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I can’t stand cooking. Really. Absolutely detest it. And what’s worse, this is a chore that ALWAYS seems to interrupt my work flow. As someone who works from home, spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals is something that I really cannot afford to do. Which is why I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy meal prep hacks. I’m not looking to restore any lost love of cooking; I just want to easily whip up some healthy meals during the day, between work loads, without the stress of trying to work while trying to cook.
I’ve probably tried hundreds of different ways to quickly prepare meals that my family would actually like, a lot of them big-time failures. I’m not sure if it was me or the hack I tried…I bet it was me.
But between all the failures, I have come up with some awesome food prep hacks that are super easy to do, don’t require a whole lot of thinking, get gobbled up by my hungry family and don’t interfere with my work schedule.
Now that I love.
And here they are…
Meal Prep Hacks Every Busy Home Worker Needs To Know
#1 Start With The Right Tools
You know that soggy mess after you’ve thrown a bunch of food in a dish, hoping it would still be good enough to eat later? Ha ! I guess if you’re brave you can choke it down but I prefer to eat food that’s still in good condition.
And I accomplish this by using the right storage dishes:
- Containers with partitions not only keep food from turning to slop, they are great for grab-and-go lunches because they can be tossed around without fear.
- Mason jars are so versatile, you can store all sorts of food in them. Dressings, Salads (I write about this later on), drinks. And they don’t take up much room in the fridge, either.
- Sometimes aluminum foil is all you need. I recently popped a pack of foil-wrapped Hungarian Goulash into the oven…straight from the freezer. Yummy.
- From freezer, to fridge, to oven or microwave, glass is the best choice.
#2 Pre-Cut The Tedious Stuff
Within an hour or so of coming home from the grocery store, I start cleaning, chopping, slicing and cutting up my fruits, veggies, and meats. Believe me, this makes life so much easier ! When I finally drag myself away from my computer to get started on dinner, I have most things already done.
I like to have a variety of fruit, already washed (and cut into smaller pieces) in a big bowl sitting in the refrigerator just waiting to be snacked upon throughout the day. I use glass bowls with lids so I can see the fruit and keep it from going bad.
When it comes to vegetables, I have a collection of sliced and chopped veggies ready to go at any time. Perfect for when I make chicken stir fry.
For meat, I make up a bunch of hamburger patties, meatballs, and an occasional meatloaf and throw them in the freezer. I cut my raw chicken in “chunks”, add my favorite marinades, and throw in the freezer.
#3 Pre-Cooked Food At The Grocery Store Is Your Best Friend
Those little rotisserie chickens make a quick and easy comfort meal on its own, they also lend themselves as a base for so many other meals that are super easy to pull together. I have used a few of these easy rotisserie chicken recipes and my family loves every one I’ve tried. Just pick the meat off the chicken, add a few other ingredients, and done !
Pre-cooked breaded chicken breasts, chicken fingers and chicken “balls” are great shortcut items every busy home worker should have on hand. I get them from the deli counter at my grocery store, pack them up to freeze, and I can whip up chicken stir fry and chicken parmesan at a moment’s notice.
For stir fry, just throw some veggies in a pan of olive oil (which you’ve already prepped, right (item #2) ?), add rough-chopped balls or fingers, drizzle in soy-sauce, and voila!
I make my chicken parm. by spreading a good-quality spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a baking pan, put a couple breaded chicken breasts on the sauce, pour more sauce on top of the chicken, place a piece or two of provolone cheese on top and pop in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is good and hot.
#4 Make Ahead Individual Servings
OK, this hack has been a life-saver so many times. Not only when I’m having one of my stupid migraine headaches and can’t do anything, when I’m on a roll and can’t really put away my work for more than a few minutes I like to have a variety of heat-and-eat meals already cooked and portioned into individual servings. My family can pull one out and pop it in the oven or microwave and be eating in no time.
Hungry for more easy, make-ahead meal ideas? Check them out here.
#5 Pre-Assemble Salads In Mason Jars
This is a meal prep hack I just recently added to my repertoire. Everyone in my home loves a good, crisp salad, any time of the day. Using a mason jar with a well-fitting lid, I layer all the salad ingredients and when we’re hungry for a salad we can grab a jar from the fridge, shake it up, and start eating. I start with the dressing on the bottom of the jar, followed with the thicker items such as pepper chunks, cherry tomatoes, onions, then I add a bit of cheese (sometimes chicken) and then top with lettuce.
I like to put a small piece of paper towel on the very top before I put on the lid – this absorbs any excess liquid; just remember to take it out before you give the jar a shake.
#6 Freeze Just About Everything
I can freeze cheese…and bananas ??? Yep. Not only do I freeze my leftovers (and the obvious meat), I freeze cheese, nuts, bread, fruit, even vegetables. No matter what meal I plan on preparing, I have the ingredients in the freezer ready to go. From time to time, I refer to this article to see how long I can freeze certain things, and this is one I refer to for freezing things in plastic storage bags,
But when it comes right down to it, this is my favorite freezing guide.
#7 A Few Ingredients And Your Slow Cooker = Lots Of Meals
Crock pots and slow cookers can be used for so much more than making chili. I use mine for barbecue meatballs (using frozen, cooked balls) and Golden Chicken Pasta ALL THE TIME. I also peruse these easy crock pot recipes to change things up a bit.
What surprises me the most about using my crock pot, besides the simplicity of just dumping a bunch of things into it, is the amount of leftovers. Which can be frozen. Cool how all these hacks work together, huh?
#8 Easy Way To Plan Meals Ahead Of Time
I’m not one for sitting down and planning out a bunch of meals, are you? As much as I know how it will simplify my trip to the grocery store, it’s just not going to happen. Besides, I almost always default to the old stand-bys. But we get tired of the same old stuff – spaghetti, meatloaf, tacos – I need fresh ideas but I don’t have the ability to change my repertoire on my own.
Remember…I despise cooking.
How did I conquer this? I recently tried out the $5 Meal Plan service and I gotta say, best $5.00 I ever spent ! I don’t have to hurt my brain trying to figure out what to make because the meal plans are figured out for me. I just go to the grocery store like I normally do and pick up the ingredients I don’t already have on hand. Love it ! Is it possible I might start to like cooking? *sarcasim*
Try the $5 Meal Plan free for 14 days !
You’ll Soon See The Difference With These Food Prep Hacks
I know a lot of you home workers like to cook. Heck, some of you may even love doing it. We’ve all experienced the time crunch, though, trying to balance our work schedules and preparation of meals. I do all of these food prep hacks and they all work for me. I hope they all work for you, too. If you have a hack you’d like to share, I would love to hear it.