I have come across the advice, in many books, to set aside a regular block of time for food preparation for the coming week. Usually referred to as a ‘Sunday Cook-Up’ or similar. Until recently, I had always ignored it; it sounded a bit like work, where, for that matter, I usually am on a Sunday. Better, I thought, to squeeze in a bit extra when making dinner – double portions for later, or a tray of something while the oven was on. Except that often that felt like a bit too much effort. I’m always looking for ways to make good habits easier, which, in my experience, means reducing the amount of willpower involved – willpower is a fragile thing. So scheduling in a couple of hours at the same time every week requires me only to summon the willpower once at that specific time, versus daily, vaguely, if at all. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and so far the habit has stuck. Here are the other reasons why I’ve become a convert to the prep-ahead method:
- It reinforces healthy habits. It’s much easier to have an alcohol-free night or resist calling the takeaway if you have alternative options ready and waiting. And you’ve put the work in, so you won’t want them to go to waste. Plus in my experience, healthy eating begets healthy eating.
- It’s economical. I set my prep session for a Tuesday, when my veg box delivery arrives, so that I can use up anything lingering from last week’s shop while having the advantage of new produce to dress it up. There’s also less incentive to eat out or buy snacks when you have a well stocked fridge.
- It doesn’t take as long as you might think. I have the length of a baby’s nap to play with (1-2 hours) and here’s what I did with my hour this week: a jug of green smoothie; a box of energy balls; par-cooked cauliflower for the freezer; a batch of kombucha.
- You discover what’s most useful for the way you eat. The things I find work well for me are: chicken stock (for soups and stews); a soup (for simple lunches, feeding the baby or bulking out basic meals); kombucha (healthy soft drinks) and a range of healthy snack options (smoothies, bakes, energy balls etc).
- It reduces waste. Here are some examples for using up your leftovers: most vegetables can be made into soup, which you can always freeze for another day; or if you have less time, chop and steam or blanch them and put them in the freezer for quick sides; greens and most fruit can go into a bulk batch of smoothies or juice; fruit can be dried in a dehydrator or low oven for snacking, or stewed for breakfasts. Use any bones and odds and ends like bendy carrots, half onions and wilting herbs to make stock, which is great for creating leftover-using meals of soup, stew, risotto, pie etc.
If you have a prep day, let me know how you use it!