By: Leanne Ely
It’s 5pm. Songs of “What’s for dinner?” ring through the house, and you realize you have no idea. You have nothing thawed, nothing planned, and you have a house full of hungry people.
This is one of the reasons why I’m big on meal planning, but this exact scenario happens to all of us from time to time.
While meal planning is the real life saver (check out Menu Mailer, seriously!), if you take a bit of time every week to prep your fridge, you’ll be surprised at how much easier it will be to feed your family.
Here are some tips to help you get your food and fridge (and life) under control.
Organize your fridge.
There’s something about a clean, organized refrigerator that makes cooking a more enjoyable experience. If you’re just stuffing your groceries in the fridge so that they fit, you will never know what’s really in there. Besides that, a refrigerator is designed to store your food so that everything stays as fresh as possible.
The crisper drawer is meant for produce, so that your vegetables stay nice and hydrated. Eggs should be deep inside the fridge where it’s even and cool. Don’t store them (or anything perishable) in the door of the fridge where the temperature fluctuates every time the door is open. The door of the fridge can be used to store condiments. Your fridge probably has a meat keeper drawer. That is the coldest part of your fridge, so use it for your meat (which is likely the most perishable item in there anyway). You can keep fish in there, too.
Prep your produce.
It’s going to be much easier to get a meal on the table if your fridge is full of prepped veggies. When you get home with your produce, take a few minutes to wash/chop/and bag your food. Here, I’m talking about washing the salad greens and putting them in a zipper bag so it’s ready for you. Wash and slice the cucumbers. Wash/trim/chop the broccoli and cauliflower. Wash and slice the bell peppers. Clean and chop the mushrooms. Get the pineapple diced and peeled. With all of that done ahead of time, you’ll be able to quickly pull together at least a salad or stir fry on the fly!
Chop the meat.
If you’re buying chicken breasts for a stir fry, slice them when you get them home. While you’re at it, why not make up the marinade and store the sliced chicken with its sauce? If you have a favorite rub or marinade for your pork tenderloin, prep it when you have a free minute. Buying ground beef for burgers? Make up the patties ahead of time, and dinner will get on the table that much quicker the night of. (Bonus tip: When you freeze meat, try to freeze flat in a single row so it will be quicker to thaw in a pinch.)
Why not roast up all your sweet potatoes at once for the week? (If you have your oven on to roast chicken or something, take the time to roast up some veggies or potatoes while you’re at it.) If you’ll be having quinoa or rice a couple times through the week, cook it in batches, and portion it out ahead of time.
Once you get into the habit of prepping meals, you’ll start to naturally find short cuts for the types of meals you like to cook. You’ll be amazed at how much a bit of prep can change your life!
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