5 Practical Food Prep Tips To Save Time In The Kitchen

Efficient food prep really is an art, yet it’s a simple one. So why does cooking sometimes sound so overwhelming and time-consuming?

By Anna Hugoboom4 min read

In our busy lives it's so easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of prepping lunch for the next day or making dinner that night. But cooking is so much healthier and definitely much cheaper than ordering in or grabbing something to go. Plus, we all know that the golden way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so brushing up on your culinary skills will get you brownie points with your guy. 

If you’re the type to just skip breakfast and grab a coffee and go, only to crash after work and raid the fridge in a hunger fever, it doesn’t have to be like that! You need good food to fuel your brain, and you don’t need to stress about not having enough healthy food. (And by the way, you need to eat a healthy breakfast with protein if you want stable energy and drive during the day, plus it balances your hormones and blood sugar so you don’t have cravings later on.) With a bit of organized thought and a tad bit of meal prep, your workday breakfasts and lunches can be easy, nutritious, and efficient!

Culinary Tools

First of all, simplify! Fewer things in the cupboards means fewer things to clean up and fewer dishes to wash. Unless you do a ton of entertaining and host gatherings often, go through your shelves and minimize the contents. Only keep dishes you like and need. If you’ve been amassing a mug collection, pick a few favorite mugs and donate the rest. You only need one, maybe two, sets of measuring cups and spoons. Keep no more than two of each basic cooking utensil: spatula, big spoon, ladle, whisk, baking bowl, etc. 

Fewer things in the cupboards mean fewer things to clean up and fewer dishes to wash.

Invest in some Tupperware containers! Opt for glass, since glass is healthier than plastic and doesn’t have xenoestrogens that could leak into your food, but if you do prefer plastic containers, make sure they’re BPA-free. These are handy for food storage and for taking lunch to work. Plus, if you get nice glass ones, they can also double as serving bowls.

Meal Plan

Sit down once a week and make a meal plan of the different recipes you’ll make that week. It’s also a good idea to write a grocery list of go-to’s that you can keep on hand, like healthy snack options. To keep track of what you run out of during the week, either keep a notepad in your kitchen, maybe on your fridge, or keep a grocery shopping list on your phone. Now you have a list for when you go to the store next.

Set Saturday aside to cook some food for the following work week, or use Sunday evening to assemble your lunches in glass containers. Wash and cut your veggies and store them in containers. If you like smoothies for breakfast, then you can cut, bag, and freeze your fruit in portion-size Ziploc bags to pour straight into the blender later. You can use rice or quinoa to make bowls, tortillas (chickpea or quinoa tortillas have more protein than regular flour) to make wraps, and lettuce greens to mix into salads. Soak some chia seed pudding or overnight oats in glass jars with their flavor trimmings, set up a big crockpot dinner, boil a dozen eggs, sauté some steak strips, bake a sheet of roast veggies and salmon, roast a batch of sweet potatoes to use as meal bases – whatever you want! Arrange all this food in your containers for lunches.

Follow some relevant food pages on Pinterest or Instagram for healthy meal ideas. There are literally endless recipes for healthy meal ideas for every sensitivity under the sun. To start, maybe choose a couple of days of the week or weekend when you try out a new recipe and experiment with the leftovers, or you can try to cook three new recipes a week. Be warned, the photos will make you drool, so don’t let yourself get lost in that bottomless pit of beautiful food pictures (definitely been there and done that). Window cooking is what I like to call it.

The 28 app also provides shopping lists and meal ideas for your personal cycle phases, so you can get the foods that meet your current hormone needs. This cuts down your mental work big time!

Dressing Up Leftovers

This is actually super easy and can be a practical outlet for your creativity. With your food prep, buy in bulk and start cooking large amounts for leftovers. Work on cooking individual foods that you can mix together and with other foods later (Chipotle-style). 

If you eat boiled eggs, then cook up half a dozen and keep what you don’t immediately eat in the fridge to use for the following days. You could mix with avocado for a healthy egg salad, or slice on top of greens for a cobb salad, add to your sandwich, or simply munch one for a quick and easy protein snack. The same concept goes with foods like rice, roasted potatoes, steak or poultry, and baked sweet potatoes. Add these leftovers to some prepared veggies to mix into a stir-fry or a salad for an easy lunch. 

Or if you have a leftover mixture of stir-fry or roasted veggies and protein, try adding it scrambled eggs for a quick and nutritious breakfast, wrap it into a tortilla for a breakfast burrito or protein wrap for lunch, or even toss them into a casserole. Utilize Pinterest if you run out of your own ideas – an endless supply of options is at your disposal! 

Chop Chef Mindset

Think about how to make a meal of what you have on hand at home. Pretend you’re in a Chopped Chef cooking contest, and you have to use what you’re given (from your pantry). Look in your fridge and pick out a few things that can make a meal: your protein, your healthy carb, and your veggie/fruit. 

Start improvising. Swap out a protein for a different one, same with your veggies/carb, and get creative with add-ins, colors, and flavors. You don’t have to finish with a gourmet dish decorated with garnish (though a little spice sprinkle or parsley never hurts), but if you always keep a few staples on hand, you’ll never be at a loss for ideas. 

This mindset can also apply when shopping. When you’re at the grocery store, make the most of those BOGOs (for what you need – don’t fall for the sales trap of buying something just “because it’s on sale”). Keep an eye out for healthy sale products that you can use, but also have a list of staple foods to restock your kitchen. Below is a list of some healthy, hormone-balancing food staples all women should keep on hand. Some ingredients may vary depending on your blood type diet, current cycle phase, and any allergies/sensitivities.

  • Eggs, fish/salmon, ground turkey, chicken, steak, ground beef

  • Sweet potatoes, golden potatoes, rice, quinoa 

  • Squash, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, onions, garlic, berries, apples, grapes

The Pro’s Trick

No one can cook well or, honestly, even think straight in a dirty kitchen. Managing kitchen cleanliness is the key to efficiency and mental focus so cooking doesn’t becoming overwhelming. The trick? Clean as you go! Simply clean and put something away right after you use it (this applies to general tidiness). Set dirty dishes in the dishwasher or hand wash them right after you finish eating instead of leaving them out to deal with later. Wash the pot or pan right after cooking to prevent food remnants from sticking to the surface. Put an ingredient back in the fridge after adding it to your food, or put all the ingredients away immediately after putting your recipe in to bake. A well-trained chef always has a white apron and tidy prep area, and good home cooks clean as they go so they can make the magic without a train wreck of mess behind it.

Good cooks clean as they go so they can make the magic without a train wreck of mess behind it.

Consider the cleanup as part of the cooking process. Famous chef and cooking teacher Julia Child talked about resourceful ways to enforce the clean-as-you-go rule in Cooking with Master Chefs. Why bother with cleanup when you can prevent it from happening in the first place? It’s actually very doable once you mindfully practice for a few days to a week. Then you’ll be in the habit, and you won’t even think about cleanup because you'll do it automatically. You actually lose time out of your day by leaving things out after you use them, including dirty dishes, because things pile up and dishes get hard and stuck (there’s only so much the dishwasher can scrape off). Be efficient by making it a priority to cook and clean as you go. 

Closing Thoughts

Organizing strategies in the kitchen can be simple – don’t overthink it or overcomplicate it. You’ll save on stress (as well as save money!) by cooking and prepping your meals at home. And by cleaning as you go, you'll magically have a tidy kitchen with no dirty dishes at the end of the day. Talk about a simple way to always feel put-together!

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