Coming up with meal ideas each evening is a pain and it can also lead to the temptation to just order in some fast food rather than eating what you have in the pantry and fridge. This is fun every once in a while, but can get really frustrating if it starts to happen too often. (It does for me). So over the last 6 months to a year, I’ve been trialing preparing as much of our meals as possible on one afternoon a week (or month depending on the items) and it’s making the evening rush so much less stressful. I thought I’d share some tips that have worked for our home.
Meal plan first.
Before doing any groceries or starting anything new, it’s a great idea to start with a meal plan. It could be for the week or the month, depending on what works for you. There are only two people in this home, so it works for me to think about meal planning (on a basic level) for the month. Then we can bulk buy meats and poultry for the freezer and I can do a big cook up of my favourite bolognese style sauce which will also go into the freezer.
Get the freezer and fridge ready.
If the fridge and freezer need a clean out, do this before starting down the bulk meals road, as it will make things easier when it comes time to put what you’ve prepared away. It might seem a little silly to do so much prep work before even going shopping, but it can save you from feeling annoyed later on.
Shop with a list.
Once you know what you need, you can buy meats and poultry in larger quantities than you might be used to. We get what works out to be a month’s worth (sometimes 5-6 weeks worth). This will be dependent on the size of your family and how many different meals you like to rotate through your list. We keep things pretty basic, which works well for us.
If you’re making up freezable recipes like meat sauces or savoury muffins or whatever your favourite freezable meals are, don’t forget to also buy any other ingredients you might need for making them up.
Give yourself plenty of time to get the preparation done. It can seem like a waste to spend an afternoon focused on just the week or month’s meals, but it makes things quicker later on. Pop on some tunes if you like and work away at it. Making the bolognese style sauce never feels that fun to me, but I am always glad in the following weeks to be able to quickly reheat it and serve it on pasta or rice.
Freeze in serving sizes.
The biggest game changer for not wasting food and for taking the stress out of evening cooking for me has been freezing the meats, poultry, and the reheatable meals in the serving size we need. It’s so obvious, but cooking for so few can mean easy waste. Now we divide the meat and poultry before freezing (marking it with the name and date frozen) and we get 4 – 5 serves of each type based on the siz we buy. Because there are two people here, each “serving” is for 2. If you have more people, you might like to make your serving sizes to fit your ideal number.
Fresh produce – prepare what you can.
Once all the freezable stuff is away. Then you can focus on the fresh produce that can be prepared for the week. This can’t really be done for the month (or more) like freezable things, but with some fresh veggies and things, you can get them ready at the start of the week so they can just be pulled out of the fridge and placed on plates ready to eat. My favourite example of this is capsicum (bell peppers). I cut them into thin slices at the start of the week and pop a few slices on the dinner plates most nights. I even have carrots ready to peel of an evening too.
Find what works for you.
The biggest thing about doing this is to find what works for you. I feel quite tired come dinner time and I prefer things to be on the plate as quickly as possible. If you really love being in the kitchen and doing the preparation each night, this might not be your thing. I found that it has made cooking more enjoyable for me and has made getting healthy meals on the table much easier. And I’m really loving that!
Do you prepare your meals in advance? Or do you prefer to work it out day to day?