Many Australians have a desire to cook homemade meals and three in four (74%) families cook their family a meal five or more nights a week. Some challenges that confront home cooks are the cost of groceries, confidence in the kitchen, trying to “please the masses” and being time poor. Indeed a recent report highlights that 18% of people say cooking takes too long and they do not have time. The simple act of grocery shopping takes 56 minutes from door-to-door, with 55% of Australians shopping more frequently than once a week.
For those people who are struggling with time pressures and balancing fast paced lives, try some of these time saving food hacks to ensure nutritious meals make it to your table.
I always find that if I have the fruit and vegetable shopping done, nourishing meals will quickly follow. You can even get a seasonal and farm-fresh produce box from local grocers delivered straight to your door, saving you at least two hours a week. Some people prefer the complete meal box that includes all ingredients for an evening meal.
Adopt the “Cook Once, Eat Twice or Thrice” philosophy by cooking extra batches of freezer friendly meals (savoury mince, curries, casseroles, soups) and putting these in single serve or family serve containers. Cooking an extra protein (roast chicken, slow cooked pulled beef or butterflied lamb) makes a great starting point for another meal in the week – for example, a nourish bowl, enchiladas, pasta or soup. Take some shortcuts with pre-prepared versions of slow cooked meats, meatballs, shredded meats and even a BBQ chicken when the week is super-crazy busy.
Some people prefer the weekend batch cooking to save time during the week, whereas I suggest maximizing your time efficiency in the kitchen when you are there. When cooking the main meal, you can also chop up some vegie packs in ziplock bags for a stir-fry, steamed vegetable side or snacks. You can even prepare a family sized salad in a lidded container for quick easy lunch fillers. Have a large pot of soup on the stove, and have two trays of roasted vegetables in the oven to serve as great snacks or flavoursome additions to your humble salad.
When making your breakfast smoothie, pop extra ingredients (eg baby spinach, mint, berries, banana, frozen ice cubes of yoghurt) for five more serves in individual ziplock bags. Place a paper towel in each bag to keep the spinach fresh.
Whenever you have leftover ingredients such as stock, coconut milk, yoghurt, herbs blitzed with extra virgin olive oil – freeze them into ice cube trays for quick add-ins for your meals. When cooking a batch of biscuits, make a double batch and store the uncooked biscuit dough in the fridge or freezer for a quick top-up or for unexpected guests. Depending in the type of biscuit, you can also roll the dough into a long log, before you freeze it.
Frozen vegetables are quick, convenient and nutritious. They can be easily incorporated into a meal with no time preparation involved. Take some shortcuts with already prepped salad mixes and bowls, bags of “undressed” coleslaw, leafy greens that are already washed and ready to use. I will often use some of the kaleslaw/coleslaw mixes within a larger salad, or great with wraps or home-made burgers.
Have some pantry essentials that turn a few ingredients into a meal in five minutes such as tinned chickpeas and lentils, quinoa, brown rice, pulse pasta, tinned tuna and salmon and assorted nuts.