let me know in the comments below 💗