I will be the first to admit that I HATE cooking. It brings me no joy and I do it only because I value the benefits of it (having healthy, prepared food to keep me on track) so much. Because of this, I've worked at getting prep time down and making it as enjoyable as possible.
As I typed this, I had lentils, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash all cooking and sweet potatoes and quinoa in the queue. And I still had time to eat breakfast and type up this post!
OK, so here are my best tips...
Start with the longest cooking foods
This tip has two purposes. (1) Starting with the longest cooking food helps you time things so you get them all done around the same time and prep doesn't drag on and (2) It can be a great starting point if you're lacking motivation.
If you just don't feel like cooking, start with just one simple, long cooking item. I started today with prepping my spaghetti squash and putting it in the oven since it bakes for an hour. Once that's done, I can't help but think, well I might as well get some of the other foods going.
Use a Trash Bowl
You've probably seen them do this on cooking shows, and there's good reason for it! Having a bowl for all the odds and ends and bits of trash you create while cooking helps you keep the flow of cooking.
I was skeptical at first, but then I tried it and it's amazing how much easier it is to just stick those ends of onions or potatoes in a bowl rather than opening the cabinet and putting them in the trash. Try it, then tell me you aren't a believer.
Complete one task at a time
I had this habit of taking care of one piece of food at a time and realized it was totally ruining my flow. For example, I would take a sweet potato, remove the sticker, wash the skin, cut it up, put it in the bowl, then grab the next potato.
It might seems silly, but doing all of one step at a time can be a huge minutes saver. So remove ALL of the stickers, then wash ALL of that one veggies, then chop them all at once. It allows your body to create some efficiency around movements instead of constantly switching what its doing.
Cook Now, Spice Later
I'm not much for recipes, so I don't usually follow anything when I meal prep. If you're not following a recipe, I recommend spicing/seasoning food later.
Adding seasoning can eat up time in the prep phase and you run the risk of flavoring something in a way you don't like and getting stuck with it for a whole week. I prefer to cook things plainly and then pick what seasonings I want each morning when I pack my food.
Keep Foods Separate Until the Morning Of
Keeping foods separate from each other helps them stay fresher, longer. So prepare all the pieces you need and then just throw them together in the morning before heading to work or class.
This also gives you some freedom to adjust what combines with what based on your mood and if you know you'll be eating a meal out and want to account for the types of foods you'll be eating at the restaurant to stay on your meal plan.
Find the Time that Works best for you
Sunday nights were meal prep nights for a LONG time in my house. And then I realized that I would kind of half-ass it too often. I'm really a morning person and don't like trying to do anything productive in the evenings and it was so easy to just ignore it.
Now I meal prep on Sunday mornings. As soon as I get up I get the oven and stove going. It gives me a chance to start off the day productive, have prepped food for Sunday, and Sushi (that's my cat) doesn't bother me because he's usually lounging in the bed for a few more hours.
If you're going to have to do something that isn't super fun, you might as well put a little fun in it! Blast your favorite tunes, dance around, sing at the top of your lungs! All that extra movement is good for you, so it's a double bonus :-)
Today I'm listening to Savage Garden... and it's magical.
Got other quick meal prep tricks? I'd love to hear them! Put them in the comments so I can include them in a "Part 2" post!
lover of fitness, sweets, veggies, adventure, travel, and feeling confident.
If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done. - Thomas Jefferson