We get it – juggling work, family, and everything in between can leave you wondering how to put a delicious, nutritious meal on the table without feeling overwhelmed.
But a lack of time doesn't have to wreak havoc on your diet.
And while the concept of meal planning as a whole may seem daunting (we promise it isn't!), there may be one or two easy tips to kick-start your journey.
Embrace the Power of Prepping 🧅
Picture this: You arrive home after a long day, and instead of facing a chaotic kitchen, you're greeted by neatly prepped ingredients ready to be turned into a masterpiece.
Spend a little time on the weekend washing, chopping, and portioning your ingredients. You'll thank yourself when you can whip up a meal in minutes during the week.
Or even for more time-saving, many supermarkets sell already pre-prepped ingredients.
Items such as pre-peeled or pre-chopped garlic and ginger (which I might get in trouble for recommending...), while not as flavourful, can sometimes be a godsend.
Plan Around Your Schedule 📅
Life in Aotearoa can be as unpredictable as the weather, so tailor your meal plan to fit your week's unique rhythm.
Know your busy days and keep those meals simple. Reserve more elaborate cooking for when you have a bit more breathing space, and plan quick efficient meals where your time is thin.
Remember, meal planning is made to work for you - whatever the schedule.
Embrace One-Pot Wonders 🍲
Streamline your cooking by embracing the beauty of one-pot meals. Throw all your ingredients into a single pot or pan and let the flavors meld together.
It's not just efficient; it also means fewer dishes to wash – a win-win!
It's also a great way to become a better cook; understand timings (adding everything at the right time without them burning or being undercooked), flavor combinations (what goes well together and what doesn't), and also the things are sometimes better cooked separately or not!
Double Up and Freeze ❄️
Cooking a big batch of a dish? Double the recipe and freeze half for later.
After a busy day, a long journey, or an unexpected delay, you might find yourself opting for a takeaway for convenience... unless you've got a hearty-homecooked meal already available.
Whether it's a hearty soup, a flavorful curry, or a comforting casserole, having a stash of homemade frozen meals is like having a culinary safety net on hand.
Get Creative with Leftovers 🍽️
Leftovers aren't just a reheated version of last night's dinner; they're an opportunity to make something completely new.
Transform that roast chicken into a vibrant salad or turn those veggies into a delicious frittata. You'll save time and reduce food waste!
In fact, it can also be the best way on cutting down on your grocery bill - saving up to $1,500 per year!
Keep Staples on Hand 🥫
Stock your pantry with versatile staples like canned beans, pasta, and grains.
These pantry heroes can be the foundation of countless meals and will come to your rescue when you're short on time and fresh ingredients.
Theme Nights for Fun and Variety 🌮
Shake things up by having theme nights. Taco Tuesday, Stir-Fry Friday, or Meatless Monday – the possibilities are endless.
Themes not only make meal planning exciting but also simplify your grocery list.
Or if you find yourself inspired by the latest social media trends doing the rounds - set out an evening to bring it to life! *cough cough* Big Mac Smash Tacos
Invest in Time-Saving Tools ⏰
While many Kiwis love their hands-on approach to cooking, a few time-saving tools won't hurt.
A slow cooker, an instant pot, or a food processor can be game-changers when it comes to efficiency in the kitchen.
In fact, we've become real fans of air fryers, and not just their time-saving ability but their versatility too - check out our Air Fryer Cheesy Meatballs!
Plan Smart Snacks 🥕
Don't forget about snacks! Plan and prep healthy snacks to avoid reaching for the nearest bag of chips.
Keep chopped veggies, fruit, yogurt, or homemade energy bars ready to grab when hunger strikes.
Keep Staples on Hand 🧄
Life happens, and sometimes your meal plan might need to be adjusted.
Stay flexible and forgiving – there's no such thing as a perfect meal plan. The goal is to make life easier, not add stress.
In the whirlwind of busy life, a little planning can go a long way. These expert meal planning tips are your secret weapon to maintaining that relaxed spirit while enjoying delicious, homemade meals.
Remember, efficiency in the kitchen doesn't mean sacrificing flavor – it's all about finding clever shortcuts that work for you. Happy cooking!