We all agree that it’s much healthier and tastier to eat fresh produce and homemade meals from scratch. But in this fast-paced world, who has the time and energy?
Take it from the way restaurants are run: It’s all in the prep! These eight tips will help you save time, energy, and a lot of nutrients.
1. Pre-cut produce. Store the freshly cut produce in airtight glass containers. It will not spoil or oxidize as quickly, and it will help preserve the food’s nutrients. Other ideas: Clean, cut and bag salad greens once you come home from the grocery store.
2. Save your cooking water. For example, if you cook kale in water, use the same cooking water as a vegetable broth the next time you make rice. It can add intense flavor and valuable nutrients.
3. Freeze one-serving portions. Make stocks and sauces in bulk and freeze them in one-meal portions for later use. Frozen soups make excellent lunches and frozen sauces are helpful and delicious additions to quick dinner recipes.
4. Freeze tiny portions for flavor. Make stocks and sauces in bulk and freeze them in ice-cube trays. Toss a couple of cubes of frozen sauce or stock in various recipes for added flavor the next time you’re cooking vegetables, grains or meat.
5. Soak beans overnight. This can save you a lot of time over the stove and will also save you from the temptation and hazards of canned food. Or try your hand with a pressure cooker to save time.
6. Invest in a slow cooker. Slow cookers help you easily plan ahead and make large portions of stews, beans, cereals or grains for the entire week–and are also great for a large party.
7. Premix spice and herb blends. They not only enrich the flavor of a dish, they also improve its health benefits. Store in sealed glass jars for up to three months.
8. Get in the prep habit. In some cultures, making rice or beans every day is the norm–home cooks simply soak beans or grains every night, then toss in the slow cooker before work or the rice cooker an hour before eating. Another trick is to throw your squash or root veggies in the oven to roast an hour before eating–no need to even chop (except in half for squash); just wrap in foil and let the oven do the work while you take a break. It is all about timing. Two minutes of well-timed effort can save you two hours of active work once you form the habit.
All these tips can help you have healthy, freshly cooked meals even if you work late and come home tired and hungry–no need to nuke a prepackaged meal. You’ll also get to spend more time to enjoy savoring your cooking and those you dine with!