How do you find the time to prepare so many healthy meals from scratch? It’s a question I often hear.
It’s assumed that cooking takes a long time. This is sometimes true if we aren’t prepared. But cooking doesn’t have to be a laborious process. In fact, it can be surprisingly fast and enjoyable.
Below are the ten things I do to speed up the process of preparing delicious food.
1. Plan what to eat in advance
This small step means I rarely buy last minute ingredients, throw out unused food or order unplanned fast food.
During my 100 Day Diet Challenge, I planned all my meals for each ten-day period, or ‘sprint’ (as I call them). For each sprint, I noted what I liked cooking and eating. This meant, over time, I only prepared food I enjoyed.
Maybe you could do something similar by creating your own plan. Think about what food you like and what meals you already know how to cook. Check out my recipes for inspiration. Buy some cookbooks if necessary.
Of course, life happens. We sometimes eat out. There are days when we get home later than expected. Try to factor these into your plan but remember the occasional deviation doesn’t matter in the long run.
Think about what you want to cook and work out in advance what to prepare on most days. Doing so sets in motion each of the steps below.
Schedule when to cook sweet potato pancakes.
2. Shop intelligently
We’ve planned what to cook. Now we need to buy the ingredients.
I don’t like spending too long in the supermarket, especially when it’s busy. Half the stuff is sold out and I hate queuing.
Instead, I usually buy groceries online and get them delivered to my home or I go to the supermarket when it’s quieter. This takes less time and I usually find what I need.
We should spend less time shopping for food and more time cooking it.
Check out my article Is Dieting Cheap or Expensive? to find out more about how to save money while buying healthy food.
Free time on Saturday afternoon? Chop up the ingredients you need for the curry you’re cooking on Sunday. Get the chicken marinating in the fridge.
Come up with hacks to make cooking quicker when you get home from work. This might mean chopping and freezing several onions or buying frozen pre-crushed garlic. Whatever works.
Preparing in advance makes life easier when we’re tired during the week.
Start preparing your curry the day before.
To supercharge our way through home cooking, we need the right equipment.
My kitchen toolkit includes:
- A Nutribullet for making smoothies, guacamole, hummus and other dips.
- A food processor for heavy duty mixing, like quickly grating cauliflower into ‘rice’.
- A hand blender for pancakes, soups and more.
- Sharp knives, chopping boards and decent pots and pans.
- An Amazon Echo to help with timings: “Alexa, set a timer for five minutes.” “Alexa, how long is left on my twenty minute timer?” If you’ve got one and not tried this, give it a go. You’ll wonder why you’ve not used sous-chef Alexa more often.
We don’t need these items to cook from scratch. Having them just means we can do more, quicker.
Making sweet potato coconut soup is far easier with a hand blender.
5. Read recipes
Before starting, read the recipe again.
This means we can get everything out before we get going. If we’ve forgotten to buy something, better to find out now rather than halfway through.
It’s also useful to know what we’re required to do. If the meat needs to be in the pan for ten minutes before the chopped tomatoes are added, that might be a good time to make the side salad.
There might be time to make a side salad if you follow my courgetti ragu recipe.
6. Estimated meal times
Some meals need to be quickly cooked in one go. Others allow plenty of time for doing other things.
I sometimes cook a chicken broth which takes a couple of hours. If my wife is in, I use this as an opportunity to go for a run while the broth simmers.
Below are links to some of my popular recipes. I’ve estimated how long it takes to prepare each:
Guacamole (3 minutes)
Salsa (3 minutes)
Tuna in a Mediterranean Salad (5 minutes)
Scrambled Eggs (7 minutes)
Fried Banana and Scrambled Eggs (10 minutes)
Pan-Fried Sea Bass (10 minutes)
Baked Salmon (22 minutes)
Chicken and Chorizo ‘Pizza’ Stir-Fry (25 minutes)
Mexican Lamb Mince in Lettuce Tacos (30 minutes)
Peri Peri Chicken (45 minutes)
Sweet Potato Coconut Soup (50 minutes)
Sweet Potato Pancakes (1 hour)
Fried Chicken Nuggets with Coleslaw (1 hour 20 minutes)
Courgetti Ragu (1 hour 40 minutes)
Chicken, Chickpea and Spinach Curry with Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Rice (1 hour 45 minutes)
Giant Sausage Roll Wellington (1 hour 45 minutes)
Me, pouting heavily after going for a run while my dinner simmered.
7. Have fun
Make the kitchen fun to be in.
I usually have the radio or an album or a playlist of my favourite music from Spotify playing. What do you enjoy? Could you have a Netflix documentary or a podcast playing?
What about doing as many push-ups as you can while the fish pan-fries for two minutes? Could you get your partner, children, parents or friends involved in the kitchen with you?
Cooking doesn’t have to be done in a vacuum. Other things can be going on at the same time which make it more enjoyable.
How many push-ups can you do while your sea bass is in the pan?
8. Take notes
When I try something new in the kitchen, I write down each step of the recipe as I go.
You may not need to do this when you first start out. I do it because I usually play around with quantities, times, ingredients and temperatures.
Taking notes saves me time when I next cook the meal because I know what I did before.
Get your notebooks ready before you start cooking.
9. Tidy up
I (try to) wash up and load the dishwasher as I go so that, after I’ve eaten, I’m not left with a million things to tidy in the kitchen.
Does the food need to simmer for ten more minutes? Clean the chopping board and knife while it does.
It sounds obvious but tidying up while we go saves a lot of time at the end.
Clean up while the pepperoni pizza omelette spends ten minutes in the oven.
When I cook certain meals, I try to make enough to take for lunch at work the next day. With other meals, I want to put leftovers in the freezer.
Do the same thing. Get the food into Tupperware or freezer bags once its cooled down.
What’s the point in making even more food when we’ve just made a delicious meal?
The most consistent meal for leftovers during my 100 Day Diet Challenge was peri peri chicken.
Read more about my 100 Day Diet Challenge and my 100 Day Health Project here:
Do You Want to Lose 48 Pounds in 100 Days? I Did it by Creating my Own 100 Day Diet Challenge. Here’s How.
My 100 Day Diet Challenge: An Introduction
10 Steps to Success
50 Days: A Review of the First Half of My 100 Day Diet Challenge
My 100 Day Health Project: An Introduction
Cooking Up a Storm About Why Publishing Recipes Is So Important to Me
Is Dieting Cheap or Expensive?
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