4 Essentials for Easier Food Prep and Cooking

“Fail to plan and you plan to fail.” This couldn’t be more true, especially when you are trying to reach specific nutrition goals. However, food prep can be intimidating for a lot of people, especially if you don’t like to cook or don’t know your way around a kitchen very well. Just like fitness and exercise, we shouldn’t overcomplicate food and nutrition. Keeping it simple is always the best method, especially when you are new to the game. I’ve done my fair share of food prep, and over time I’ve come to realize it’s a whole lot easier when I have certain things on hand.

1.  Sharp chef’s knife

Do yourself a solid and invest in a good knife. It doesn’t need to be the most expensive, but it should be durable and above all, sharp. A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife. Have you ever tried cutting a tomato with a dull knife? Watch your fingers! That baby will slip all over the place. In all seriousness, having a big, sharp knife on hand will make chopping and prepping so much easier, and actually pretty fun.img_0277-png

I use my chef’s knife for just about everything that requires cutting – chopping veggies of all kinds, potatoes and sweet potatoes, slicing cooked meat, halving & pitting avocados, the list goes on and on. If I had to get rid of every single tool in my kitchen except one, I would keep my chef’s knife.

2.  Keep a garbage bag/bowl on the counter

It’s possible this is my type A personality rearing its ugly head, but this is a non-negotiable for me when I’m in the kitchen. I always have a plastic grocery bag on the counter for waste. When I’m chopping onions, the outer layers go in the bag. Any foil or parchment that came off a baking dish goes in the bag. Avocado pits and skin, pepper pith and seeds, egg shells, literally anything that could go in the trash goes in the bag. img_0329

When I’m finished I tie the bag shut and throw it away. This keeps bad smells from coming out of my trashcan throughout the week, and also makes prepping quicker by not making so many trips to the trash can and carrying stuff across the kitchen (and dropping along the way).

3.  Season your food!

Keeping it simple doesn’t mean keeping it boring and bland. Salt and pepper are must-haves for all meals, in my opinion, but there are so many incredible herbs and spices out there that can make a good meal great. img_0287

When I’m looking to make something spicy, I go to cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (use sparingly at first to find your taste). If I’m looking for some bright flavors I turn to fresh herbs – I love dill with lemon to liven up chicken, fish, or even omelets.img_0036

Rosemary and thyme (dried or fresh) make great additions to potatoes and roasted vegetables.img_4491

Don’t forget about garlic! Unless you have an aversion to it, garlic can be a great addition to just about everything. Having a few staple herbs, spices, and seasonings on hand can really take your food to the next level and make you excited about eating it, even 3 days later.

4.  Storage containers

Having different sized containers on hand is important. There are a ton of Tupperware and glassware sets out there that you can buy for pretty cheap and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.img_0278-png

I find it’s good to have at least one really big container for soups and chili, and a few medium sized containers for meats, rice, and veggies. Small ones come in handy for things like leftover chopped veggies that can be added to another meal later on. I prefer glass to plastic, but either works well.

Weekly food prep

Now that you have some tips on making things easier for your food prep, let’s talk about some simple steps to actually prepping meals.

  1. Pick a day of the week that is least busy for you to do your shopping and prepping
  2. Create a list of meals you want to make
  3. Make a shopping list of everything you’ll need for said meals
  4. Chop/prepare all veggies that can be done ahead of time
  5. Maximize time in the oven by putting more than one dish in at a time (plan ahead for varying temperatures and timing)
  6. More perishable items should be prepped closer to your shopping time – if you have another day halfway through the week that you have time to prep more food, hold off on some of your prep for a few days
  7. Freeze anything that is going bad and you know you won’t eat (as long as it can keep well frozen)

Food prep doesn’t need to make you crazy! Plan ahead of time to know what you’ll be shopping for and what you’ll be making. Then use these strategies to help make it that much easier while you’re in the kitchen. Turn on some music, pour yourself a glass of wine (or water), and get cookin’! You’ll thank yourself later in the week when you have your healthy prepared meal waiting for you after a long day at work.

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