We've all been there: Staring inside the fridge, trying to figure out what to make for ________________ (fill in the blank).
Before you find yourself in a meal rut, check out some of these tips and tricks to help you get your meals on the table fast!
1. "Prepped Veggies" Basket
I LOVE this tip! Store prepped veggies in zip-tight baggs and place them all in one container in the fridge. This tip will cut down on so much chopping time before a meal. When you're ready to cook, just throw in prepped veggies into the pot.
You can prep veggies for salads, morning omelets, lunchbox sides, and soup starters (like a mix of onions, carrots and celery). This week I've prepped some asparagus, mushrooms, baby bell peppers, cabbage, shredded carrots, and celery. Yum!
2. Keep an extra pair of dish gloves for meat/food prep
Wearing gloves while working with meat keeps you from constantly washing and re-washing your hands. Don't forget to label them with a Sharpie so you don't mix them up with your washing gloves.
3. Have ready-made salsas/sauces on hand
Having store-bought sauces at the ready makes marinating meats a snap, and adds a layer of flavor to vegetable dishes too. These are my faves which are mostly from Trader Joe's, arguably the best place to find yummy sauces and condiments.
4. Add one to two pre-made proteins to your grocery list
Having a couple of prepared proteins means you have some options for delicous lunches and dinners. I usually buy a rotisserie chicken and a package of frozen burgers such as salmon, chicken, black bean, or veggie. Rotisserie chicken is perfect for chicken salad and ready-made burgers are awesome for school/work sandwiches.
5. Liquid egg whites
Liquid egg whites make breakfast SO MUCH faster. They're healthy, quick and taste delicious in an omelet.
6. Have a variety of breads
You'd be surprised how much more delicous meals can be when piled next to (or on top of) a piece of crusty bread. There are so many options of flavors, textures and shapes at the grocery store. Pick up a few that you like and use them for sandwiches, mini pizzas, croutons, breading... the list is endless!
7. Canned meats are super versatile
Canned tuna, salmon, and chicken are good staples to have in your pantry, and you can use them for lunch and dinner.
For quick and yummy sandwiches, just add mayo, mustard and relish. Or make delicious tuna, salmon or chicken cakes for dinner by mixing your canned meat with breadcrumbs, an egg and seasonings, then shape into a patty and lightly fry in a skillet. So scrumptious!
8. Quick cooking grains make for easy sides
Quick cooking grains like 10-minute brown rice, couscous, or quinoa are not only delicious on their own, they can also be topped with tender meats and veggies, or added to fresh salads.
Have some left over? Just mix it into ground chicken, beef, turkey or lamb for moist and tender meatloaf and meatballs. And they are an equally delicious vegetarian option when stuffed into peppers or zucchini!
9. Organic chicken bouillon concentrate
I love this stuff because it's super yummy and super versatile. It not only makes a great base for soups, but you can also cook it into grains like rice, couscous and quinoa for a layer of flavor, into Indian salans for more depth, in all Arabic vegetable dishes that call for chicken stock, or keep it really simple and saute it straight into fresh veggies such as spinach, kale or asparagus. Find it at Costco and Smart & Final stores.
10. Cook enough for 2-3 days
We love leftovers in my house. That being said, eating the same thing for three days straight can get really boring. So here's what I do: I make enough food for a few days but I don't serve it all the same time and I rework dishes (like meat) so they don't get boring.
For example, I'll cook 2 vegetable dishes, 1 main protein and 1 baked side and serve them interchangeably on different days. If you have some variety, you can even pack some of your dinner for lunch for work!
11. Don't stick to a daily menu
Instead, have a guideline for meals based on what your family normally eats and what you normally make. Sometimes it's fun to try out new recipes and meal ideas but trying something new everyday can easily become overwhelming. Simple and delicious trumps complicated or time-consuming any day.
12. Have a "stand-by" dinner
When my family and I come home from a long trip away, our fridge stands empty and little tummies stand growling. For emergency situations like these and super busy days, it can be very helpful to have an easy stand-by dinner that doesn't require prep work. This may sound strange, but in our house eggs with naan is our stand-by meal. It's easy and fast, and fills the "warm and delicous" requirement after a long, long day.
13. Bake whenever possible!
Baking is so much simpler than cooking, especially where proteins and vegetables are concerned. It doesn't require you to stand guard at the stove, it's healthier for you, and there's a slight possibility you might get to sit down for a breather (or, *gasp!* a cup of tea).
14. When in doubt, stick it in the slow-cooker
If you have something that takes longer to cook like whole chicken or a side of beef, just pop it in the slow-cooker in the morning along with a little liquid and some seasonings and you'll have dinner by... dinner time.
15. Mark your leftovers!
I have a labeling problem, I know. But when it comes to labeling leftovers, I stand firm. Looking through several containers to find what you want is a pain, and most people forget they even have them. Putting a label on your containers will help you finish up leftovers before they go bad, and as a bonus, you can show off your mad labeling skills. *Wink, wink*
So there you have it - quick tips to help get your meals on the table in a flash.
Until next time... Happy eating!