In this post I’m going to walk you through my month’s lunches cooking day.
As mentioned in my first lunch prepping post, prep day for me is always on a Saturday morning, as Sunday is my day of rest. I like to go to the farmers market nice and early, around 6am, to buy the veggies I need for the cook, talk about fresh and get started once I get back. Before I break down the day, I’ll walk you through a few guidelines.
Firstly, Set Yourself Up For Success.
What that means for me is…
- Putting the radio on – listening to some great tunes really helps the time fly and makes the work more enjoyable.
- Diffusing some motivational essential oils – peppermint, citrus oils (wild orange, lemon or lime) or Doterra’s Motivate. Aromatherapy is a very powerful thing, (please see the ‘For Essential Oils’ to buy Doterra’s oils)
- Opening the kitchen window – letting some sunshine and fresh autumn air in creates a good atmosphere in the kitchen.
- Eating a decent breakfast – if you want to skip the others all good, but this one I wouldn’t. There is nothing worse than food prep on an empty stomach.
- Getting a water bottle topped up – similar to eating, staying hydrated during the cook is vital and will give you endurance, like a prepping athlete.
- Starting with a tidy kitchen – our kitchen isn’t massive so space is at a real premium. Starting with all clean dishes put away and neat kitchen benches is so important as clutter will clutter your thinking and slow your progress.
Next, Have A Game Plan.
Get yourself organised by having all the meals you need to make written down, yes even if you have done this a few times, seeing things visually helps you to keep on track and not lose focus. This should include what you are making, the ingredients and how many meals you are aiming for.
The meals above are not the only veggie and pasta meals I make, I’ll note the timings of my next cook and what I cook and link them to this post. I believe when you have variety with meal prepping it encourages you to stick at it, if meals are always the same you won’t want to eat them and eating out becomes more attractive.
Now, Start Your Cooking.
It’s 8:55 AM I’m set up and ready to start cooking.
Get ready to go all Jack Bauer.
8:55 – 9:08 (13 mins)
In this time segment I washed the following veggies: 3 Potatoes, 7 or 8 sweet potatoes, a bunch of spinach and kale, a big handful of green beans, 1/2 a cabbage, 1 kg tomatoes, 2 carrots, 3 zucchini and a small head of broccoli.
9:08 – 9:41 (33 min)
Time to chop. Which included taking the tops and tails off the green beans and cutting them into smaller portions, thinly slicing the cabbage, peeling and cutting potato and sweet potato into chunks and peeling a garlic bulb. With the spinach and kale, I removed the stalk by slicing on either side of it then rolled the leaves up and sliced them into ribbons. I also topped and tailed the zucchini, leaving them whole and sliced the carrots into discs.
Once all the chopping was done I organised the veggies into three plastic containers*
1- green beans, cabbage, kale/spinach mix and potatoes and garlic
2 – sweet potatoes, carrots, kale/spinach mix, broccoli and garlic
3 – spinach/kale mix.
In the sink the tomatoes are left in the colander with a peeled sweet potato and the zucchini.
*This shows how writing down what ingredients you need for which meal comes in handy, as a quick reference guide and not to waste time.
9:41 – 9:52 (11 min)
Chopped the onions and garlic. I always leave the onion chopping to last, my eyes water really badly when I chop onions and I would literally not be able to see anything else if I chop it first. It looks like a long time to just chop onions and garlic, as per the disclaimer (see the end) it probably also involved a fair amount of photography and getting tissues.
9:52 – 10:01 (9 min)
This is where the ‘dance of the small kitchen’ starts for me. I used the bench space on the left of the sink for all the chopping but now I need that space for the pressure cooker. I shift everything over to the right hand side of the sink where the oven is, which sets me up for cooking the zucchini slice and pasta dish. I get the pressure cooker out and I also get the spices and extras I need ready to go too. This included salt, pepper, vegetable masala, turmeric, a stock cube, cardamom, coconut oil and some curry powder. Having everything ready and at hand really saves time and also lets you pretend you are on your own cooking show, meal planning can be fun if you allow yourself to play while you work.
