Cook meat in bulk
I prefer to cook some of my meat in bulk, then freeze in meal size proportions. Then I pull the frozen meat from the freezer and allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight for dinner the following day. For me, meat seems to be take the longest to prepare and dirties the most dishes when preparing a meal. This is why I prefer to have it precooked in the freezer if possible. I watch for meat to go on sale, then I buy several pounds in bulk, then cook it all the same day. It is the biggest time/money saver. It makes getting dinner on the table throughout the week much easier. Meat freezes well, especially in a deep freeze. For frozen meat I don’t plan on using for a few months, I vacuum seal it with a FoodSaver. For everything else, I freeze in meal size proportions in freezer ziplock bags. I do keep uncooked steaks, roasts and chicken breasts in the freezer as well but like to also have the following meats precooked in my freezer (included are a few meals I use them for):
Mexican Seasoned Ground Beef: Tacos, nachos, burritos,
Ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper and some minced onions: Spaghetti, lasagna,
Pot Roast cooked and shredded: French dip sandwiches, tacos, nachos, burritos
Chicken breasts sautéed in olive oil or butter with a little seasoning (sage and thyme are my favorite): Served with steamed vegetables and rice, added to stir-fry, added to a cream sauce and served over vegetables, added to Chicken Taco Casserole
Chicken breasts boiled and shredded: Chicken salad, Curly pasta salad, added to fajitas, added to casseroles,
Chicken breasts cut into strips, breaded and baked: Topped with ham and swiss for Chicken Cordon Blue, served on a roll for sandwiches, served over rice with steamed vegetables,
Spicy Shredded Chicken in the crock pot: Tacos, nachos, burritos, served over rice,
Prep meals ahead of time
If I don’t have a lot of time to cook around dinner time, I prefer to do the bulk of my prep work ahead of time. Generally on the weekend, I chop all vegetables for the next few days. I wash, peel and cut carrots and celery for lunches and snacks, wash grapes and place in a bowl for easy access, wash and chop broccoli and cauliflower for meals during the first half of the week. I wash and dry my lettuce and store in the salad spinner for quick salads. If meals during the week require shredded cheese, I shred this ahead of time too.
We have found if the fruits and vegetables are all prepped for a meal, then we are ten times more likely to eat them. If I’m hungry and there is a bowl of washed grapes in the fridge, I’ll grab those instead of a cookie. My husband will eat carrots and celery for lunch if they are already washed and in a baggy ready to go. It’s easy to do all the prep work in one sitting, instead of spreading out similar tasks over several days. Less clean up too!
Create a Meal Plan
I’m not the greatest at this, but I know it works. The better I plan out my weekly menu, the less time I spend in the kitchen and at the grocery store. I prefer to plan 1-2 weeks at a time, then create my shopping list based on what we are eating that week and what I already have in my pantry. I like to keep my pantry well stocked with all shelf stable items so my weekly trip to the grocery store is quick with only needing to pick up meat, dairy and produce. I shop once a month or every few months for all shelf stable pantry items.
Utilize Space Inside Cabinets
For quick references to the recipes I use the most (Bagels, Pizza Dough, Easiest French Bread, Tortillas, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, etc.) , I have cheat sheets inside the cupboard doors just above my cooking area with the ingredients listed in order that I add them to the recipe, oven temperature and cook time. These are a huge time saver for me!
I also keep this chart of volume equivalents posted in my kitchen. It seems like I’m always cutting a recipe in half or doubling a recipe and this chart makes it easier to change the recipe. Or if you missed the week on fractions in 7th grade like I did, then this website is also a great resource for doubling, tripling or cutting a recipe.
Cook meat in bulk