Simple and effective. Two of my favourite words in the same sentence! I thought I'd jump on today and share with you some of my top meal-prepping tips, as I often get asked about the ah-ha moments that I've had in the kitchen. Of course, there are many - but here are three short, simple and effective tips that I use regularly and that involve using the trusty freezer!
1. WASH, CHOP and FREEZE
As soon as I arrive home from the market, I spread all the delicious fruit and veggies out on my bench. Depending on the plan for the week, I divide them into those needed for smoothies/juices and those needed for recipes/meals. Anything that will be used in the next couple of days gets a quick rinse, then straight into the veggie drawer. For everything else, I process. This is to prevent wastage, as so often I used to stock up on beautiful organic produce, only to find that it goes off and ends up in the compost pile (or worse - the bin).
For any dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, silver-beet etc.) wash, de-spine, finely chop and freeze in re-usable ziplock bags. I generally divide into serving sizes, with each bag holding the amount I would use per person in a smoothie.
These bags can also be dumped straight into the pan or pot for breakfasts, fritatta, soups, stews or even par-boiled or pan fried as a side on their own.
For any snack veggies (carrots, celery, capsicum, green beans) these get rinsed and chopped into the perfect snack size. I then put them straight into a big glass container in the fridge, all mixed and ready to be grabbed for packing lunches and afternoon snacks. When prepped like this, it's SO easy for you (or the kids!) to grab healthy, fibrous veggies on the spot.
For meal-time veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels etc.) it totally depends on what you plan to do with them, but I generally process these so they are ready to go. For broccoli and cauliflower, that might mean chopping them up into florets and storing in a glass container in the fridge, or wrapped in one of my new beeswax cotton wraps! For me, this means that I save time when it comes to cooking and I'm ready to dump them straight into the pot or Thermomix. Boom.
For fruits (banana, berries, mango, kiwifruit, cherries etc.) I LOVE to stock up on what's in season for my shakes, smoothies, crumbles and toppings. Wash and freeze fruits in an airtight container or plastic bag. For smoothie prep, separate into serving sizes so you can dump them straight into the blender! For bananas, peel first and then freeze airtight.
2. BROTH BAG
I learned this one from Sarah Wilson's book, Simplicious and it was adopted immediately. As you're peeling, chopping and prepping your veggies, set a large bag nearby. Throw in any offcuts, onion ends, peels, cores, stems and herbs. Keep your off-cut bag in the freezer until you have collected enough for your next veggie or meat broth!
3. PRESERVE AND FREEZE
Preserving has always been of great interest to me and I've dabbled with jars, dehydrators and fermentation. They are all great methods to play with and incorporate, but the simplest one when it comes to readily used food is the trusty freezer! It's a tool that most of us have access to and although it's not the same as "traditionally" preserving our food, it is a completely valid and easy way to keep food for longer.
When you plan your meal-prepping for the week, always make some extra servings that you can freeze. Not only will these be extremely helpful when you can't be bothered cooking or something comes up, we also dip into the freezer stash when we head on a camping trip - these cold blocks of curry, soups and stews are perfect in the esky and easy to heat up over the fire.
We don't have a microwave at home, but my favourite way to defrost is to submerge in cold tap water. A small package of meat should thaw in under an hour.
As with anything, it's important to keep the freezer organised. Name and date your meals (I use a piece of paper tape) so that you can remember if that orange looking stuff was slow-cooked lamb shanks, pumpkin curry, soup or leftover diced tomatoes...I have been there way too many times!
Do you have some kitchen hacks that you can share?