Not full on meal prep but meal-time hacks! Simple, shortcuts to make mealtimes run smoothly when you’ve run out of time! I’ll provide 10 really easy shortcuts to help get meals on the table in a snap! I want to help set you up for success all week long!
#1 Starchy Veggies (15-30 min.)
Let’s chat veggies –
Starchy veggies – such as sweet and white potatoes, butternut and acorn squash and root veggies such as parsnips and beets can be time consuming in the kitchen.
In order to soften these veggies, I use my electric kettle to boil water quickly and then transfer it to a large, heated sauce pot. This trick saves about 15 minutes! The electric tea kettle boils water in under 3 minutes and allows me just enough time to peel, cut and cube those starchy veggies!
Save for later use in a heated skillet or for roasting. This will cut cooking time over half and ensure the middles are cooked all the way through!
Boil in the steaming water for about 15-25 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from water, cool and either place in fridge or freezer.
Store in refrigerator for up to a week.
#2 Frozen Veggies (0-5 min.)
Speaking of freezing veggies… Take those cooled and cubed starchy veggies and place them in a single layer in the freezer for a super simple midweek meal addition. By placing them in a single layer you can avoid clumps and freezer burn caused by touching particles!
Straight out of the freezer these can either be reheated in the microwave or on the over over medium-high heat to crisp them back up! Since they have been pre-baked they would cook quickly and are still incredibly nutrient dense!
Store in freezer for up to a year.
#3 Veggie Packs (5-15 min.)
Non-starchy vegetables like peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale can all be chopped up and put in the fridge to be used at a later time! By utilizing a spare 10 minutes, you can transform all your vegetables into “to go” quick cooking packets!
By mixing different combinations together – think peppers, onions and mushrooms for a stir fry or cabbage, carrots and broccoli stems for a hearty addition to an egg scramble. These packages will make it simple to toss them into a heated skillet!
Simply stick in a baggie or glass container and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks!
#4 Zoodles, Swoodles and More! (5-15 min.)
You might be wondering what is a zoodle?! Instead of noodle, a zoodle is made from zucchini! And a swoodle from sweet potato.
This is a really easy way to add vegetables into your diet in place of standard, potentially gut-irritating, wheat containing carbohydrates! Using a spiralizer makes it super simple and fast to transform these vegetables into noodles to be covered in a delicious sauce later in the week!
Begin by peeling the zucchini or sweet potato (cucumber, butternut squash or beets can all be used as well) and running it through a spiralizer. I use a $10 hand-held spiralizer I found at the grocery store. Sure, it takes a little muscle but it’s so fun and satisfying to see how long the spirals can get!
After spriralizing, you can use the electric kettle trick to boil the noodles until they are soft, about ~5-10 minutes.
Use later in the week topped with a simple tomato or marinara sauce for a super tasty replacement for conventional pasta! Or combine with a tasty peanut sauce for a delicious take on Thai food!
Store raw noodles in the refrigerator for up to a week!
#5 Simple Sauces (5-10 min.)
Simple sauces can transform a plain meal into something truly special! Taking a few minutes to whip together a double or triple batch of your favorite sauce to store in the fridge can save precious time when you’re hungry and dinner seems nowhere near ready!
My favorites include Pad Thai sauce from Balanced Bites – Diane is a genius when it comes to simple, paleo food combinations that really high light flavors! Find it here: https://balancedbites.com/content/paleo-pad-thai-recipe-21dsd/
I also love a simple tomato-based marinara sauce in case I need something warm and comforting! While you can absolutely just use tomato sauce for this, kicking it up a notch by adding herbs such as basil, minced garlic, salt and pepper makes it feel special. My favorite quick recipes is here: https://againstallgrain.com/2011/04/30/simple-marinara-sauce/
Other easy ideas include crockpot ketchup (more on this below), homemade BBQ sauce and hollandaise sauce!
Store each of these recipes in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
#6 Delicious Dressings (5-15 min.)
Introducing your new best friend! Homemade dressings are so quick and simple to make with no junky ingredients or oils!
While I do like to keep some clean salad dressings on hand like Tessamae’s (find it here: https://www.tessemaes.com/) and Primal Kitchen (find it here: https://www.primalkitchen.com/) I love whipping up my own flavor combinations!
