I’ve been spending a lot more time at home lately (thanks babies!) so I’ve dedicated a little bit of kitchen time each week to doing some “food prep”. Rather than going for the meal prep option of batch cooking one big dish, I’ve spent a few hours – not many – organising a couple different meal elements. This kind of food prep lets you put a variety of meals together faster. You don’t have to eat the exact same thing everyday – by prepping some different, versatile items you can mix together different dishes during the week in less time. Try out these simple food prep ideas:
Food prep #1: Boil half a dozen (or more) eggs
Eggs are the perfect protein to prep in advance. Keep them in the fridge in their shells. When you’re ready to use them, peel them and try them:
- sliced on top of toast for brekky
- added to veggies + grain bowls for lunch/dinner
- on their own or on top of a cracker/rice cake as a snack
Food prep #2: Cook some quinoa or brown rice
Quinoa or brown rice works as a wholegrain, high fibre base for a quick grain-salady kind of bowl when paired with fresh or cooked veggies. It can also be used as a side dish to a hot meal like a stir fry or curry cooked later (or at the same time!).
Store in an airtight container in the fridge, quinoa or brown rice will last around 3-4 days (I find quinoa lasts longer, rice I would use within 2-3 days). You can also place cooked quinoa or brown rice in zip lock bags and freeze portions for later use, which is great if you make a huge batch at once and are unlikely to get through it right away.
p.s. hey, what’s a grain bowl?
Basically, a mish-mash kind of meal using a cup of cooked grains (and/or maybe some starchy vegetables like potato), 1-2 cups of cooked or raw veggies, a serve of protein and topped with a yummy sauce/dressing/dip. Nuts, seeds, crumbled feta cheese, herbs etc. can be added too. The idea is to just mix it up and use what you’ve got prepped, so you don’t have to always have the exact same combination. This is where food prep is so good!
Food prep #3: Roast trays of vegetables
Potato and sweet potato are great carbohydrate choices for adding to meals. Other vegetables that roast well like pumpkin/squash, beetroot, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, capsicum and red onion can then be used in salad or grain bowls for quick meals. You can also add some to whisked eggs and make an omelette or frittata later in the week.
Store veggies in airtight containers in the fridge and they will usually keep around 4-5 days no problems.
Food prep #4: Wash and chop raw veg and fruit
Get a variety of veggies and fruit ready for breakfasts, snacks and salads. For example, you might slice up some oranges, melon, mango or papaya, and wash some apples and pears ready to grab (these will go brown if you slice them in advance). Fruit is more appealing when it can be eaten immediately and conveniently. Veggies that you can slice in advance include cucumber, celery, carrots, broccoli or cauliflower – ready for salads, or to be steamed or stir fried. You could also grate or finely slice a little cabbage, or trim some green beans or snow peas.
Freeze some of the chopped fruit for smoothies, too, if you’re a smoothie person.
Food prep #5: Organise another protein
Prepare another protein that you like so you’ve got something that’s ready to throw into a meal in minutes. A balanced meal needs some protein to help keep you full and replenish your muscles/tissues. You could roast a few chicken thighs or grill some chicken breast, bake salmon portions or marinate some tofu. If that’s feeling stressful, stocking the fridge/pantry with items like tinned tuna, canned chickpeas, and smoked salmon are all no-fuss options.
Pre-cooked proteins like chicken or salmon will last around 3 days in the fridge.
Food prep #6: Make sauces/dressings
This can be as simple as shaking together a jar of extra virgin olive oil, seeded mustard and honey – hey presto, honey mustard dressing to drizzle over a salad, meat or veggies. Pop that in the fridge for later. Tahini, yoghurt and a pinch of salt, thinned out with a dash of water, is also a favourite of mine – it’s kind of like a dip, kind of like a sauce! You could also try making your own pesto, tomato salsa or hummus.
Just because you’re doing food prep doesn’t mean the end result needs to be really bland and mechanical. Sauces, dips and dressings add flavour and pleasure to a meal. Even just a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper will transform your food!
Food prep #7: Organise snacks
If you’re a keen cook, make something like a healthy banana bread or some bliss balls that can be stored in the fridge or even sliced up and frozen. I like making a homemade bread like my Zucchini Banana Bread or just rolling together my No Food Processor Protein Balls.
If this isn’t going to work for you, a fast option is to prepare some zip lock bags filled with nuts, crackers, trail mix, etc. that can quickly be thrown into a bag. Also, pack some fruit and/or veggie sticks into containers, and have a tub of hummus ready.
So there you have it, my top tips for getting yourself organised for some simple, speedy and delicious eating. What do you like to “food prep”?