A weeknight meal-prep session doesn't have to mean a mad dash to the supermarket for ingredients and inspiration. With a little prep, you can streamline your midweek to-do list, crossing off those chores — like grocery shopping and prepping lunches — early. Suddenly you have more time to actually enjoy mealtime rather than stressing over what to cook. Here are nine clever culinary shortcuts to make the middle of your week a breeze.
1. Chop ahead.
Prepping veggies is often the most time-consuming part of making dinner. Get a head start by chopping, slicing, or spiralizing double the amount in one go. "Zoodles," or zucchini noodles, will stay fresh in the fridge for three to five days, while carrots and capsicum are good for a week in a sealed container. This sesame crumbed chicken breast with lemon zoodles might become your new weeknight hero.
2. Add a twist to a family favorite.
Growing tired of those fuss-free kid-friendly dinners you cook week in, week out? Try adding a new ingredient to the mix for a fresh take. For example, South Cape Tasmanian Fetta is seriously versatile. It's Danish-style Fetta cheese made in Australia from 100 percent Tasmanian milk. You can pair it with prosciutto for a twist on chicken and veggies, add it to frittatas, or even sprinkle it on top of pizza. Just make sure there's enough for seconds!
3. Make your oven work harder.
Still batch boiling eggs for snacks and salads five at a time? Time to swap the saucepan for a muffin tin and turn on the oven. Make a dozen "boiled" eggs in one go by baking for 30 minutes. Just be sure to do a test run first to ensure you've got the correct temperature.
4. Batch-make lunch.
While the oven is on for those eggs, buy yourself even more time by prepping lunch for the week. These individual pumpkin, feta, and basil quiches are quick to prep and will see you through until Friday. Save yourself even more time by using shop-bought pastry.
5. Dig out the slow cooker.
And not just for melt-in-your-mouth pappardelle with slow-cooked beef ragu. Finish the dish with a sprinkle of Parmesan for a handy midweek comfort food. Your slow cooker is the ultimate multi-tasker. Not only can you batch boil eggs, but it's also the best way to cook beans, prep pizza dough, make granola, and even serve up the ultimate cup of hot chocolate.
6. Prep chicken in one go.
Chicken is a weeknight staple, but chopping and seasoning quickly gets tiresome. That's where this ingenious hack comes in handy: Next time you're making a stir-fry or salad, slice enough chicken for three meals. Season three different ways, then cook in a pan with an aluminium divider to stop the flavors from mixing together.
7. Liven up leftovers.
We've all taken leftovers to work only to leave them in the fridge come lunchtime and head off in search of something more exciting. The trick is to make last night's dinner taste like a new dish. Pack a homemade dressing to liven up your plate, or crumble a favorite ingredient, like feta cheese, over salads. Suddenly your lunch is the envy of the office.
8. Blend a no-waste smoothie.
Where would we be without that all important morning smoothie? But when you're running out of the door and haven't got time to measure out ingredients, it's easy to end up with way too much. Save time and money by prepping your smoothie mixture on a Sunday morning, then freeze for the week ahead.
9. Grab some skewers
Skewering fish or meat means perfect portion size, cooked just right every time. It's also so quick to do: All you need is three or four large metal skewers (they'll withstand the oven better than the wooden ones). Cut salmon, chicken, beef, or lamb into chunks and marinade in your choice of sauce. We're big fans of this super easy capsicum sauce. Leave in the fridge to soak up the flavor until you're ready to cook.
This post originally appeared on our sister site, Food to Love.