I love to keep a Maple Mustard Vinaigrette on hand at all times! Scroll to the bottom to find my recipe! Other dressings I love to keep on hand include Greek salad dressing for roasting veggies and salads, homemade mayonnaise (recipe here: https://butternutrition.com/love-on-a-spoon/) for tuna or egg salad and homemade ranch!
Again, making double or even triple of these batches cuts prep time down to almost none! Salad dressings often can double as meat marinades, adding flavor and tenderness. Mayonnaise can lend itself to a number of different applications such as creating dressings, tartar sauce, or combine with BBQ for a sinful-feeling dip!
Store dressings in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
#7 Meat Crock Pot Style (5 – 10 min.)
CROCK POT!! Such a time saver if there ever was one! I love to utilize this tool right before I go to bed. Set it and forget it! Using 1-3 pound of any types of meat (chicken breast, pork tenderloin or beef chuck roast are my favorites) just place meat in bottom of crock pot, season with your favorite spices, cover with either water or paleo-friendly broth and cook 6-8 hours on low heat.
Nothing better than waking up to lunch or dinner already ready for you! Shred in the leftover liquid or remove from liquid and serve over roasted veggies or salad for a very hands-off meal!
While there are a plethora of crock pot recipes on the internet, having just simply seasoned, tender meat is a great starting place for adding your favorite sauce or dressing after it is cooked!
The crock pot is also a handy tool for making your own ketchup and BBQ sauce! Simply add diced tomatoes, dates, vinegar and spices! My favorite recipe here: http://www.platedwithstyle.com/2014/05/01/paleo-slow-cooker-ketchup/
Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
#8 Meat Oven Style (30-60 min)
Roasting is a great, quick way to add flavor and tenderness to meat. My favorite trick lately is while roasting a chicken, I actually buy two and roast them together to have a ton of leftovers for the same amount of work!
This shortcut serves as a reminder to double or triple whatever you are cooking to ensure you have plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.
Season simply or get creative! My favorite flavor combinations for chicken and beef are thyme + cumin + salt + pepper. Go heavy, you won’t regret it! For pork, a winning combination is garlic powder + ginger powder + coconut aminos and sriracha! Mix in a bowl and spoon onto meat.
Store cooked meat in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
#9 Hard Boiled Eggs (5-15 min.)
Another electric tea kettle win! Using the tea kettle to boil water, simply add eggs (carefully!) to boiling water and let simmer 6-11 minutes. The longer the eggs stay inthe warm water the harder the yolk will become. Stick with 6 minutes for soft-cooked centers. After eggs have cooked for the desired time, transfer to ice cold water to halt the cooking process and keep that dreaded green ring away!
Hard boiled eggs make a great high protein and fat snack for anytime of the day or an on-the-go breakfast! For extra bonus points, peel the eggs under running water before storing.
Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
#10 Chia Pudding (5-10 min.)
Last but not least, chia pudding! This texturally pleasing and nutritious food is a great snack or quick breakfast.
Make before bed and wake up to this slightly sweet breakfast treat! My favorite high-protein recipe is from PaleOMG (here: http://paleomg.com/protein-pumpkin-pie-chia-pudding/) and I substitute collagen protein for the protein powder and peanut butter for the almond butter!
Chia seeds are high in fiber and Omega-3 Fatty Acids that help to raise HDL “good” cholesterol. They also are rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron and calcium! This little seed sure does pack a punch!
(Bonus!) #11 Rice to the Rescue
Doubling and tripling batches of rice that can easily be refrigerated or frozen for later use creates opportunities for heat and eat when time is running low.
Using 2 cups white rice to 3 cups water or broth, bring to a boil in medium saucepan, reduce heat , cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat, without uncovering and let sit 10 minutes.
Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks and freeze for up to 6 months.
Meal Time Made Simpler
While not most of us can dedicate an entire day or afternoon to meal prepping, I hope these simple tips can help you save time in the kitchen and begin to think to the week ahead of you!
Having simple, half prepped meals on hand makes it easy to stick to healthy eating habits and creates a less stressful meal time.
These tips are useful for families of any size! Simply scale the recipes to your liking and enjoy having more time throughout the day by being semi-prepped!
What tips and tricks help you throughout the week? Let me know in the comments!