From the Kitchen

Save Time in the Kitchen by Cooking in Bulk

We all could use a little more time in our day, am I right? 5:00pm rolls around and I’m humming and hawing at what to cook for dinner. It takes a good 30-45 minutes to cook chicken, then there is prepping the lettuce and cutting up veggies. I only have 2 arms. As helpful as my children think they are in the kitchen, sometimes it’s not super helpful. So I’m starting to plan my meals a week in advance, make a list and buy groceries, and prep as much of the food as I can ahead of time. So far, it’s working out perfect!

Chicken is one of those meats you can cook ahead of time. Dice, shred, or slice it up, and it’s ready to be added to meals for dinner all week long. Cooking my meat on the first day of the week, preferably Monday, is a great way to save on time for the following days of the week. Or you can buy it already cooked, like rotisserie chicken, and simply cut it all up and it’s ready to go.

Kami from No Biggie has some fantastic recipes for chicken. I’ve made almost all of them, and if you use meat that’s been prepped ahead of time, making dinner on those nights is a cinch!

As easy as it is to buy the pre-made packages of lettuce, already prepped for you, it is a lot cheaper to buy a head of lettuce. When I do this, it is a lot easier to prep your salads if you’ve washed and dried your lettuce ahead of time. Take a few minutes to take off each lettuce leaf, wash it under cold water, and dry it on a paper towel. I even roll up my lettuce in the paper towel and place it in a plastic zip baggie. Then it’s ready to go next time you’re ready to make a salad. We’re much more likely to make and eat a salad if the ingredients are all prepped and ready to eat!

What are you prepping ahead of time, saving you a few precious minutes when cooking dinner?

14 comments

  1. Sounds weird but it works – to keep from crying while cutting onions, set a plate or bowl of water next to your cutting board (or even more than one). Evidently the “onion crying” is caused by a chemical in onions that volatizes into the air when the onion is cut, but when it comes into contact with moisture (like your eyes), it reconstitutes into an acid. The result: stinging, weeping eyes – which of course, makes more moisture . . . vicious cycle. The nearby bowl or plate (think large surface area) helps take that airborne chemical out of the equation.

  2. I like the idea of prepping the salad ingredients ahead of time – then I can even have my preschooler “make” the salad :) She always wants to cook with me!

  3. Great ideas! I need to get better at this. I enjoyed reading suggestions from your readers as well. Chili, homemade sauce, and lasagna are the main items that I freeze.

  4. I love the cloth bag idea for lettuce. Definitely will be using that.
    I like to double any recipe that will freeze well. Making two lasagnas may be a tad more time, but saves a ton of time in the long run.

    Bean Burritos are another idea is for a quick meal or snack. I make a bunch of these at a time, so my husband and I have something quick to throw in our lunch bag when we either don’t have leftovers for lunch the next day or the time to think of something else. I make a big batch of beans (refried and black) with peppers/tomatoes plus whatever seasonings you would like, and a big batch of Spanish or brown rice. I add cheese and roll it up in shells. I wrap the burrito in a paper towel and then in plastic wrap. They freeze well and heat up pretty well in the microwave. I take off the plastic wrap to heat it up, but leave on the paper towel for awhile while it is heating to keep moisture in.

  5. Thanks Marie! I’m so glad that you liked the recipes. We should do dream dinners soon, they always come in handy.

    ps. I just bought another salad spinner and you can have one of them if you want, I love a good salad spinner!

  6. Who wants to cry more than they need to? Chop up a ton of onions at once, then freeze it. Unless anyone has ideas on how to chop an onion without bawling. ouch!

  7. I have recently become obsessed with freezer meals – they are so easy and fast!
    I always buy about 5 pounds of hamburger and brown it all and then flash freeze it (lay it all out flat on a cookie tin and put it in the freezer, so it all doesn’t clump together when it freezes) and then put it all in a ziploc bag. Great for casseroles, stroganoff and sloppy joes!
    In my community we occasionally get together and make freezer meals in bulk to save on time and money – and you get a fun night of socializing!

  8. I agree that prepping ahead is a great way to go. I’ve done it for years. I love that I can buy in bulk, prep, freeze, or store as needed. I’ve done the normal pre-made snack bags for school lunches (cereals, pretzels, nuts, seeds – big mix and bag into serving size – store in large plastic container- then it’s just grab and go), peeled and cut vegetables for easy reach for healthy snacks, etc. One of my favorite tools has become the slow cooker, especially with so many online sites for recipes. I also precook almost all my hamburger. I brown it, drain off fat and then freeze, without any additional seasoning, in 1 to 2 lb bags or container for freezing. Then I can use for tacos, shepard’s pie, american chop suey, soups, etc. It thaws in no time.
    I also prep my lettuce, but have found a cloth bag made from old towels keeps the lettuce even longer. I sewed up 3 sides and just fold over the open top. I’ve got a couple of these so I can always have a clean one on hand. We like to reuse, reduce and recycle around here.

  9. I like to prep taco meat ahead of time and freeze portions for later use. Another freezer friendly do-ahead is lasagne. When I have one of these on hand I can have company over and not worry (just as long as I have time for it to thaw, of course.) Muffins are another staple in my freezer. They make nice additions to any breakfast buffet or a quick grab and go breakfast for those busy days! Bran muffins freeze well and taste great!

  10. Great ideas. We tend to keep a few freezer meals on hand as well for those really busy days. Soups, stuffed shells, and many other meals freeze well. They are healthier for you then store bought frozen dinners and cheaper as well. When we realize we are getting low, my wife and I will just spend several hours cooking on Saturday, or she will simply make doubles as she prepares meals throughout the week. We will have to look into this early meat prep as well. Thanks!!

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