woman cookingWhether you love cooking, or simply view it as a chore, making meals can be incredibly time consuming. And now that the school year has started and fall sports have begun, there’s even less time to make breakfast, lunch and dinner. Putting aside some time during the weekend to get ready for the week ahead can save you a huge amount of time and free you up to do other things. Check out these easy tips for prepping key ingredients and entire meals for everyone in the family.

Breakfast

How many of us try to save time in the morning by picking up something quick for breakfast at a fast food restaurant or corner coffee shop? Starting the day off with a nutritious breakfast is easier than you think. If you like starting your day off with a protein-packed meal, try hard-boiling eggs in the oven. Simply place fresh eggs in a muffin tin, bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes and let cool. You’ll get perfectly cooked eggs without having to wait for a pot of water to boil. You can eat one or two with a fresh piece of fruit or toast in the morning. You can also add some variety to your routine by baking different kinds of grab-and-go frittatas with just a few easy ingredients and one round of baking. Using a muffin tin add scrambled eggs, cheese and your favorite vegetables to cupcake liners and back at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the center is cooked through. This will provide you with multiple on-the-go breakfast options for the entire week. If you prefer a liquid breakfast, you can prep an entire week’s worth of smoothie ingredients in a matter of minutes. Simply select your favorite fruits or vegetables and portion them into storage bags, jars or Tupperware containers. You can get great results with this method using either fresh or frozen ingredients. If you prefer yogurt in your smoothies, you can blend all of your ingredients and freeze them in a muffin tin for easy-to-use single portions. The layering and storing technique can be used to create custom-made oatmeal jars with your favorite ingredients. Simply fill a mason jar halfway with instant oatmeal, and top with a layer of brown sugar, pecans and your favorite dried fruit. When you’re ready to eat, simply add hot water and stir. You put together an entire week’s worth of breakfasts in just a few minutes. For an even easier option, layer plain yogurt, honey and fruit in small mason jars for ready-to-eat parfaits.

Lunch

It’s important to keep your day going with a healthy option for lunch. Whether you like to pack your lunches the night before, or quickly throw things together the morning of, a little bit of preparation can make things a whole lot easier. If you like taking sandwiches for lunch, you can cut back on lunch packing time by prepping and portioning all of your ingredients before the start of the week. Simply wash and prep all of your vegetables, portion out all of your meat and store them in neatly organized storage containers in the fridge. This makes sandwich assembly a breeze, keeps your ingredients from mixing and eliminates soggy sandwiches. For those who prefer taking main courses and sides for lunch, cooking in bulk on Sunday afternoon can take care of your midday meals for the entire week. You can cook multiple portions of your favorite proteins and vegetables all at once and divide them into single portion storage containers, making them easy to store, re-heat and eat. For a healthy option, try a jar salad. Simply layer your favorite ingredients, including greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds and proteins in a mason jar. When you’re ready to eat, add salad dressing and shake. Your salad will be perfectly mixed without all the mess. You can also take inspiration from your favorite restaurants by creating healthier, on-the-go versions of your favorite meals. Make a burrito bowl by layering rice, lettuce, tomatoes, green onion, cheese and meat into a microwaveable container. When lunchtime comes, simply heat and top with salsa and guacamole.

Dinner

For some, cooking a meal at the end of a long day can be the last thing they want to do. But adding some variety to evening meals doesn’t have to be as time consuming as you think. Dinner is another time when bulk cooking can be to your advantage. You can bake multiple main dishes utilizing different flavor profiles all at once. Simply line a baking sheet with foil, rolling long pieces of foil to use as dividers and coat with cooking spray. Place chopped chicken, beef or pork in each of the separate sections and add seasoning. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes and let cool. You can use the same technique for roasted vegetables. Chop your favorite vegetables, toss in olive oil, add some herbs and simple seasoning and bake for 40 minutes at 475 degrees. Be sure to choose vegetables with the same cooking time in order to avoid over or undercooked vegetables. If you like cooking fresh batches every night, rather than reheating, you can save time by prepping and storing fresh vegetables at the beginning of the week. You can also save time by prepping and storing common seasonings. Ditch the store-bought chopped garlic by making your own. Spread peeled garlic cloves onto a baking sheet and add olive oil and sea salt. Bake until your garlic is golden brown. Throw your baked garlic into a food processor in order to make a paste that can be stored in the refrigerator. You can also chop fresh herbs, top them with olive oil and freeze the mixture in ice cube trays. Simply add half a cube to a hot pan to start your meal.

Making incredible meals and getting them done fast can be easy with a little bit of preparation. Try adding these tips to your weekend routine to get a jump on the work and school week.

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