10:01 – 10:10 (9 min)
The next nine minutes I used to fry off the spices, add the onion and garlic and then add the rest of the veggies and stock. My pressure cooker has a built-in sear function which is a massive time saver. I’ll post a blog on the right tools for the job and this is definitely one of them. By 10:10 the lid was on and the timer was set for 15 minutes.
10:10 – 10:15 (5 min)
Wash As You Work is a crucial part of meal prep as far as I’m concerned. A few key reasons, if you have a small kitchen it’s super important so that you don’t run out of space and you will be grateful for it at the end of the cook. It is very tiring to spend energy cooking and preparing everything only to be left with a mountain of clean up afterwards, when you just want to chill. Wash as you work also includes wiping down the kitchen benches.
This wash up was a brief one, plastic container that held the veggies, the chopping board, knives, veggie peeler and the spoon I used for the veggie masala. I didn’t wash the spoon I used for the coconut oil but rather put it with the sweet potato curry veg. I’ll need it for the coconut oil to cook the curry later so there is no point in wasting time and water washing it.
10:15 – 10:31 (16 min)
The dance continues, to free up space on the right side kitchen bench, for the zucchini slice prep, all the sweet potato curry ingredients move to the left hand side, next to the pressure cooker.
The 2 zucchini and sweet potato I need for the slice are in the sink within easy reach, making for a smoother transition to the next task. Getting the slice ready includes grating the veggies, (19 seconds using the food processor) adding a cup of flour, 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 eggs, spices and grated cheese. Mixing that all in a bowl then putting in a baking tin lined with baking paper.
16 minutes in total for all of that, including photographs. I forgot to pre-heat the oven or else it would have gone straight in.
10:31 – 10:36 (5 min)
Wash As You Work food processors bits, mixing spoon from the slice and the metal bowl it was mixed in. Plus a kitchen bench wipe down.
The other benefit of washing as you go is for those of us that don’t have heaps of baking/cooking supplies. I only have the one metal bowl, which I need for the slice and to de-skin the tomatoes, with some clever choreography you don’t need to have heaps in your kitchen and you can spend your money on investing in pieces that will help you cook efficiently, like a food processor.
The pressure cooker also finished up and I released its steam and took off the lid.
10:36 – 10:39 (3 min)
These few minutes I used to put water in a pot to cook the pasta and boiled the kettle for the tomato de-skinning. I also made small slices along the tomatoes. As the dance dictates, the kettle now uses the space where the food processor sat just minutes before and the tomatoes are out of the colander which means it is free for when the pasta is done.
10:39 – 10:57 (18 min)
This productive chunk saw the oven reach temperature and the zucchini slice jumped in. The kettle boiled and the hot water was poured on the waiting tomatoes. The pot followed the kettle’s lead and the pasta went in too. I put the sear function on the pressure cooker and let it cook for a few minutes to thicken things up while I turned my attention to chopping up the ingredients for the pasta meal. This included a zuchinni, capsicum, which I added to the kale/spinach mix container and 4 minutes took care of washing and chopping 500g of mushrooms. Next time I will probably include this in the initial chopping session. Lastly I set out all the herbs, tomato paste and spices I’d need for the cook.
I turned around and checked on the pressure cooker and as the potato curry had thicken up, I took the middle pot out of the cooking unit to cool it down.
10:57 – 11:04 (7 min)
25 minutes have past and the zucchini slice is ready to come out the oven. Shortly after, the pasta is done too and that gets drained in the colander.
De-skinning and chopping 1kg of tomatoes took 7 minutes. I used a low performance hand-held blender to chop them which was a mistake, it made half of the tomatoes liquid and the other half big chunks. I would have done better using a knife or setting up the food processor again like I normally do.
11:04 – 11:23 (19 min)
To finish of the prep for the pasta I chopped the onions and the garlic (pre-peeled from the first veggie chop session).
