No one wants to be stuck in the kitchen for hours meal prepping, even if it will save them time later. Check these 5 tips for super fast meal prepwho so you can get out of the kitchen and back to real life!
When it comes to a chef’s job, who do you think has it easier? A chef at the cheesecake factory or a “chef” at In-N-Out burger?
This is obviously almost a laughable question, and while I think there are probably plenty of things about working at In-N-Out Burger that would be difficult (working with customers, being expected to produce food speedy quick)…
But as far as the technical difficulty of cooking the meals, I think it’s fair to say that a chef at cheesecake’s factory’s job would be more difficult.
This seems like sort of a cheesy exercise, but let’s talk a little bit about why that is.
First off, making a plate of homemade chicken marsala is probably going to be more difficult than mastering a hamburger and french fries (which probably are simply fried from a frozen bag)
But there are more reasons.
In-N-Out burger has specialized. They offer an extremely limited menu, so anyone who cooks there will have mastered the menu in no time!
Cheesecake factory has the most extensive menu of any restaurant I know, which would make it very difficult for ANYONE even an accomplished chef to truly master every single dish on the menu. There’s just a lot of dishes to master!
So, what in the heck does this have to do with the podcast?
Well today (to coincide with the release of the meal prep in minutes course) we are talking about the 5 secrets to to super fast meal prep sessions. I won’t give it all away yet, but let’s just say that while cheesecake factory is AWESOME, in order to meal prep efficiently we might have a thing or two to learn from In-N-Out (and no I don’t mean burgers and frozen fries for every meal…but stay tuned to see what I DO mean!)
So let’s get into the 5 secrets to super fast meal prep sessions
5 secrets to super fast meal prep sessions
Because I don’t know about you, but marathon 4 hour cooking sessions every sunday are NOT appealing to me, and while yes, obviously they would make your week of cooking less stressful, it’s a little beside the point if you still have to dedicate hours and hours to making it happen.
So I’ve got 5 secrets to meal prepping FAST so you can get to the more important things you’ve got going on!
Planning is probably the most important step to achieving fast meal prep sessions. In all fairness, we can probably learn from both cheesecake factory AND in-n-out burger on this front.
Do you think the chefs at either of these restaurants are googling recipes when they need them? Do you think they go to the fridge only to be missing a crucial ingredient (okay, in all fairness, this probably happens sometimes, at least it did for me when I worked in food service. But they’re probably planning to avoid this as much as possible).
So let’s talk about some of the most important things to plan for when you’re preparing for a meal prep session
-Meal Plan-If you go to meal prep without a meal plan you’re probably not going to get very far. This much is obvious…but what should that meal plan look like? Well we’re going to talk about exactly how to meal plan in the course, but there’s more to planning than just writing out your meal plan. Let’s talk about what else to plan
-Printing out Recipes-One of the biggest time-savers in a meal prep session is to actually print out your recipes. Sure, your phone works but it’s a source of distraction. You will be much more efficient if every recipe is printed out and ready to go
-Meal Prep Schedule-It’s also important to know what order you’re going to cook in. Let’s say you are cooking a staple protein that needs to be in the oven for 20 minutes? Well it doesn’t make much sense to do that last, because you won’t be able to multi-task while it cookes. Put dishes that have oven time or hands-off points first, and leave the tasks that are more hands-on for the end.
-Appliances-When creating your meal prep schedule, it’s also important to consider the use of your appliances. Will you need your oven for multiple things? What about your instant pot or slow cooker? I try to avoid using the same appliance twice in a meal prep session, but if you do need to use it twice, just be sure you plan for time to do so!
Again, I would assume this strategy is used by both our friends at In-N-Out Burger, and the Cheesecake Factory, but let’s talk about cleaning.
When I worked in food service, the kitchens were cleaned from top to bottom every. single. day. Every single dish done, floors swept and mop, perfectly clean.
When I worked in food service, it was easy to do because it was my job. I was paid to be there, and I didn’t have kids at my feet while I tried to get it done.
So I get how hard it is to get the cleaning done, but it truly is an important step to cooking faster. When everything is in it’s place everything will go more smoothly. I would argue that even if your kitchen is a huge mess, if you clean it before beginning your meal prep session (instead of during or after) you will save time!
Next let’s talk about strategizing and simplifying. This is where we are actually going to talk some notes from In-N-Out burger.
A lot of mothers have very unrealistic expectations of what their meals “should” look like. They think they need an extensive menu with new things every week of the month.
But what’s happening, is you’re not allowing yourself to “master” anything.
You can’t become really good at cooking something, because you’re always cooking something new.
Can I tell you a secret? Most of my family’s favorite recipes I don’t even have to get the recipe book out for because I have the recipes memorized. This isn’t because i’m some kind of supermom, it’s because I’ve made them so many times.
