Prepping your ingredients doesn’t have to take a long time and it will save you effort and minimize stress in the long run. Done well, it takes a lot of work from your actual cooking. It can take some time to get used to if you don’t normally prep ingredients, but this is hands down what makes the biggest difference for me. It takes away all the headache of cooking and makes thing way easier.
Some things will take extra time, but not everything. If you’re making rice, it won’t take any extra time to cook up several additional servings. If you’re already chopping up onions for a dish, chop up a couple more while you’re already doing that. Enlist help if you have/need/want it. Having another set of hands will make it go way faster.
A lot of foods we buy come in quantities greater than we need at the time, especially if you’re living alone. Ingredient prep will help prevent you tossing out food you couldn’t eat fast enough and it’ll also prevent you having to eat the same thing every day as you try to finish something before it goes bad.
Onions are the base for a lot of dishes, so they’re great to have on hand. I dice all my onions, put them in sandwich bags, and they go straight into the freezer. This will change the texture and reduce the sharpness of their flavour, but if you’re cooking them down in a soup or other dish, then the texture integrity isn’t as important. You can save the ends if you’re into making your own soup stock. If you’re crafty you can also save the yellow onion skins to dye Easter eggs, wool, etc.
These can be small or giant. The size varies a lot and chances are you might not need the whole thing. Chop it down into bite sized pieces, toss into a big bowl/sink of water and give them a hard swish to remove any grains between the leaves, dry, then bag and put into the freezer.
Sometimes fruit goes bad faster than we’d like. If yours is starting to turn, wash it, cut it up and pop it in a freezer for later.
Rice and Grains
You can pre-cook these (I use my rice cooker), portion them into containers or bags and toss them in the freezer. They might not be as perfect as fresh, but you can add to soups, or stir fries. I don’t find the flavour changes when I freeze grains, and the texture isn’t too different either.
If you’re going to need some grated or crumbled cheese, then you can pre-slice brick cheese and freeze it. When it thaws it will have a different texture, but the same flavor.
When I still worked in an office we would wash, slice, and pack up our veggies (bell pepper, carrots, and celery) on Sunday and they would still be crunchy and delicious on Friday. The trick is to put a paper towel into the bag or container as well. We would usually have cucumber as well, but those don’t keep in the same way the other veggies do, so we would just slice those right before eating.
I will usually buy a flat of chicken breast and cook it all up at once. I don’t typically put a lot of seasoning on it (I know, blasphemy), but that’s because I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to use it for when I’m cooking it. After it’s cooked I will freeze the individual pieces (sometimes I’ll pre-chop it) and then it’s available for soups, pastas, etc. You are more than welcome to add applicable seasoning when you cook it if you have a specific dish in mind. You can do this with pretty much any meat you might use regularly.
If there are ingredients that I know I’m going to work with a lot in certain forms, then I tend to prep them that way so it’s less work for me when I get to cooking a recipe. Consider what you like to eat and what shows up the most. Some things are obviously going to taste better fresh, but if you want to save yourself time then this is a good way to do so.
That’s all I’ve got for you today! I hope some of this is helpful for you ^_^