A few easy Sunday moves can help you make quick and healthy weekday meals. Dietitian Brooke Longfield helps you prep for success!
At the end of a hectic day, most of us want dinner as soon as we get home — we just feel like sitting down, relaxing! As a result, we often let our good intentions slide in favour of whatever’s fast and easy. Of course, creating nourishing, well-balanced meals night after night is no mean feat — but a little forward planning can help. Spend just an hour in the kitchen on the weekend and you’ll find it easy to eat well all week.
In a 2014 study, people who spent more time preparing food at home ate more fruit and vegetables than people who relied largely on convenience food. Cooking at home also means consuming fewer kilojoules.
So get the jump on your weeknight cooking with these five simple tips — they’ll save you both time and money.
Step 1: 10 minutes
Plan to eat well
Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to plan the coming week’s meals. Work out which nights require speedy, hassle-free meals and which nights give you a bit more time in the kitchen. (Work around your family members’ extracurricular activities, such as sports and meetings, too.) Check what you already have in the fridge, freezer and pantry, and plan these vegies into your meal plan. One you’ve worked out your meals for the week, write a matching shopping list. Then you can hit the shops with purpose, and avoid buying any unwanted, unnecessary extras.
Step 2: 5 minutes
Precook your grains
The healthiest grains, such as high-fibre brown rice, barley and quinoa, take a little longer to cook than white rice and other refined grains. (Noodles and instant couscous are speedy but they lack the fibre and nutrients of whole grains.)
Cook a couple of batches of brown rice, barley or quinoa. Seal cooled grains into freezer bags labelled with the date and number of portions, then freeze or refrigerate. Before you reheat the grains, stir in a little water to restore their fluffy texture, then toss them into warm salads, stir-fries and curries.
Step 3: 15 minutes
Prep veg and salad
The last thing most of us want to do after a long day at work is to peel and chop vegies. It also eats a lot into your food prep time. Use Sunday to peel and chop your onion, garlic, capsicum, carrot and other vegies. They will all keep in the fridge for a few days, as will washed salad leaves and rinsed beans.
Roast a big batch of pumpkin, sweet potato and beetroot to toss through lunchtime salads or serve them with dinners. You’re over halfway to having a tasty salad, so why not make your own dressing too? It’s healthier (and cheaper) than store-bought varieties. Mix one part balsamic vinegar with three parts olive oil, shake and drizzle for a healthy dressing!
Step 4: 15 minutes
Get a head start on breakfast
A smoothie is the definition of a fast breakfast. Pop a handful of berries, half a banana and a cup of baby spinach into a zip-lock bag, and freeze overnight. Simply whiz them into milk and yoghurt for an instant brekkie.
Overnight oats are another tasty grab-and-go option. Seal equal measures of rolled oats, yoghurt and milk into an airtight container and refrigerate to soak overnight. In the morning, just top your oats with fruit, nuts or seeds. You can also portion your muesli or cereal into zip-lock bags or containers and splash on some milk when you get to work.
Step 5: 15 minutes
Portion out snacks
Supermarkets now stock plenty of individually wrapped snacks, but convenience often sells at a premium. The low-cost solution is to make your own. Measure out large bags of nuts and dried fruit into 30g portions for your own trail mix. Buy 1kg yoghurt tubs and spoon into single serves, portion out air-popped popcorn, and slice a block of cheese into thin slices, ready for snacks and sandwiches.
If you have some extra time, whip up healthy muffins or fruit and nut bars. For a slice of baking inspiration, check out our delicious ‘light delights’: