by Jen L.
Reader Sara Beth asks:
How do you handle meals when you don't have much prep time? Do you do "freezer meals"? I find if I want to actually cook, we end up eating pretty late because of [my son's] schedule.
Great question! Being busy often gets in the way of cooking, as we all know. I have certainly changed my planned menu on a whim due to lack of prep time on nights I've had to work late. My family is not that into freezer meals, mainly because my husband SWEARS that everything I cook and freeze tastes freezer-burned. (It doesn't.) He also dislikes most things cooked in a crockpot because he says they get soggy. (They don't.) Here are a few tricks I use to cut down on prep time and still manage to put tasty meals on the table.
*PREP IN THE MORNING. No one wants to get up earlier than they have to, but I find that getting up just 10 or 15 minutes early allows me the time to prep a lot of ingredients, then toss them into the fridge. A lot of mornings, I'll mix up a meatloaf (in the Kitchenaid mixer!) while the coffee brews, then put it into the pan, cover it with foil and leave it in the fridge until time to cook dinner that evening. I also chop veggies and measure out dry ingredients, then place them in ziplock bags, and assemble casseroles before I leave for work. This way, all you have left to do in the evening is the cooking part.
*DELEGATE. Mr. "I don't like freezer or crock pot meals" often gets the special job of chopping, mixing and other prep jobs. In his defense, he's an awesome cook himself and actually makes about 50% of our meals. But the not liking things from a crock pot really wears me out.
*PICK A PREP DAY. I have Mondays off, so I sometimes pre-prep for a few of the week's meals on that day. I typically cook 2 big meals on Mondays, something for that night's dinner, plus something big like lasagna that I can divide up and pack for lunches throughout the week. While I'm already in prep-mode, I chop a couple of onions and peppers, then store them in airtight containers to use throughout the week. I also make sauces, fry bacon, brown ground turkey or beef, and bake some chicken breasts. All these things can be used as meal starters during the week.
Anyone have any good tips to help minimize prep time?