Use these four ingredients to shortcut your meal prep

August 28, 2017

Many recipes claim to be "30 minutes or less" but how often is that actually true, if there are still five carrots to be peeled or a container of mushrooms to wash? There are many tricks to making your meal prep faster without sacrificing flavor or that homemade quality. Here are four of our favorite tricks to spend less time prepping and more time eating.

ShutterstockRotisserie Chicken

It's hard to find a cheaper way to buy chicken at the grocery store these days. Buying a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken is a great way to serve up your meat with little prep work of your own. I prefer to buy the chicken hot, and debone it as soon as I get home from the store. I throw all the meat into a Tupperware container to be used in multiple meals throughout the week. I can usually get about three meals out of one chicken for my family of four. You can purchase the chicken cold, though I find it harder to remove the meat from the bones.

ShutterstockExtra Frozen Sauce Packets

We buy (sometimes too many) frozen meals at Trader Joe's, and after preparing them at home, I often have one or two sauce packets left over. I keep these packets in the freezer to use with other meals. It saves a lot of time at the end of many cooking sessions — stir fry the veggies and meat, then throw in a frozen sauce packet and dinner is on the table.

ShutterstockFrozen Rice

Rice takes a long time to cook, even in a rice cooker. Sure, you could buy those minute-rice packets or boil-in-a-bag, but I'm always left feeling underwhelmed after eating those. Enter the world of frozen rice. Trader Joe's sells brown rice that you reheat in the microwave for three minutes. While it doesn't taste exactly like rice fresh off the stove, it's pretty darn close. If you don't want to buy pre-frozen rice, make a large batch of rice at home and freeze it yourself. Just be sure to avoid letting the rice thaw on the counter. Reheat it quickly from frozen and you won't lose any texture in the process.

ShutterstockFrozen Veggies

Frozen veggies are fabulous for so many things: soups, salads, stir frys, and even eating fresh from the freezer. (My kids love frozen corn and peas, poured directly on their plates or in small bowls. Talk about zero meal prep time!) So instead of peeling and chopping, grab a bag from the freezer and your veggies are ready to go. I wouldn't recommend ditching fresh produce entirely, but grabbing a few bags out of the freezer towards the end of a long week could save your sanity.

Erin Fife