Everybody got their apron on? Hands washed? Get Psyched-Soundtrack turned up? Great!
Boil eggs for 8-10 minutes (this is long enough to get a hard egg but short enough so the yolk wont be dry)
Alternatively: make scrambled eggs with pre-cut vegetables you keep in the fridge like peppers and onion
On a side-note: You might notice in some of the pictures that I changed or added some of the ingredients while shopping. That happens from time to time. The chicken was changed for turkey because the butcher sold all the chicken. Also they had big packs of pasta on discount so I got fusilli instead of spaghetti. Left-over mushrooms where added to the “bolognese” and I tried canned cherry tomatoes (worth a try!) instead of the chunky. This is all fine. Just make sure to get products similar to the ones you planned to get. Similar in this case means (almost) nutritionally identical.
Okay, so these are the meals and their recipes. If you’d cook them i sequence, one after another, you’d probably need 3-4 hours. Puh!
What can we do about it? How can we get this done faster? How can we safe time?
The answer: With a merged-recipe.
A merged-recipe is exactly what it sounds like. You combine ALL steps from different recipes to create a SINGLE big recipe.
Here is how’d you do that:
Example: The meat can be cooked in the oven. This keeps your counter free and requires little attention. Pasta and rice also require very little attention. Only space needed is the stove. To make the sauces you need space on the stove and space on the counter to cut the ingredients. The sauces need the most attention and block the stove for a longer period of time. Also they required that some of the ingredients are cut to begin with the cooking.
This list is from taken from part 2 that explains this technique in a different way:
Any meals that you want to or require cooking can be handled with these steps. More detail on that in the next paragraph.
Go and try this: The next time you read a bunch of recipes which you want to put on your meal plan remember these questions below.
This works best with meals you are familiar with and have already cooked.
Unless the recipe is super simple I’d recommend you to try a new and more challenging recipe in a separate session. You could also try that either at the front or the end of a prep-session. Once you feel comfortable implement it into a following the prep-session.
With these steps in mind I rearranged all the steps of all the recipes into blocks. These blocks play an important role: they free up time because they allow me to move all steps into a logical and time efficient order. You also want to think about the space you have in your kitchen and for how long it will be occupied.
For illustration these are the blocks that I found most useful for the recipes of this particular meal plan.
You can start to portion rice and pasta, fill pots with water, add salt and bring it to a boil.
When the timer goes off take the meat out and set aside for cooling. Depending on the thickness of your cuts this might happen while you cook rice and paste. Keep in mind to have some space where you can put the meat once it’s done.
Rice-Tip: Place rice in cold water, bring to a boil and allow to soak over a very low flame. That saves time and energy.
To shorten that session even more you could leave most of the vegetables for the salad uncut. The problem with salads is that it gets watery over time. At the end of the week that neatly packed salad will look pretty sad and wont taste as good as fresh. If you ever opened a container with a salad that sat in you fridge for 5 days you know what I am talking about.
And let’s be honest: It takes maybe 10 minutes to cut a few vegetables, grab the loose salad from a bag and add the meat, cheese and seeds that are ready.
My advice is to make fresh salad(s) the night before – that’s about 10 minutes. Make sure to have all the other ingredients ready available. The only real prep needed for the salads of the sample meal plan are the meat, the pear and the seeds.
I kept half of the peppers for the salad. That’s it.
I promised you my thought-process behind all this and here it is:
The meat takes the least amount of prep and attention if you cook it in the oven. Clean and cut the meat, put it in a baking dish or casserole, sprinkle with oil, season and then move it into the oven. Another thing that needs little attention are pasta and rice.
While the meat is cooking in the oven you can weigh both (pasta and rice), fill pots, add salt and boil the water. Both blocks are cooked before the sauces. Meanwhile we begin to clean and cut all veggies and make sure the boiling pots don’t spill over. Make sure the veggies that are needed first get cut first!
The sauces require the most attention and ideally most of the veggies have already been cut when beginning. Once done, set pasta and rice aside (strain, let cool). Now that we have the veggies ready and enough space on the stove we can begin to make the sauces.
As per recipe you begin with the remaining meat. While the meat is sizzling you continue to cut the last veggies and because we have some/ most of them already waiting to be cooked we are ahead of time. All we have to do is add another ingredient and return to cutting. Step by step.
Once the sauces are in their final stage – that’s when you add liquid, season, stir and leave to stand – you can take a big breath an pat yourself on the shoulder. The hardest part is over! You have done it! Clean up a little, finish the salads, begin to fill the container and enjoy the view.
As mentioned earlier its makes sense to do most of the cutting for the salads on individual days. This way the salad is always fresh and because the meat, seeds, feta and pear are ready it is done in under 15 minutes – including clean-up.
All that cooking done in under 2 hours and if you clean up little while you cook the aftermath is not worth mentioning.
You can start to fill the containers and let them cool down. I usually leave them in the kitchen over night with a lid on. Don’t tighten it so the steam can escape. In the morning I move everything into the fridge or freezer. If you prep mid day the meals should be cooled down in the evening and ready to be moved into the fridge or freezer.
Remember to pat yourself on the shoulder and have a little treat to stimulate your reward system. This helps building good habits for the future.
It’s absolutely possible to reduce cooking time with a couple of smart decisions. Think of blocks rather than individual recipes. Most recipes have similar steps that can be done at the same time (think “combining/ merging”). Move everything that needs a bit more prep to the end of the session. Usually that are sauces or individually cooked vegetables that you want to spread over the containers later.
Now it’s up to you. Take some time and create a few of these “merged recipes”. It will serve you well and safe many hours of cooking if you plan ahead and think just a little bit. This merging process will get easier and you can try recipes that require a little more attention.
That being said: I would never try to cook a big multi course session when prepping for the week. Keep it simple and add variation by seasoning. And most importantly: Enjoy the foods and what you have accomplished.
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