How to prepare meals for a week. Photo / Unsplash
When life is busy, getting dinner on the table might seem like the last thing you want to do. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t fall victim to last-minute takeout or a bowl of cereal for dinner – but with a little meal planning and prepping, you can have an easy and delicious no matter what life throws at you.
Meal prep makes cooking faster, easier and more efficient. This does not necessarily mean living off the same dish for several days in a row. Instead, it’s about being smart in the kitchen and preparing as much as possible ahead of time.
It may seem daunting at first, but think of it as asking that dreaded “What’s for dinner?” once, instead of every night.
Start small and work up to the number of meals per week that’s right for you. For us, four is the sweet spot, we know we have four healthy home-cooked meals, and that still leaves room for us to eat out with friends or spend an evening with our favorite takeaways in hand.
Then, once you have a plan for the week and you’ve done the shopping, commit to spending an hour in the kitchen on Sunday preparing the meals.
Start by whipping up a condiment or two — something that can be used in a variety of meals — like pickled onions, a basic salad dressing, creamy yogurt tahini or hummus, and toast some nuts and seeds. These condiments are also essential for turning a basic dish into something special.
Then roast a variety of seasonal vegetables, cook cereal, and pre-chop all the vegetables for your planned meals.
When you come home late from work and can easily mix together cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, topped with hummus and crunchy toasted almonds, you’ll feel pretty good about yourself.
Meal planning tips
● Avoid food waste by buying your fridge and pantry first.
● Include a new recipe every week, to build a repertoire of dishes you love.
● Choose recipes that use common ingredients. So if you’re using cabbage, try to find another recipe that uses the rest.
● Try different cuisines so that similar ingredients don’t seem to be repeated. Using cabbage in an Asian-style coleslaw will be very different from braising it in a spicy tomato sauce.
● Write a list. Then head to the shops or the market for everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Lemongrass coconut curry with roasted vegetables and pickled onions
Roasted vegetables in curries are such a game changer. Not only do they make a quick and easy dish, they add a delicious depth of flavor to the curry and hold together really well without turning into mush. You can use any roasted vegetables you want – cauliflower, sweet potato and pumpkin work great.
1 red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup of water
½ cup vinegar (red wine, apple cider or white wine)
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 red bell peppers, sliced
2 eggplants, quartered
1 zucchini, sliced
Salt and pepper
lemongrass coconut curry
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 brown onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
1 tbsp lemongrass powder or 2 sticks of fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons of turmeric
400ml coconut cream
¾ cup chicken or vegetable broth
400 g can of rinsed and drained chickpeas
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan-forced.
2. Pickled onions: Prepare the pickled onions. Add sliced red onions to a glass jar. In a small saucepan add water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the onions and let sit for at least an hour.
3. Roasted Vegetables: Place eggplant, bell pepper and zucchini on large baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cooked through and beginning to crisp.
4. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes until the onions are softened.
5. Add all the spices, and a little more oil if needed, and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.
6. Raise the heat and add the coconut cream and broth. Bring to a boil before reducing to low heat.
7. Add the chickpeas and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced slightly.
8. Add the roasted vegetables to the chickpeas and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
9. Remove from the heat and stir in the rice wine vinegar and fish sauce. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh cilantro, pickled onions and cashews.
Want to be smart in the kitchen? Double the rice and veggies and use leftover pickled onions in this quick and easy Middle Eastern-inspired rice with yogurt tahini sauce.
Laura Bedwell and Nikki Crerar run Assortment, a weekly menu planning service. Find them on Instagram @assortment___ or visit assortmentfoods.com for more.