Time to switch panic buying loo roll for proactive food prep folks!!
I actually hated myself a little bit pre-lockdown for bulk buying toilet roll!! BUT honestly – the first pack was mine, the second was for a friend (because loo roll had become like gold dust where we live and we agreed that whoever saw it first bought it!) and the third was because it was a 3 for 2 offer. Oh….but the walk of shame out of the shop that day!!!!!
I digress – my point is – people were stocking up (understandably)…..but were they stocking up on the right things? I was seeing empty meat aisles, don’t get me going on the loo roll thing…..but then fully stocked aisles of fruit and veg. That has now changed in most places as we settle into our new norm but it did get me thinking and got me wanting to encourage everyone to head back out, buy the fresh produce and cook yourselves up some delicious and HEALTHY ready meals to fill your freezers rather than sausages and fish fingers. If I’m not asking too much then instead of heading to the supermarkets – please head to a small local supplier and support them through this difficult time. Not only will it make their day – but you’re more likely to get a bigger nutrient hit from local produce….and that is exactly what we all need to help keep well right now.
So – what to do with all those veggies once you get home? Batch cook!!
Successful batch cooking does take a little prep, and you may well have your full family at home with you at the moment, but it’s well worth the up front planning to cut down on the work later. Here is a blog I wrote a few months ago for another project but it is relevant now. I acknowledge that some of you may find buying ingredients challenging at the moment – but shop around and be prepared to get in the car and go and find some smaller suppliers – they’ll be very grateful!!
Without further ado – here are my 5 steps to 1 weeks meal planning.
1. Start planning. Highlight the priority meals for your food prep time – set aside 1-2 hours for actual chopping / cooking etc and think about which meals you’ll prep in that time slot. For me, this is generally a dinner (with a lunchtime soup, some kind of ‘stick on everything’ sauce or a freezable healthy snack option like flapjack or power balls squeezed in). Figure out where you need to dedicate your time to set your week up for success, then plan around that. Get a couple of quick recipes together – if you’re new to this it’s going to take a bit longer at first but start creating a recipe bank of family favourites and it’ll soon be really easy to pick a couple out for the week ahead. We love @mummycooks and @cookingforbusymums for easy family friendly recipes. We have also just launched a free Simple Suppers eBook with some delicious batch cooking friendly recipes in there. Simple . Slow cookers are a busy persons best friend so consider investing if you don’t have one already!
2. Put a basic meal plan together for the week (we have a blackboard at home for this) – include breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Variety is great but be realistic & keep it simple. To make things easier you can repeat breakfasts (maybe muesli 3 days and avocado toast the others), have the same soup 2-3 times for lunch and have some dinners in your plan that can be used as leftovers for lunch the next day. If you eat meat then consider choosing 1 type that will do for a couple of meals, choose 1-2 fish days and try to go plant-based for the others – its often quicker, cheaper and healthier! Your plan should only include a couple of meals that will need more involved prep e.g. one soup and 1 main meal as discussed above. The idea is that you start cooking in bulk from this point forward so you will soon have a freezer full of ready meals to whip out and reheat!
3. Write your shopping list – include all the ingredients for your week’s meals but also make sure you have plenty of basics in the fridge and cupboard to put together your instant dishes e.g. good quality smoothies, tins of tuna/salmon, frozen veg, eggs, pasta, tins of beans, pesto, humous, soy sauce etc. Ensure you include jars, freezer bags and a multitude of storage containers on your shopping list if you don’t own them already! You’ll need them ! Another must? – double up (at least!) on the quantities of ingredients required in the recipes for your priority meals so you can store excess in the freezer… for the weeks this is all ABSOLUTELY not happening!!!
4. Hit the shops. Have your list organised into logical sections e.g. fruits / veg together, tinned goods together etc so you’re not zigzagging back and forth in a crazy busy supermarket
5. Food prep power hour!!! What does this entail? – a lot of chopping! There is a misconception that food prep means having all meals completely ready. WRONG. If you only want to prep for an hour then you’re basically chopping and storing your ingredients for cooking on the day you’ll eat them. If you have longer then by all means finish the dish and feel super smug!!
Focus first on your priority meals. If you can knock up something like a chilli or bolognese and a veggie soup in your hour then boom! If you can only manage the bolognese but can chop and store everything for the soup then you’ve still saved time during the week. Chop veg for easy meals such as stir fries and pasta salads and pop all the veg in individual airtight containers in the fridge. If your hob is big enough and you can rally some help from the family then aim to have a few other basics on the go e.g. boiled eggs for instant snacks / breakfasts and at least 1 grain such as rice or quinoa (for salads and sides) – then make more than you need and freeze in portion sizes in freezer bags for later weeks
Organise things so:
- You know what you’ll be eating
- You can see everything you need
- It is all ready to go
This really does save time and stress. It is a lot easier to whip up a weeknight stir fry if everything is already cut up, or throw a soup in a pan if the veg and herbs are ready for you.
Doable? We think so - but if you need more help then head to our totally free 'Stay Well This Winter' short course for more practical ideas and tips for keeping as well as you can as it gets colder.