Updated: Feb 1
We all know that eating home cooked food is better for us than eating packaged foods. Packaged foods tend to be highly processed, which means many of the nutrients from the original food source have been lost. They are also often laden with sugar and added chemicals, both of which, if consumed over time, are likely to do significant damage to our bodies. When we cook at home, we are in control - we can pack the dish full of fresh vegetables and we wouldn’t dream of adding sugar to bread or pasta sauces.
But cooking from scratch every day is hard right?
Modern life is busy. Most of us are either working long hours, commuting for miles each day, trying to juggle work with parenting, or all of the above! I know I found it really hard when I was working a stressful corporate job and commuting for 2 hours each day. I regularly left the house at 7am and I wasn’t home until 8pm. There were days when I’d eat badly because I felt like I had no time for anything better.
Despite this lifestyle, I’ve always known how important good nutrition is to the way I feel – it effects my energy levels, how well I sleep, how anxious I am, and how likely I am to get an infection. This is true for everyone of course, but it’s not always easy to hear these cries from your body, especially if you are used to feeling these symptoms.
A few years ago I started to look at how I could make home cooking easier, in order to avoid making poor food choices because of time constraint.
The answer turned out to be pretty simple: it’s all in the prep.
So, in this blog I am sharing with you my top tips on meal preparation, so that you too, can find a way to keep home cooking a priority within your schedule.
1. Plan your meals
Sit down for half an hour at the same time each week to write your weekly schedule.
Make sure you include all three meals in the day and snacks – it’s better to be prepared for snacking, that way you can avoid the rubbish.
If you know you’ll be out for lunches or you want a night off cooking, schedule it in. We all need a take-away once in a while, but when we know which day it is, we know how much to buy outside of it and we keep it as a day to look forward to.
Use recipe books and websites to give you inspiration to keep meals interesting.
Stick to your meal list when you shop.
2. Make your kitchen inviting – clear it out!
There’s nothing less inviting than opening the fridge and seeing mouldy vegetables forgotten about or gone-off leftovers. Clear out your fridge – get rid of everything that is past it’s best by date and clean it.
Create zones in your fridge for different produce e.g. dairy, meat, vegetables. This will help you stay on top of what is there and avoid unnecessary additional shopping.
Take vegetables out of the plastic they are packaged in, chop them up and put them in bowls so they are ready for your next meal.
Take herbs out of their plastic wrappers and put them in a glass of water by the window – this will keep them fresh for longer.
Buy some glass jars to store your dried goods in and label them for easy access.
3. Use your freezer
Buy some containers for storing leftovers in the freezer. Label them up for when they need to be eaten by.
Try not to let fresh herbs, vegetables or loaves of bread go off if you can’t eat them that week, chop them up, put them in a bag and freeze them for use later.
Keep frozen chopped up bananas and berries – they are brilliant for smoothies, porridge and for making healthy last-minute desserts.
4. Cook once, eat (at least) twice
Soups, stews and curries keep particularly well and actually develop flavour over time – make sure you have at least a couple of these in your weekly schedule.
You don’t have to eat the same thing twice in a week! Store the leftovers in the freezer for the following week.
Plan to have a sauce two or three times in a week in different ways - e.g. make enough pesto for spreading over salmon or chicken, for stirring through pasta, or through roasted veggies.
Make big batches of granola and snacks and store them in airtight jars, the fridge or freezer. Make enough to last a couple of weeks.
5. Schedule in an hour or two for food prep each week
Use this time to chop vegetables and make some of the big batch items like granola and soups.
Prepare breakfasts – overnight chia puddings or oats take literally 5 minutes to make and you will have a nutritious breakfast ready to go in the morning.
Prepare grains – make up a few portions of rice, quinoa or couscous that you can have alongside lunches or dinners throughout the week.
Enlist helpers! I get my husband to do the chopping while I’m cooking, but this can also be a fun thing to get kids involved in.