Time management is not one of my gifts. Just between us, it’s almost non-existent. I blush to think of the number of times that I’ve pulled together great social events for friends, only to have my children greeting guests at the door because I’m still upstairs pulling myself together at the last minute. It’s awful! I am, however becoming better by finding and using shortcuts that drastically reduce my meal prep time…and help me greet my guests all by myself! Today, I’d like to share one of those shortcuts with you.
I like to cook from scratch and use fresh ingredients as much as possible. That alone can mean added time in the kitchen. Several “seasoning” vegetables are used in preparation of many recipes. Some are used almost daily while others are used often, but less frequently. Nothing irks me more than buying a perfectly fresh bell pepper from the farmers market, using half of it in a recipe and then having the rest spoil before I have a chance to use it. It’s a waste of food and money.
Much to my delight, a few years back I discovered 1-lb bags of frozen chopped bell peppers in the freezer aisle in my grocery store. “Hot diggity!,” I may have exclaimed aloud as as the refrigerator case’s chilly fog wafted over my ecstatic face. I bought those bags for a few years, even after the size went down to 12 oz and the price went up by 50%, so great was the convenience of having bell pepper available at my beck and call without having to worry about spoilage or chopping time! Then one day as I piled bags into my cart, grumbling about price gouging frozen veggie producers, I had a “light bulb” moment – “I can buy my fresh green peppers from the farmers market where they’re cheap, chop them up, and freeze them myself!” (Ok, sometimes I still get them from the store, but I buy a load of them on sale.)
Now, I do this with bell peppers (green and red), celery, carrots and onions. I buy a large quantity, wash, chop and bag them, then pop those suckers right into the freezer. Now, when I go to make a meal with peppers, onions, carrots or celery in the mix, I go to the freezer, pull out a bag, scoop out the amount needed and toss it back in. Done! Saves me significant time in prep, and I know it’s squeaky clean. My demo is using celery, but the process is the same for peppers and carrots – skip the washing for onions, of course.
- Begin by washing your veggies (skip the wash for onions). I prefer Trader Joe’s Fruit & Vegetable Wash. It does an amazing job. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, here is where you can find it: https://www.amazon.com/Trader-Joes-Fruit-Vegetable-Wash/dp/B00DL42AMI
2. Lay veggies out on a towel to dry or mostly dry (peel onions).
3. Chop veggies to the size dice you prefer.
4. Load chopped pieces into a zipper-seal freezer bag.
5. Roll the bag, compressing it to press out as much air as possible, and zip to seal.
6. Label with veggie name and the date of bagging.
You have fresh-frozen, reasonably priced, clean veggies already chopped and ready for use. Now you can have time to sip a nice glass of wine and take a deep breath while dinner gets underway a bit more quickly, and feel good about the value you’ve saved…or go get ready for your guests!
What tricks have you found to make meal prep a bit more sane – and what challenges would you like ideas to help resolve? I’ll be looking to see your ideas in Comments below – and thanks for sharing!