I’m not very organized with a lot of things, but over the last six months I’ve forced myself to make a weekly menu plan, stick to my grocery list (I’ve always made one, just never stuck to it), figure out what prep work is involved in the week’s food, and set aside time once or twice each week for food preparation. If I don’t do these things, I find that we not only spend more money on food and create more food waste, but we also don’t eat as healthfully.
I make no claims to having it “all figured out,” but having a few hours each week dedicated to kitchen prep has been such a blessing. Here are some things typically involved in some of my kitchen prep days:
– First, make sure all the ingredients are on hand and locate all necessary storage containers. This is important because it really sucks to go through all this effort just to find you don’t have a way to properly store everything. I use three-cup sized plastic storage bowls (yeah, plastic is bad, but I can’t afford anything else right now) for darn near everything, so I usually have to sweep the kitchen beforehand to locate bowls that are holding things that could really be kept in a smaller container. I never seem to have enough three-cup containers!
– Chop vegetables that won’t turn within three days. I have two prep days during the week, so I only need to do enough work on each one to last half the week. This usually involves chopping a couple onions, some celery, carrot, and bell pepper. I don’t prepare garlic way ahead of time because it loses too much potency. Also, when I buy celery, I dice the whole thing the first time I need some and store it in the freezer – I only ever use to sauté into a soup base or to add to a roast, so I don’t need the crunch. The vegetable scraps are saved for making vegetable stock or to add to a bone broth.
– Pull any items out of the freezer that I will need to use in the next three days. I have to make a conscious effort to do this, or else it will be late afternoon before I realize the chicken or whatever isn’t thawed. This is mainly because I prefer frozen items to thaw slowly in the refrigerator; meat that has been “quick-thawed” doesn’t taste right to me.
– Roast a whole chicken for dinner. Prepping a chicken (or leg of lamb, pork roast, etc.) to roast in the oven is quick work and ensures a hot meal will be ready when you’re worn out after all the kitchen prep you’re doing. It also guarantees you’ll have the raw materials for making a large batch of bone broth afterwards.
– Start soaking beans, seeds, etc. for cooking or sprouting. Sprouting is new for me – I only started doing this a month ago – but it’s so easy! I’ve sprouted chickpeas and lentils so far, and I’m going to try almonds or chia seeds next. But that’s another post…
– Portion out and season meat for the freezer. Sometimes I find really good deals on grass-fed ground beef, so I buy lots of it and separate it into ¾ pound portions or make hamburger patties. For the hamburgers, I season them appropriately, shape them, and place them all in a freezer storage bag separated by wax paper. Very convenient!
I’ve also been trying to establish a baking day – or at least add it into my general kitchen prep time. Right now I just bake whenever I have the whim or whenever we run out of bread. Last weekend I really had the baking bee in my bonnet, though, because I made two batches (that’s ten loaves, y’all) of freshly-milled wheat-spelt sandwich bread and a batch of banana muffins. It’s kind of hard to reconcile baking with the general kitchen prep, though, because this is how my kitchen looks after an intense baking session:
What do you do in the way of kitchen prep? I’d love to hear any suggestions!