Cooking at home doesn’t always have to be a big ordeal, time consuming, or overwhelming. With a few simple systems in place, you can have an arsenal of options at your finger tips to create delicious and nutritious meals without much thought or hard work.
One easy way to simplify your weekly menu planning and meal prepping is to break down your meals into a system that consists of a variety of seasoning, protein, form and topping options.
- Diversify your spice rack: Invest in a variety of seasonings and spices. Common options include salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, and thyme.
- Create spice blends: Mix your favorite spices together to make versatile seasoning blends. For example, you can prepare a "Taco Seasoning" blend with chili powder, cumin, and paprika for Mexican-inspired dishes or a "Italian Herb" blend with oregano, basil, and garlic for Italian cuisine.
- Label and store: Ensure your spices are clearly labeled and stored in a cool, dark place to maintain their freshness and flavor.
- Plan variety: Incorporate a range of proteins into your meal prep to keep things interesting. Options include chicken, beef, pork, tofu, tempeh, fish, and legumes (beans and lentils).
- Cook in bulk: Prepare larger portions of protein, season them according to your meal plan, and store them in meal-sized containers. This can save time during the week.
- Mix up your cooking methods: Roast, grill, pan-fry, slow cook, or boil your proteins to add variety to your meals.
- Consider ground options: Ground meats or plant-based alternatives are versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes like stir-fries, chili, or meatballs.
Toppings and Add-ons:
- Fresh ingredients: Plan for fresh toppings and add-ons like chopped herbs, diced tomatoes, sliced avocado, or shredded cheese to add texture and flavor.
- Pre-cut vegetables: Keep pre-cut vegetables on hand for quick salads, stir-fries, or wraps.
- Homemade sauces and dressings: Make a few versatile sauces or dressings in advance and store them in small containers. Examples include a vinaigrette, tzatziki, or salsa.
- Plan your weekly menu: Determine your meals for the week ahead. For example, you might decide to make chicken stir-fry, beef tacos, and a vegetarian pasta dish.
- Batch cooking: Cook multiple servings of each protein and prepare base ingredients like rice, quinoa, or pasta.
- Assembly-style prep: Set up an assembly line to portion out proteins, forms, and toppings into separate containers.
- Use airtight containers: Invest in high-quality containers to keep your prepped meals fresh.
- Label containers: Clearly label containers with the dish name and date to ensure you use the oldest meals first.
- Prep a week in advance: Dedicate some time each week to plan, shop, and prepare your meals.
- Multitask: While proteins are cooking, chop vegetables, cook grains, and prepare your toppings.
By following this system, you can simplify your meal prep process and ensure you have a variety of delicious, well-seasoned, and balanced meals ready to enjoy throughout the week. It not only saves you time but also helps you maintain a healthier and more enjoyable diet.
(Chili Sesame Tofu and Cucumber Salad)
A summary of options for easy reference:
- Rice Bowl
- Pre-made Store Bought Sauces
- Fresh Herbs
- Pickled Veggies
- Fresh or Steamed Veggies
- Chili Oil
- Salad Dressing
(Find a list of some great seasoning combinations for marinating, grilling or baking below.)