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Five Tips for Saving Time in the Kitchen

December 27, 2021
Five Tips for Saving Time in the Kitchen - Lark Health

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In this article:

  • Preparing food at home can help with healthy eating and weight loss, but it can take a lot of time and energy.
  • There are many ways to save time when cooking. Using already-prepped ingredients, making extra, and choosing versatile meals can help.
  • Lark can give you more tips for eating healthy and losing weight more easily.

Cooking more at home can be a strategy for losing weight or eating healthier. But it can be challenging if you are busy. And who isn't? 

A healthy, home-cooked meal can be easy to make. And there are shortcuts you can take while keeping the meal low in calories and high in nutrients. These are five tips for saving time in the kitchen.

1. Use Ready-Prepped or Easy-to-Prep Ingredients

Prep Ingredients

Supermarkets sell all kinds of nutritious ingredients that are ready to be used.

  • Bagged produce, such as bagged salads, broccoli and cauliflower florets, and coleslaw and broccoli slaw mixes. Chopped onions and bell peppers are also common, and stores sell fresh and frozen zucchini noodles and other prepared vegetable noodles. They can go right into recipes. 
  • Marinated skinless chicken breast that you can take home and cook, or rotisserie chicken. You can be minutes away from eating chicken tacos, chicken salad, chicken sandwiches, chicken rice stir fry, or any number of other recipes with chicken.
  • Ready-to-use foods. Canned tomatoes are not only ready to use, but you need fewer of them when cooking with tomatoes, and they even have more lycopene (a phytonutrient) than fresh tomatoes. And low-sodium canned beans can save hours compared to cooking dried beans. Pre-cooked and parboiled brown rice, oats, frozen corn and other vegetables, shredded cheese, and whole-wheat bread are also ready to eat immediately or within minutes.

Try This: Chicken Fajitas

In 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cook fajita-seasoned chicken strips (or chicken breast with fajita seasoning or spices), frozen bell pepper and onion strips from a pre-cut package or a frozen fajita vegetable mix, and a can of Mexican-style or fire-roasted tomatoes. Serve it with a whole-grain tortilla or ‚1/3 cup of pre-cooked brown rice, plus toppings such as salsa or plain yogurt.

2. Make Big Batches

Batch Cooking

Many recipes are just as good when refrigerated or frozen. Soups, stews, chili, casseroles, and breakfast muffins are just a few examples of foods you can make big batches of and freeze to have later. That way, you can put out the same amount of effort and get more meals for the week to come. And leftovers are always good for the next day's breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Try this: Mushroom Spinach Breakfast Sandwiches

Saute 16 ounces of sliced mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 6 eggs and 6 egg whites and cook, stirring often. Near the end, stir in 3 cups of chopped spinach leaves, black pepper, and dried oregano. Bake the eggs in a pan until they are set, then place them on 6 whole-grain English muffin halves. Place 1 slice of low-fat or fat-free American or Swiss cheese on each sandwich, then close the sandwiches  with the other 6 halves. Wrap the sandwiches in foil and freeze them. 

3. Prepare Ingredients Ahead of Time

Hard-Boiled Eggs

You can save time by preparing certain items ahead of time. For example, cook several boneless chicken breasts and freeze them in single-serving or multi-serving portions so you can defrost them when you need them. Or make a dozen hard-boiled eggs to take for snacks, use in egg salad or breakfast sandwiches, or add to breakfast bowls. The trick also works with vegetables, as you can rinse and cut enough greens for several salads, or peel and chop days' worth of onions at one time. Just keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use them within a couple of days.

Try This: Five Ways to Use Hard-Boiled Eggs

Boil eggs by placing them in a pot, covering them with water, bringing the water to a boil, and turning off the heat. Store eggs in the fridge.

  1. Nicoise salad with romaine lettuce, sliced egg, tuna, cooked green beans, grape tomatoes, and dressing with olive oil, dijon mustard, and lemon juice.
  2. Egg salad on half of a whole-grain bagel, with plain yogurt, mashed avocado, chopped celery and onion, and lettuce leaves.
  3. Brown rice salad with chopped eggs, sliced olives, blue cheese, oregano, chopped zucchini, and chopped bell peppers.
  4. Noodle bowl with whole-wheat spaghetti, low-sodium broth, kale, shredded carrots, and topped with sliced eggs
  5. Tahini bowl with cooked quinoa, tahini, sliced egg, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, sliced cucumbers, and cooked broccoli.

4. Use the Same Ingredients for Many Meals

Ingredients for Many Meals

Once you start planning, you may notice that many dishes use the same ingredients. Onions, chicken, pasta, and tomatoes are a few of the common ones. And you can take care to choose recipes that take the same items. For example, one week you may choose to make mushroom soup, spaghetti with tomato and mushroom sauce, and chicken with mushrooms. That way, you can prep all of your mushrooms at once.

Try This: Recipes with Tomatoes, Onions, and Brown Rice

To prepare for these recipes, use canned tomatoes, cook a big batch of brown rice ahead of time, and peel and cut several onions at once and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days until you need them.

  1. Casserole with tomatoes, onions, rice, basil, and oregano, topped with chopped walnuts mixed with parmesan cheese.
  2. Salmon baked in foil with lemon juice, thyme, tomatoes, and onions, served with brown rice and baked asparagus spears.
  3. Stew with chicken, eggplant, and onions cooked with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then simmered with tomatoes and beans, and served over brown rice.
  4. Black beans cooked with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and lime juice, served over brown rice with cheddar cheese and sliced avocado.

5. Cook One Meal for the Family

Cook One Meal for the Family

Everyone may have different tastes and dietary needs. It can take a lot of time to make more than one meal for a single family. You can save time by making meals that each person can tweak for themselves. For example, let's say you are roasting chicken breasts for dinner. You can put some roasted chicken atop a salad for yourself, and serve chicken in sandwiches for the rest of your family.

Or., serve whole-wheat pasta with one or two different sauces, plus several different toppings, on the side. That way, each person can take as much or little pasta as they want, and you can stick to a small portion of pasta with a bit of lean protein, such as cooked lean ground turkey, and a lot of steamed vegetables.

Try This: Pasta Bar

Cook whole-wheat pasta and serve it with a variety of sauces and toppings on the side. Serve yourself only 1/2 to 3/4 cup of pasta. And take only the sauces and toppings that fit into your meal plan. They may include marinara sauce or fresh-made tomato sauce, fresh basil, cooked broccoli or other vegetables, artichoke hearts, sun-dried or cherry tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, and cooked meatless sausage, chicken breast, or shrimp. Others in your family might want alfredo sauce, bacon bits, or parmesan cheese.

Losing a few extra pounds can be a great goal. Weight loss can boost health, energy, and confidence. It can be simple. And it can happen as part of your regular lifestyle. You can even eat your favorite foods and lose weight.

Lark makes weight loss simple and fun. With Lark, weight loss and healthy living happen when you make small changes that fit into your lifestyle. Lark offers tips, tracking, instant feedback, and friendly suggestions. Over time, small healthy changes can become habits for long-term success. Your personal Lark coach is available 24/7 through your smartphone so you can get expert tips, track meals, physical activity, and weight loss. 

The entire program may be available at no cost to you if your health insurer covers it. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to hitting your weight loss goals and improving health.

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