I can admit that I am not always great at meal prep and planning ahead. I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type cook, and sometimes choose my meals on the fly. I’ve been working on streamlining my cooking process because I know when I follow these guidelines I am much more likely to stick to our healthy meal plans. Plus, everything arrives on the dinner table hot and ready to eat.
My Tips For Planning Ahead In The Kitchen
1. All About Timing
The most important thing is to make sure you don’t pick more than one item that requires significant oven time. (If you have double ovens skip this part, you lucky duck.) I can’t tell you how many times in my cooking “career” I’ve picked two delicious courses that both required 30+ minutes in the oven. I’ve tried to bake items at the same time and it NEVER works.
If you’re dead set on the two dishes though, there are options. You can: A) Make one dish ahead of time and microwave it when you’re ready to serve, or B) consider using your crockpot to make one of the dishes. I found this helpful guide to help you convert oven recipes to crockpot recipes!
2. Read Ahead
Once you have your recipes selected, the next thing you need to do is read each one thoroughly. There have been many times I’ve made it halfway through a recipe only to discover it needs to chill or rest for hours. By reading each recipe in its entirety, you will be prepared for tackling each dish, and you can significantly reduce the amount of bad words you mutter under your breath in the process.
3. Make a Game Plan
By prepping all ingredients ahead of time, you’ll have everything prepared exactly when you need it. Besides, having everything ready to just toss in kind of makes you feel like you’re hosting a cooking show! If you are one of those super organized people, you can chop your veggies a day or two in advance, which makes your meal prep that much faster. I’ve also found that if I chop my veggies when I get home from the store, I’m more likely to actually use them and stick with my plan rather than default to a freezer meal when I’m feeling tired from my day. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good freezer meal, but that’s another topic for another day. 🙂
My Least Favorite Kitchen Tip
4. Keep It Clean
My last (and least favorite) tip for meal prepping involves the worst part… the clean up. Honestly, the only reason I started cooking is because I hated cleaning. My mom and I made a deal that whoever cooked, the other would clean up. I hated doing the dishes so much — we didn’t have a dishwasher — that I learned to cook so I never had to clean. As fate would have it, I loved cooking so it was a win/win (for me anyway… sorry mom!).
So, as a woman who now cleans up after herself until her children are old enough to do the dishes, the best tip I have for keeping your kitchen clean is to clean as you go. I wish I had some secret trick to making the mess go away, but this tried and true method is really the only thing that works. It’s so simple to keep a sink of soapy water and clean your knives, cutting boards and prep bowls as soon as you’re done with them. This also leaves your dishwasher open (praise hands emoji) for all the dinner plates, cups and utensils that will be ready to load after the meal.
I’m much more excited to start the cooking process all over again with a clean kitchen. It’s probably the most important part of the meal prep cycle!
Do you have any amazing multi-tasking tips for me? I’d love to hear them.