Then the cooking began and by 11:23 the sauce was bubbling away nicely, so I can leave it on simmer and focus on other things. Again this is a very exagerrated estimation of time, I discovered it’s pretty hard to take photos of cooking food and that would have accounted for at least 5 minutes of the 19. I want to keep times as accurate as possible so have decided not to subtract the time I took to take photos.
11:23 – 11:25 (2 min)
Two quick minutes is all it took to put the potato curry into four plastic containers and move them to the tiny space next to the microwave on the right hand side of the kitchen, with lids ajar to cool down further.
11:25 – 11:28 (3 min)
Wash As You Work – all the pasta preparation stuff (knives, chopping board, spoons) and the pressure cooker’s inner pot and once again a kitchen bench wipe down.
11:28 – 11:35 (7 min)
It’s important to take a bit of time out during the cook. These 7 minutes I just refocused, looked at my list and gave myself an update on how I was tracking and just breathed for a bit. You find you do start to run out of steam, it being around 2h34min since the start time, so just stopping for a bit helps you get over the last hurdle.
11:35 – 11:51 (16 min)
Back to it, the pasta sauce temperature gets turned off but its left to bubble and cool on the oven’s ring. I dry the pressure cooker’s inner pot and chop the last of the onions, yipee. The curry is made by frying off the spices (which were already waiting for me) then the onions and garlic and adding the veggies. It looked a bit sparse so I peeled and chopped an extra sweet potato and by 11:51 the pressure cooker was sealed and timed to finish in 15 minutes
11:51 – 11:56 (5 min)
Wash As You Work – the container, spoons and knives for the curry prep and wiping down the kitchen bench.
11:56 – 12:03 (7 min)
The pasta that was chilling in the colander is put into a big plastic bowl and is joined by the sauce and stirred together. Add in a 3 minute quick dash to the garden to harvest some basil.
12:03 – 12:11 (8 min)
Back inside the basil is washed, chopped and added to the pasta and then packed away into four plastic containers. There is some left over pasta which I put in a container that will be lunch in a few minutes.
The zucchini slice goes from the baking tin to the chopping board. I just use the baking paper sticking out the sides to lift it up and transfer it across.
The potato and green bean curry has cooled down sufficiently to be sealed and put into deep freeze in the garage.
12:11 – 12:18 (7 min)
Wash As You Work – this is the biggest wash up of the lot, pots, pans and bowl from the pasta, also any spoons and additional extras like the colander. The stove and benches also get a big wipe down.
The pressure cooker beeps, sweet potato curry is done and I release the pressure.
12:18 – 12:39 (21 min)
The end is in sight, the pressure cooker is on the boil and while that works its magic, the zucchini slice is sliced and separated to cool down a bit more.
Once the sweet potato is done boiling I take out the inner pot and after a few minutes put the curry into the containers.
To finish up I move all the containers to the side so that they can cool down sufficiently to go into the freezer
The final wash up follows which included the pressure cooker’s inner pot, baking pan from the slice, knives and spoons. Due to lack of space I use two folded towels laid on either side of the sink to air dry the utensils, pans ect. I’ve used during the cook. By washing as I work and tidying up I have the space to do so.
8:55 to 12:39, 3 hours and 44 minutes to set yourself up with 14 meals. 4 potato curries, 4 sweet potato curries, 4 pasta and sauce meals and 4 zucchini slice portions, which for hubby and I contributes to 4 weeks of lunches.
I will post separately regarding getting your proteins portioned and prepared and cooking rice. I prepare them either on Thursday or Friday of lunch prep week as they don’t take up that much time. I will also post regarding daily prep of my lunches with times included.
Thanks for reading and please let me know in the comments if you try it out for yourself.
For more help getting yourself organised, subscribe to my blog.
~ Allison called Binney ~
** disclaimer – the following cook took place over on a long weekend, in chilled out mode and included frequent stops to take note of the time taken to complete tasks as well as take photographs for this post. While the time has been recorded as accurately as possible, you may find you do it quicker or slower. Time also takes into account the tools I used that may differ from your own kitchen **