If you’re a busy, hard-working professional or parent, it can be tough to find time to cook elaborate meals. You may have a few minutes to put something together before work, while your baby is napping, or after rushing the kids home from football practice, but that usually means you get a quick, less-than-healthy meal.
So what’s the solution? How can you make 3 healthy meals a day without spending hours in the kitchen? The answer: it’s all in the prep work and cooking methods!
To be able to prepare three healthy meals a day with less than 30 minutes spent in the kitchen, you need to spend a lot of that time on prep work. That means:
Preparing and flavoring the meat, poultry, fish, or legumes you’ll use
Cutting (chopping, slicing, dicing, etc.) the veggies
Cooking the grains or noodles
Doing these three things first thing in the morning is the key to getting all three meals squared away quickly.
Start off by setting the grains to cook, as they take longer. Place a pot of water on the stove to boil for noodles, and set the rice in your rice cooker. Within 20 minutes, your noodles will be ready to cook. By the end of the 30 minutes, you’ll have two different starches ready for the day.
Next comes the meat. Salt and pepper are usually good for most meat and poultry dishes, though you can add more flavoring (curry powder, turmeric, chili pepper, taco seasoning, Cajun seasoning, and so on) to give it a bit more kick. For maximum flavor, marinade the meat for a few hours or even overnight before cooking.
Finally, chop up the veggies that will round out the meal. Once you’ve done all this meal prep, it’s time to move on to the cooking!
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The right cooking method can save you HOURS every day. The best, fastest ways to cook include:
Crockpot – Throwing everything into the crockpot or slow cooker will allow you to prepare an entire meal ahead of time, then set it to cook while you’re at work, picking up the kids, or running errands. With 4 to 8 hours of cooking time (depending on the meal), you can have a delicious meal ready to go.
One-Pot Meals – Think of a beef and potato stew, lamb and potato curry, or chicken noodle soup. They’re all great one-pot meals that are fairly quick and easy to prepare!
Baking – The oven can be your best friend. All you have to do is spend 15 to 20 minutes prepping the food, lay it out on an oven tray, and set it to bake for anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes (depending on the meal). All you have to do is keep an eye on the food to stop it from burning. The perfect option if you’re an at-home parent or professional.
Pressure-Cooking – Pressure cookers use steam pressure to cook foods extra quickly. This is especially useful if you want to make flavorful meals (curry, pasta sauce, etc.) in less time, or using meat that would usually take longer to cook.
Grilling – Who doesn’t love grilling? You can make an entire meal on the grill: meat and veggies, served with bread/tortillas. Fire up the grill for lunch and throw your dinner’s meat on as well. Use thinly-sliced meat, poultry, and fish to speed up cook time.
Salads – Salads are an amazing option for those who have less time to cook. Chopping the lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other veggies will take just 5 minutes or so, and you can spend another 5-10 prepping and cooking the protein (steak, chicken breast, etc.). Add in some cheese, legumes, feta cheese, and croutons, and you have a complete meal!
Stir-Frying – Stir-frying is a quick frying method that will help you to produce some delicious veggie-heavy Asian meals in far less time—perfect for pairing with rice or noodles.
As you can see, the cooking methods can help you to turn out amazing dishes in just a few minutes in the kitchen every day.
For optimum results, spend a few minutes every morning prepping the day’s meals. Chop veggies, season the meat, and soak the grains to reduce cook time. Have everything ready to go so all you need to do is turn on the oven or crockpot, or put all the ingredients together for your delicious salad.
Healthy eating doesn’t always require time-consuming cooking!
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