This is a collaborative post.
Cooking healthy food for the family can be time consuming, but with some clever planning and simple hacks, you can nail meal prep to keep your family well fed.
Planning your meals in advance and cooking in bulk can save you from vending machine run or turning to the takeaway menu for dinner. Instead, you’ll be ready to feed yourself with healthy, tasty meals. Follow these easy hacks to make meal prep easier.
Invest in the right kit
The right tools will make prepping meals in advance much faster and easier. It’s worth spending a little extra on quality kitchen knives for your kitchen. If you’re going to be prepping veg in bulk, a quality, properly sharpened knife will make the task much easier on the hands!
I spent ages perfecting the perfect omelette and how to stop it turning into scrambled eggs! For a 3 egg omelette use a frying pan which measures around 6 inches in diameter. It is best to use an enameled cast iron frying pan so that it will ensure even heat retention”
Stock up on Tupperware and other storage tubs. Takeaway containers are a budget-friendly way to do this if you already have some from past ordering. Store your meals in single-serving portions in these tubs, and they’ll stack neatly in the fridge. To save on freezer space, freezer bags are a great option. You can freeze most meals in bags, and they’ll pack neatly into freezer drawers while taking up less space than boxes.
Slow cookers and pressure cookers are a fantastic tool for advance cooking. Just load them up and set them to cook while you’re getting on with your day, and you’ll have dinner ready with minimal effort. Invest in a good sized slow cooker to make large meals for dinner and leftovers.
Freeze the right way
Get organised with your freezing to avoid having to eat mystery meals from the back of the drawer. You can buy specialist freezer tape, or just ordinary masking tape to stick on your tupperware. Label each dish with the contents, the date it went into the freezer and any cooking instructions you think you’ll forget. This means you can keep track of what’s what, and when things need to be eaten. Using the tape saves you having to keep writing and crossing things out on the tupperware lids.
Think outside the lunch box
If you’re packing lunches for the family, think outside the traditional lunch box. Mason jars can be a fantastic way to transport your lunch to the office. The tight lid keeps everything fresh, and also makes the jars a great option for salad. Adding salad dressing early can make the salad go soggy. Inside, layer your salad into your mason jar, and pack your dressing separately. When you’re ready to eat, tip your dressing into the jar, screw the lid on tightly, and shake. You’ll have tasty, well dressed salad in an instant.
Choose hard-working ingredients
To reduce food waste, choose ingredients you can incorporate into different meals. For example, don’t just buy a pack of chicken with the plan to put it one meal. Instead, plan three or four dishes that can use your chicken, so all of it gets used up. Make a chicken curry, marinade some chicken breasts, or make stuffed chicken breasts.
You could also make a large batch of a dish to be used in different ways, such as making a chilli to be eaten with rice one day, and on top of a baked potato another day.
Recruit the family
Getting an assembly line going at the kitchen counter can make mass prep a much lighter task. Get the whole family involved in helping to prepare meals for the week ahead. Have someone chopping veg, someone preparing marinades or another filling up the containers.
Getting children involved in cooking is a great way to teach them about nutrition and healthy eating in a way that is fun and immersive. Many kids love to get involved in making meals; especially if it’s messy. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen over the chopping board, enjoy cooking as a relaxing, family activity.
Write a menu
Sit down at the end of the week and draw up some menus for the week ahead. A menu makes sure you can make meals that work together, while minimising the amount of different ingredients needed. You can mix up the meals throughout the week to avoid repetition, and having a good plan in place will help you avoid the temptation to order in. Check the menu against your calendar to make sure you don’t plan meals for nights you’re not going to be home.
This could be a family activity too, with everyone helping to choose meals they’d like to eat. Maybe set family challenges, like trying out a new recipe every week, or trying new ingredients together that you haven’t cooked with before. This will help you to keep from using the same recipes on a loop and challenges fussy eaters to try something new.
Prep groceries as soon as you get home
Get ahead even more by getting straight on the prep as soon as come home with groceries. Get the kitchen assembly line going and get the fresh veg washed and chopped. Once it’s all chopped up, the veg can be frozen easily or stored in the fridge, ready to be thrown into any meals. It can take a while when you first get in, but will save so much time during the week and make cooking much quicker.
You can even freeze herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays to have tasty seasoning ready to go too.
Try a muffin tin
A muffin tin is not just for muffins! Make an omelette type mix with veggies, chopped meats or whatever you fancy. Rub the inside of the muffin tin with a little oil and pour in the egg mix. Cook in the oven on high for about half an hour, and you’ve got mini muffin shaped frittatas. These make great snacks or a healthy on the go breakfast that’s easy to grab on your way out the door.
With a few simple tricks, you can make bulk meal prep a breeze, and make a huge range of healthy, delicious dinners that the whole family will enjoy.
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