Recently, I've been getting alot of messages like the following:
Friend: I need to have more things ready... The children need to eat better.
Me: Pick your battles. If you can create one good meal a day, you are a winner!
Friend: I'm fried for time - homeschooling & working from home - how do I squeeze in lunch?
Me: I wish I could come cook for you...(but I can't)
This got me thinking again that maybe I can help by sharing the main thing chefs do that enables us to rustle up meals easily - PREPARE, LABEL, USE, REPEAT. Unlike most meal prep, you won't exactly have any menus in our heads. You will just prep a group of ingredients so that they are ready to be put together. And if you have the right formula of ingredients, then you are all set for quick delicious meals anytime you need it.
PREPARE - involves marinating / cutting / washing / cooking / freezing & storing your ingredients. This way, they are ready to use whenever you need them.
LABEL - is the best part because it can give you a sense of control. Opening your fridge, seeing everything in containers, labelled with the item & useby date - is not only satisfying but also gives a sense of order in the chaos. No more plastic bags floating around in the fridge or unrecognisable "parcels" in the freezer. No more out of date chicken pushed to the back of the fridge.
USE - feel the satisfaction of pulling out ingredients you want/need that are already sitting in your fridge waiting for you.
REPEAT - you can repeat the prep with the same ingredients or you can experiment with introducing one of 2 new ingredients.
I understand that many of us are tired & the thought of spending 2 hours of your Sunday doing prep work is soul depleting. It's all up to us what meaning we give it. I think it cold be rather nice to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon to make your preparations for the week. Whilst the children are on their ipads, have your favourite music playing in the background, put yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine and just fall into it.
Imagine how smug you feel knowing e.g. you have bacon cooked & ready to re-heat in the microwave or pan for that quick bacon sandwich or bacon salad or for that delicious beef & bacon hamburger. No more made scramble or oil clean-ups after.
What is this magical formula I mentioned before?
Ingredients that your family love - as simple as that - with a few add-ons
Make a stock - chicken/ veggie or just have stock cubes in the cupboard
Make a soup
Marinate 1 meat protein - beef
Marinate 1 vegetable protein - tofu
Marinate 2 fish protein- salmon & cod
Make 2 dressings - a) thai dressing b) french grainy mustard dressing
Chop/ dice vegetables - carrot, onions, celery, cabbage, red pepper, mushroom, courgette, swede
Slice vegetables - carrot, onions, celery, cabbage, red pepper, mushroom, courgette, swede
Package dry ingredients like pancake/ brownie together. Leave a little note in the bag - of the wet ingredients
Have at least 3 bags of salad in the fridge
I won't be able to write all the steps & instructions on how to do the individual steps but I can show you what dishes you can make with the above plan.
With the chicken stock, you make risotto, ramen, mushroom sauce. Chicken from making the stock can be shredded & used to make chicken sandwiches, mixed with chicken stock & cream to make pasta chicken & cream .
If you make a thick parsnip soup, you can also use it as a sauce for pan fried cod / salmon
Marinated beef is sliced before marinating & can be used for stir-fry, fajitas, fried rice..
Marinated tofu can be panfried and used to make vegetarian fajitas, in miso soup, with ramen, vegetable stir-fry ..
Marinated cod can be breadcrumbed served as fish goujon for children, and fish goujon salad or make a fish & crisp sandwich with tatare sauce..
Marinated salmon can be poached for Thai Salmon salad, thai fish cakes sliced thin and made into salmon with chicken broth or simply a regular salad
French grainy mustard dressing with salmon & potato salad, a green salad ..
Thai dressing can be made into shredded vegetable & noodle salad ..you can add some beef with it..
Vegetables can be used in stir-fry, fried rice, as a crudite for a quick snack
Pre- pack risotto rice in quantities you always use. Add dried mushrooms, thyme etc. This way, you can empty it straight into pot to make a quick risotto.
Salad bags are useful to make a quick salad with any of the dressings. The salad can be plated on the side or the fish/ beef can be tossed together with the leaves to make a salad.
This is just one sample plan and there are many other combinations possible. All this from spending 2 slow hours, taking your time to do alittle meal prep! If you are curious, you could pick a couple of the steps to try & see how it works for you.
I'd like to know how it's helped you save time and reduce waste. And I will try to reply to your comments as soon as I can.