Prepping your food will keep you and the family eating fresh, healthy, unprocessed foods. Why? Because healthy choices will be cleaned, chopped and ready for your grab and go meals. Whether you are dashing out of the house with your lunch boxes or preparing dinner, it is always convenient to have everything at the ready.
Various containers are needed, Ziploc bags (gallon and quart size) and plastic wrap will become your best friends. Make sure you have loads handy. Buy containers in many sizes and multiples of each. I have had very good luck with Snapware storage containers. They offer excellent shapes and sizes. They are portable for meals on the go and I have never had a problem with leakage. You can put them in the fridge, freezer, microwave and dishwasher. The “mods” collection is my favorite. They offer a box set with many different sizes.
Get a great set of sharp knives. I use my chefs knife and paring knife the most often. Great cutting tools will help to speed up preparation and will actually be safer to handle.
If you have a chance take a “knife skills”class at a local cooking school. There are so many techniques to learn. It helps loads to have nice visual presentation with your foods. Different slicing styles will help keep foods interesting. It makes you and the kids more likely to eat at home. I love when my daughter says “Mom, this looks like we are in a restaurant!”
Big Batch Method
I prep large batches of complex carbs, lean protein, fruits and veggies with very limited seasonings. They go into the fridge and can be portioned out, seasoned and combined with other elements at each meal. If you find you will not be using your big batch fast enough, portion it out, wrap each portion tight in plastic wrap, bag it and freeze it. It should last for roughly six months in the freezer. I always source organic ingredients when available. I prefer sustainable, clean, mindfully grown ingredients for our health and for the environment.
Fruits and Veggies
Having all of your vegetables and fruit washed, chopped and ready will simplify things and make creating meals so much quicker and easier. Buying fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables is ideal. When items are not available in your area you can opt for frozen goods. Often the frozen goods are prepped and all ready to use as they are cleaned and chopped, they can also remain in the freezer for long periods of time.
- Buy your items. Get them home and wash, dry and chop them as soon as you can. I prep mine whenever time allows because of the kids and work needing my attention. This is when pre school or a new DVD for the kids comes in handy! They need to be pre-occupied when you dice and chop with a big chefs knife.
- Once chopped bag them or put them in containers.
- When the veggies are prepped they are ready to be used in soups, chili, stews, sauteed, steamed or roasted.
- Fruits can be eaten alone as snacks. They can top yogurt parfaits, cottage cheese, cereal and steamy bowls of oatmeal. It can also be used in fruit salads and fruit based salsas.
We are a big oatmeal family. I make large batches of oats, rice, barley and other grains (3 cups dry at a time) so I can grab them at a moments notice. The big batch gets stored in the fridge. Then I add the flaxseed, syrup, berries, etc. per serving and just warm it all up in the microwave. Simple additions can be put into the grains for a basic flavor, but then you add other ingredients per meal. Lean proteins, veggies, fruits etc. can be added on a per meal basis.
Sometimes I portion out servings and put them in saran wrap and then a labeled Ziploc bag. Off to the freezer they go for future meals.
For instance in the big batch of oats I might add: vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon
To our rice: garlic salt, pepper, maybe some olive oil or butter. You can use so many different spices and herbs in most of the grains. You can also add chopped nuts when it is finished cooking.
Since most protein sources don’t last too long in the fridge try to buy what you think you will use in the short term. If you know something is nearing its expiration date you can also put it in the freezer for later use. If I freeze chicken or fish, I wash, trim fat, pre-cut and portion them out for future meals. In my house sometimes not everyone wants the tilapia or chicken, so it doesn’t make sense to thaw out a pound. Sometimes an individual 3 or 4 ounce serving would be more appropriate.
I like to cook up meat and chicken in big batches independent from other ingredients (like the grains above.) This way I can add various sides to them and have a full meal. Your lean protein can be sliced and put on top of a simple salad, plated with your favorite side of veggies, starch or tossed in soup or chili.
I generally season with garlic salt and pepper then I d0 additions. It depends upon what spices and flavors you are in the mood for. The following spices add their own unique taste: chili powder, curry powder or herbs de provence, Thai seasonings, thyme, Indian masala seasonings, soy sauce and sesame oil, lemon garlic, citrus herb. Add seasonings to suit your taste buds and cravings.
Nuts get their own category because they deserve special treatment to make them taste extra fabulous. They have so much more flavor and crunch when you take the time to roast and toast them.
To roast: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread raw, un-toasted nuts on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until they become fragrant. They can burn quickly once they heat up so watch carefully.