Do you know how much faster you can cook something from memory than from a recipe? Lots faster!
So let’s talk about some things you could simplify in your meal plan (that will help but maybe won’t take you quite to in-n-out level)
-Simplify proteins-I always like to simplify my proteins because cooking protein is the most time-consuming part of my meal plan. We stick to one main type of protein per week, and then switch it up with vegetarian meals, or meals featuring fast and easy or pre-cooked proteins like deli meat, cheese, eggs, shrimp or seafood, etc…You’ll see exactly what this looks like on the meal plan in the meal prep in minutes course. Simplifying proteins makes both meal planning AND meal prep easier. Meal Planning is easier because you have a base to go off of when planning, and meal prep is easier because you can cook protein once and eat it all week. Win-win!
-Simplify sides-Another way that I simplify my meal plan is to repeat sides throughout the week. Instead of eating salad one night, roasted carrots the next, corn on the cob the next, green beans after that, I choose two sides that complement the whole meal plan. We repeat those sides as needed throughout the week. This helps me waste less veggies, prep all at once, and clear up fridge and brain space. (Speaking of cheesecake factory, have you ever wondered where in the world they can possibly store enough food to make SO MANY DIFFERENT DISHES? I have no clue! It blows my mind!
So we know that In-N-Out burger is probably using shortcuts to make their food. I don’t think any of us walk in expecting to see an employee hand-crafting a grade A angus beef patty or peeling and cutting potatoes.
How much you rely on convenience foods depends on your personal food philosophy, and I’m not here to tell you exactly what to make from scratch and what to buy from the store.
What I WILL say though, is that smart moms use shortcuts.
I used to feel like any shortcut made me somehow a lesser person. Ha. Not true.
The truth is though, that not all shortcuts are created equal. Some will simply cost you a little more money (which I’m usually okay with) and others may sacrifice quality.
Like I said, you will have to do your own research to decide where your opinions fall on the MANY different processed foods out there.
I will share with you though the shortcuts that I ALWAYS take
Pre-chopped-I absolutely LOVE pre-chopped veggies. Pre-chopped broccoli, green beans, cauliflower. Send it my way. Bagged Salad? Sign me up! I am totally fine with paying a little extra for someone to give me a little break with my chef’s knife.
Frozen-There are also certain foods I like to use from frozen. To be honest, most of my frozen food collection is homemade, but it can still save me time during my meal prep sessions. For example, whenever I make a bread product I usually make extra to freeze for later. So if my meal plan features a bread product…BOOM I might already have it in my freezer.
You can also freeze leftovers or storebought items like hamburger or hot dog buns to act as a shortcut to your meal plan later.
The last secret I want to talk about is multi-tasking.
I’m a firm believer in multi-tasking in the kitchen IF you have planned and prepped properly.
Meaning…multitasking can either make you bust through your meal prep session like a boss…or if it’s not well-planned and organized multitasking can make everything go worse and make you feel like a chicken with it’s head cut off in your own kitchen.
So, multi-tasking is a good thing if it’s planned. I try to never have downtime in my kitchen. My phone is off-limits because if it’s there and I can scroll while the water is boiling, I’ll do that instead of getting a jumpstart on dishes and everything takes longer.
If I’m waiting on something to cook or boil, I use timers and get started on another task like putting dishes in the sink, getting out ingredients for my next dish, chopping, etc…
Your meal prep schedule can help immensely with this. Try to strategize the order you do things in to minimize downtime and allow you to accomplish some tasks while others are in a hands-off stage.
One other thing I’d like to talk abut is a technique called sideline cooking. I have to give credit to a past podcast guest, Megan Porta of Pip and Ebby and the Eat, Blog, Talk podcast introduced me to that terminology but the idea of sideline cooking is using appliances that are designed to take the heavy lifting out of cooking (think slow cooker, instant pot, air-fryer) to clear up space for your other appliances and your hands for more hands-on cooking. I utilize my slow cooker for meal prep CONSTANTLY and it definitely helps me get everything done faster (even if the slow-cooker does require me to wait a little longer to be completely finished cooking!
Okay friends, let’s review the 5 secrets to super fast meal prep sessions.
We have Planning, cleaning, simplifying/strategizing, shortcuts, and multi-tasking. If you consider how to use each ot these techniques before your next meal prep session, you’re bound to do it faster!
Also keep in mind, that practice will be your best friend in getting faster at meal prep. Keep trying it week after week and soon you’ll be shocked at how fast you can get things done!
Thanks for tuning in friends, and don’t forget to check out that link in the profile to purchase the meal prep in minutes course! Thank you all for your support. If you like the podcast please share with a friend! I’m so grateful for the little community we have and love watching it grow!
Next week: Managing Expectations
Happy Planning friends!