With so many things to juggle in our lives, having healthy, home-cooked meals on the table each day can sometimes seem impossible. But with a little planning, you can have a freezer stocked with tasty and nutritious meals, which will mean hassle-free weeknight dinners.
It’s much easier to eat nutritious foods and control portions when you take the time to prepare meals in advance. Make a weekly meal plan three to four days beforehand, jotting down all the items you need on a shopping list. Don’t forget to stock up on freezer bags and storage containers.
Tip 1: Do your grocery shopping on a different day than your food prep to avoid exhaustion.
Organise your recipes with ingredients on the counter in front of you. Chop your vegetables, meats and whatever else needs to be prepped ahead of time. This could be an excellent opportunity to get the kids involved, too. Most kids love to help in the kitchen and are more willing to try different foods if they’ve had a hand in making them.
Tip 2: Schedule your cooking time and pick a great music playlist or podcast to listen to.
Start off simply with three to four recipes that are easy to batch cook and use one pot or a roasting tray and build from there. A slow cooker can be a great and inexpensive addition to the kitchen. Varying the food groups is essential. And use what’s in-season to help save money.
Your body requires a whole range of amino acids (found in proteins), nutrients, minerals and essential fatty acids to function at its optimal level. So, it is vital to have a varied diet. Eating a real, wholesome and colourful diet is the best way to do this.
In each meal, you should aim to include a good quality protein such as lamb, chicken or lentils; fresh vegetables; a good quality fat such as avocado; and a wholegrain such as brown rice or quinoa.
Soups, stews and curries are terrific for using lots of ginger, chilli and garlic to add a little extra immune support. They’re warming too, which is vital in the colder months.
Tip 3: Collecting healthy recipes into a folder can be a great way to kick-start your meal planning.
Switching the protein of a dish can be a quick and easy way to keep things interesting. Chicken and veg stew can become beef and veg stew the following week. And pairing different sides such as steamed broccoli, zucchini, kale or beans increases the meal’s nutrient profile and only takes a few minutes to prepare.
Vegetable frittatas or a lasagne packed with vegetables can be a terrific option from the freezer. Especially if the kids don’t like eating their greens.
Quick tips for freezing foods
- Allow cooked food to cool down before placing in the freezer.
- Use good quality storage containers and ziplock bags and mark the date and the contents on the front.
- When removing from the freezer, it’s best to allow the food to defrost in the fridge or the microwave rather than at room temperature. This ensures the food remains at a safe temperature until you’re ready to cook. At room temperature outer layers can begin to warm up too quickly and breed harmful bacteria.