One of the things that I hated most about getting home at almost 6pm was having to cook dinner. It would take almost an hour sometimes to get things prepped and prepared. I had to create some short cuts for myself that make things quicker and easier for any meal that I’m preparing. This is especially true with some types of produce when you only grocery shop once a month. Below are some of my favorite tips to make meal prep easy and fast.
Peppers and Onions
I buy all the peppers and onions that I need for the month at the same time. I buy a few extra just in case. I then take about 30 minutes and prepare all of the onions and peppers at the same time. I dice and slice, depending on the recipe, put them in individual freezer bags, and pop them in to the freezer until they are needed. When I have a recipe that calls for onions or peppers, I just grab a bag out of the freezer. Sometimes I thaw them in the microwave and sometimes I put them straight in frozen and let them thaw and saute. This is especially handy when creating omelets in the morning. I keep a bag of peppers and onions combined and then just grab a handful for an omelet and pop the bag back in the freezer.
When I have a recipe that calls for green onions, I will buy them from the store and cut all the green up. What I don’t need, I then freeze. I then will pop the onions in to a glass of water and leave it on my counter. The green part will grow back and I will at least cut them 4 to 5 times before I throw out the bulbs. I refresh the water every other day or so. I also cut up the green parts and put them in the freezer. I have a “green onion” bag that I add to when I have them and know that I have a good supply on hand.
With the price of cheese increasing over the years, I have started buying all my cheese in blocks and then shredded it in the food processor. It is a bit more time-consuming, but you can get two quart size bags out of each block. I will put one in the fridge and freeze the other. I have never had a problem with frozen shredded cheese once it is thawed. I don’t recommend freezing blocks because they become crumbly. I do this for cheddar, mozzarella, and sharp cheddar cheese.
There are two ways that I tackle this. I used to purchase rotisserie chickens from the grocery store and would pull the white meat off and use it in casseroles or in fajitas. This started to become costly since we don’t eat the dark meat and the chickens are getting smaller. Now, I purchase a bag of frozen chicken breasts and cook them in the crock pot until they are almost falling part. I then shred them and place them in individual freezer bags according to what I would put in a casserole recipe. When I need to prepare a casserole that has shredded chicken or I want to make chicken salad, I thaw out a bag in the fridge and it’s ready to go.
When I cook a recipe that I know I can easily double, such as meatloaf, I fix two and freeze one for a quick meal later. I also do this when I shred pork or fix taco meat. Our family normally doesn’t need a whole pound of taco meat so I will freeze half. I will often mix in brown rice with the taco meat to make it go even further. We also won’t go through an entire 9 x 13 casserole, so I will usually freeze part of the casserole if I suspect it will freeze and thaw out well. All of these will make meal time much quicker in the future.
Making the week easier
When I was working, having a home cooked meal was extremely difficult with getting home at after 6pm and my children would usually be asleep by 7:30. I began planning my meals so that on the weekends I would prep casseroles that could be frozen. I used some of the freezer meals that I found on the boards. I also would fix a meal that would provide left overs on Sunday for Monday evening. Mondays are hard enough without having to come home and cook. I also planned easy and quick meals that were healthy such as fajitas with low carb tortillas, taco meat for salads or tacos that had brown rice mixed in it (meat goes further and gives you some grains/fiber), and a favorite was breakfast for dinner.
It is challenging, especially when you work, to make sure your family has a home cooked meal each night instead of convenience/pre-packaged foods and fast foods. A little bit of planning and prep work ahead of time can make things quicker in the evenings and easier. I would love to hear your favorite tips to save time and get a fresh meal on the table each night. Leave a comment below!