Need for Speed – 8 Meal Preparation Tips

by zesty on April 15, 2013 · 13 comments

Our society has forced alot of us to eat on the run or have very little time to prepare meals.  Whether your in the corporate world, busy parents with kids or just plain busy – having tips to prepare healthy quick meals is a big help.  I put together a few simple ways to be effective and cost efficient that you can try when preparing your next meal.

1. Prepare Food Immediately from the Grocery Store


Whether your chopping green peppers for stir fry or seeding and slicing a cantalope – Doing this right way and storing in ziploc bags can save you valuable time during meal preparation and also allows you to make healhier choices when you have a huge munch on.

2. Make a weekly meal plan

Check family members’ schedules before deciding which nights to cook. To increase family involvement, ask everyone to pick and schedule one family meal a week. Having a plan also makes writing shopping and “to do” lists easier.

3. Cook once, eat twice

Double favorite recipes, freezing extra servings in easy-to-thaw portions. Freeze extra cooked chicken breasts for quick salads, quesadillas, enchiladas, and soup.

4. Streamline shopping

Keep a running grocery list of items needed by category, such as breads, meats, and produce to reduce “emergency” trips for missing ingredients.

5. Get children involved in making dinner

Besides benefiting from the obvious creative aspects of cooking and the boost to their self-esteem, there are the more practical bonuses of developing math skills and learning how to eat well. Also if they are helping you with meal time – then you are not being distracted and things will move quicker.

6. Time is money

Take help where you can get it. “Sometimes it’s worth the added cents to choose raw deveined shrimp over shrimp you have to clean, or chicken cutlets over the breasts you would have to trim and split,” I also uses canned foods, such as beans, tomatoes and stocks, because of the time savings in certain situations.

7. Plug in the Slow Cooker

Although it might seem like a contradiction, slow cookers actually make quick work of getting a meal on the table. Just toss the ingredients in the cooker in the morning, and dinner is ready when you get home.

8. Keep your pantry stocked

The pantry being the building blocks of fast meals: basics such as pastas, rice, broths, stocks, canned tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and canned beans.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 judyfoodie

Great tips. I should practice tip number one. It would give me no excuse to get take out.

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2 ZestyCook

Hey Judy,
Thanks for the comment. Yeah I really notice in the last year or so – these tips really help cut down on the eating out. Which has always been a downfall of mine.

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3 Jessie

I love this post, I do exactly what you do. I always have my pantry stocked and my fridge stocked as well. It makes cooking and meal planning a lot easier. I always make more food than usual too so that way there is left overs for the week. Great entry!

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4 Trisha

Great post! I feel like I’ve learned so much over the years, and some things you just do routinely and take for granted. It’s good to get them down in an actual list. I need to get better at the “Cook once, eat twice,” item.

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5 zestycook

Thanks Trisha, your comment is very true. Cooking once and eating two or three times is a big help. As long as you don’t mind re-heating or eating cold food – This is a great way to be efficient in the kitchen.

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6 momgateway

Very helpful post. Thanks!

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7 Dynamics

I go to the farmers market on Sunday and come home and chop up veggies for three to four days. They stay fresh in mason jars and food saver containers. Saves me a tremendous amount of time. I also grill up a whole package of chicken to use in various ways. Great Ideas Zesty.

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8 Susan

These are all great ideas. I especially enjoy points 4 & 6. It’s such a waste of time running to the grocer’s for the hundredth time for forgotten items and yes, time is more valuable than money! thanks for posting!

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9 Jessica Locke

In life and in cooking I think preparation is key. Plan ahead meals, make that list, prepare what you can in advance of mealtimes – these all all great tips that I use as well. I also portion out my snacks and make lunch the night before too. This helps with time, calorie control and even money!
If I am we’ll “prepared” all week and follow that plan then on the weekend I have no guilt about indulging with some spontaneous chips and queso (and of course a margarita) !

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10 Jack

How would you go about thawing out chicken you freeze earlier in the week?

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11 Lauren

Great tips! I need to start doing #1 more often.
One of the things I’ve definitely learned is to not plan too many meals to make in a week. Usually cooking 2-3 meals during a week gives me enough leftovers and the rest of the week I either won’t be home for meals or I do something simple like salads or scrambled eggs because I’m not in the mood for a big meal. Sometimes less is more.

I also totally agree about getting kids involved in cooking early. It might take a bit more time with young kids “helping,” but the memories I have of cooking in the kitchen as a child are priceless, and you can never start too young in teaching kids such a valuable life skill.

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