Putting time aside on the weekends to organize your meals for the week ahead will minimize weeknight stress and give you more time to do the things you love, like spending time with your family, curling up with a great book or catching up on your favourite TV show. Here are simple tips for making the most of your weekend food prep.
Update Your Calendar
Use a weekly calendar to keep track of your dinner plans and to record commitments so you know in advance how much time you’ll have to get dinner on the table. A shared calendar app, kitchen chalkboard or simple paper calendar taped to the fridge will help keep you organized while also informing your family about upcoming meals.
Organize Your Kitchen
A messy kitchen counter and a disorganized fridge can make mealtime prep frustrating and inefficient. Set some weekend time aside to give counters a thorough wipe down and to put away any out-of-place kitchen equipment. Consider cleaning out your fridge and freezer; remove expired items, store produce neatly, and make sure meat and fish is properly packaged and labelled. Move items that need to be used to the front of the shelves, and take stock of what you’ll need for meal prep in the coming week.
With your weekday meals all planned out, it’s easy to do one big grocery shop over the weekend. Stock up on produce, canned goods and other pantry staples. Save perishables like meat, fish and seafood for smaller weekday shopping trips so they’re at their freshest when served.
Prep for the Week
Wash things like leafy greens and fresh herbs on the weekend. Take a few extra minutes to stem and chop them, and you’ll save precious time on busy weeknights. Wrap leafy greens in damp paper towels and store them in a re-sealable produce bag in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.
Peel and chop the vegetables you need for the week ahead. Cut-up carrots, cauliflower and broccoli should be kept in a bowl loosely covered in plastic and stored in the fridge. Any vegetables with green, leafy stems, like radishes and carrots, will keep fresh longer if the stems are removed before storing. Chopped onions can be placed in an airtight container until they’re ready to be used.
Note that ingredients such as potatoes and avocados will oxidize and turn brown when exposed to air. Cut tomatoes also don’t store well in the fridge, so it’s best to prep all of these items right before cooking.
You can also mix up salad dressings and sauces in advance, and precook starches, like pasta and grains, to be added cold to salads or reheated as a side dish. Store all of these items in the fridge until you’re ready to make your meal. Bring vinaigrette to room temperature and give it a mix with a whisk before tossing it with your salad.
Think About Leftovers
Plan your meals so that certain items, such as protein or sauces, can be prepared on the weekend and used for multiple meals. Seared chicken breast, for example, can be served with pan-fried veggies and brown rice on Monday, and leftovers can be enjoyed as chicken sandwiches for lunch on Tuesday or chicken tacos (topped with sliced avocado and black beans) on Tuesday night.