By Kathy Lange
I have come to realize that not everyone enjoys meal prep as much as I do. For me it seems like a great idea and I love the planning, prepping and then seeing all my containers stacked in the refrigerator for the week ahead. It’s nice to go through the week just grabbing the containers that I need for the day and not worrying about “what’s for dinner”. That’s me. Obviously this is not how the typical American handles meal time.
The average American eats at a restaurant 18 times a month and meals at home are made up of almost 65% processed/ convenience food items. These statistics have really had me thinking this week. What would make it easier …maybe even a little fun for people to prepare more meals at home from scratch? Maybe having the right tools for meal prep would make it go a little faster and be more fun. Really if you don’t have the right prepping tools it is going to take a lot longer to prepare food and then it becomes a chore. So what makes it easier?
Let’s start with containers. Everyone has to find their own thing that works and there are a lot of options out there. Glass containers that have lids with gasket seals are your most expensive option. They also last an incredibly long time as long as you don’t microwave or abuse the lids. Glass containers are popular because they are easy to clean, they don’t stain and they are surprisingly sturdy. Rectangle containers also stack nicely in the refrigerator and in a small cooler bag. You can also choose to use mason jars for things like oatmeal. Plastic containers offer the same options as glass. They come in a wide variety of price ranges and lid types. If you don’t like your food to touch; you can choose divided containers a bit like frozen dinner trays. Invest in a few containers at a time while you figure out what works best for you.
A great way to pack these containers for the day (and resist the drive thru) is a Fitmark bag. You can get just the Fitmark Bag and put your own containers in (keeps food cold up to 3 hours) or get a Fitmark Bag that includes containers (keeps food cold up to 8 hours).
Now that you have a place to store your fantastic meals you can get to preparing food. A few things will make this go faster. The big thing for me is my food processor. Chopping onions is way faster when I toss them in there and less tearful. Any thing I want chopped goes through the processor and then into bowls with lids so I can use ingredients as needed. I do occasionally use a slicer/shredder attachment on my Kitchenaid, enough to make it worth owning. Baked sweet potatoes are good; but, so are sweet potato fries, hash brown patties and chips.
I use only two knives for pretty much everything. These are a really good quality the first one is a large chef’s knife that I use for chopping and the big stuff. The other is a paring knife that I use for vegetables and slicing. Several cutting mats make clean up easy. Mine are inexpensive ones that are different colors, red for meats, green for veggies and yellow for fruits and other items.
Nonstick pans make cleanup easier and let you enjoy more of your food. Eggs are just better when you can flip them out of the pan instead of scrape them. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to non stick surfaces. You don’t have to spend a lot to get some really decent quality pots and pans. Using a plastic spatula (don’t use anything that will scratch the surface) will help your pans last many years. A large baking sheet and a 9×12 pan will cover most of your oven needs. A large slow cooker is a good investment for cooking meats and rice. You can also cook potatoes or oatmeal in there. The great thing about the slow cooker is that it allows you to get some of your cooking done while you sleep, are at work or getting other food prepared. A set of measuring cups for dry goods, a liquid measuring cup and a digital food scale help keep your portions in check. The only time I use the microwave is to heat up meals.
That is it! That is really all you need to fly through meal prep. Foil, freezer bags and plastic wrap are nice to have on hand also. Browse the kitchen aisles at your local store or check out a kitchen supply store. You don’t need to get everything at once. When looking to get a more expensive appliance shop around and ask around. Someone may have one they never use and be willing to let you borrow theirs. Maybe work together with a friend. Get together once a week to prepare meals together. Share tools, supplies and the work. When you have a plan meal prepping can be cost and time effective.