Meal Prep Hacks to Save Time! They also save you STRESS! And make life a lot easier.
There are many ways to save time, money, and stress in your meal-prepping journey. In fact, most people get into meal prepping for that very reason. The importance of saving time while meal prepping is that you can have your meals ready faster, giving you the time to do other things you'd perhaps rather be doing, other than cooking for the week. These 15 meal prep hacks will save you time in the kitchen so you can spend more time enjoying your meals (and doing other things!) with your loved ones!
Cook Rice Ahead
Rice usually takes around 15 to 20 minutes to cook, and can keep warm for much longer. Whether cooking rice on a stovetop or in a particular cooker, e.g. rice cooker or Instant Pot, having it prepared prior to the completion of the main dish is a time saver. In American cooking, rice is quite often a low priority since it is not as commonly eaten as in many other parts of the world, so it is forgotten until the main dish is almost finished cooking. In addition to cooking rice ahead, cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days for additional meals. What is not eaten in those 3-5 days, can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months for additional time savings later.
So many dishes call for chopped onions that companies started selling pre-chopped onions in the freezer section of grocery stores. You can do this at home for a fraction of the cost while ensuring quality freshness. If you are going to be chopping onions for a dish, buy the onions in bulk to save money, and go ahead and chop extra for keeping in your freezer. If you have a chopping gadget or machine in your kitchen for chopping vegetables, fruits, and onions, it can save even more time.
If you are also chopping vegetables such as carrots, green beans, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, or potatoes, you can always make extra and store them in your freezer for up to 6 months. It’s always beneficial to have vegetables already chopped and ready to cook, and it saves you all of the time chopping them later.
Of course, you can opt for the frozen variety from the grocery store, but if you're buying veggies in season and chopping and freezing them, you'll save both time and money.
You may have noticed throughout our website and our posts, we mention this magical pressure cooker over and over. There are good reasons for this. An instant pot can replace 6 or more of your kitchen gadgets in one easy-to-use device. Your instant pot can be a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, saute pan, steamer, and more. This can help make space by eliminating the slow cooker, yogurt maker, rice maker, and pressure cooker since it is all in one convenient device. They are low-maintenance, quick and easy to clean, and a huge time saver for cooking and cleaning.
Read More: 20 Instant Pot Meal Prep Recipes
Having proper containers for your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry is extremely important for your meal-prepping needs. Some people prefer glass over plastic, whichever you decide to use be sure they are safe for the freezer, microwave, and dishwasher. It is also a good idea to make sure they are BPA-free plastics and lead-free glass, and either choice has an airtight lid.
Read More: Best Meal Prep Containers
Sometimes we are in a rush and cannot wait for a whole chicken to be cooked. In cases like this, you can go with a store-bought rotisserie chicken for $10 or less. This will help you save some time when it is necessary. (It also gives you more than one meal!) Another shortcut idea involves using frozen pizza dough you can thaw for making things like bread, pizza, calzones, garlic bread, and so forth. Buying something prepared is definitely a meal prep hack to save time, even if it's just one component of a dish.
Making labels does not have to be expensive. You can use masking tape or freezer tape, and a Sharpie, instead of buying specially made labels. If you are feeling extra fancy, you can buy them. Labels are a huge help because they take the guesswork out of what's in your freezer. Indicate what the contents are, the date you froze it, and the amount, if relevant. You can even use the permanent marker on your packaged foods by dating when they are opened to keep an eye out for expired things such as spices, rice, sauces, dressing, etc. When you are able to track the expiration dates of your food, you save yourself time, money, and stress.
Plan your meals for the week so you can best prepare for them. You may realize you do not have everything you need for the dishes you want and will have to strategize or go to the grocery store. By preparing ahead of time you save yourself time, money, and frustration later. You can simply use your phone’s calendar, Google Calendar, or write down your meal-prepped meals on paper or a physical calendar.
One-Pan or Sheet Meals
Cooking an entire meal on one pan in the oven is a fantastic way to save time. You can put your chicken, beef, or pork in the same pan as your chopped vegetables and put it in the oven to cook together. This makes cleaning easier, which also saves time. We have a ton of one-pan, or sheet, meals available for you and your family to enjoy!
Read More: 23 Sheet Pan Meals for 2023
Freezer bags are a staple to any good meal prep regimen. They are conveniently foldable, compact, and airtight. All of these qualities keep food fresh and safe from freezer burn. You can store sauces, chopped raw vegetables, uncooked meats, nuts, spices, and more in freezer bags. These are great time savers. They also save space, because you can stack them vertically or pile them horizontally in your freezer.
Mason jars are super handy when it comes to storing food for long or short periods of time. You can learn to can food, or you can use them for meal storage throughout the week. Overnight oats, salads, and ready-to-blend smoothies are great ideas for glass jars. They're awesome for soup, too.
Knowing how much food you need to make ahead of time will help you save time and money later. This will also help you make the right size portions for each meal. It’s totally normal to make something super delicious that you feel the urge to eat a couple of portions at once, and sometimes that may be okay, but overall if you want to save time and money (and your waistline) it is better to be strict with your portions and plan ahead. If you know your homemade lasagna is your family’s favorite, and seconds are a part of the territory, plan ahead by making enough to last those few meals for the week.
With an air fryer, you can “fry” foods much faster than putting them in the oven. You can also warm dishes up, and cook new dishes in the air fryer with amazing speed. They are low-maintenance and easy to clean. They save tons of time heating up fries, tater tots, potatoes, and other vegetables. We love air fryers and if you don't have one, here's a guide to air fryers that might be helpful!
Get a good peeler that makes peeling and thin slices easier to make than just cutting with a knife. There are different types of peelers on the market, including horizontal blades and vertical blades. Be sure to get the one that best suits your needs. Peelers are a great way to save time and energy. If you have a compost pile, you can save the discarded pieces for your garden’s compost.
Having a sharp knife can help with meal prepping by cutting things faster, more easily, and safely. Most knife accidents happen with dull knives as opposed to sharp ones. This feels counterintuitive, but it's true because a dull knife requires more force, which increases the risk of slipping. Besides, every kitchen needs a good knife, but you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars for a good one. Get a knife that is sharp, and keep a sharpener (sometimes called a steel) around to maintain its edge. Be sure it is stainless steel, the blade goes down to the bottom of the hilt, and is a good size for your hand; a lot of the selection process is based on feel.