This weekend marks the beginning of the Fall busy season for E.J. and I. We have some kind of activity or even scheduled every weekend from now through mid-December, which means it’s going to be tough to find time to do full-on meal prep Sundays. For E.J and I, meal prepping weekends have been crucial to our success, so how do we find the time to squeeze in 3 or 4 dishes of cooking with all of the other weekend work? Here are some of my meal prep shortcuts:
- Instant Pot – If you haven’t yet jumped on the Instant Pot craze, you should definitely look into it. I use mine every weekend, mostly for making quick vegetable sides (sweet potatoes, beets, etc), but I’ve also cooked a whole chicken and done some stews in it. In less than an hour – this one is a huge time saver and doesn’t use the oven or stove, so it’s great for multitasking.
- Slow Cooker – If you’re going to be out all day (sporting events, fairs, band performances) the Crock Pot is the way to go. Chili, pot roast, chicken, pulled pork, lasagna, etc. – this one is great for starting it in the morning (or load the insert the night before and put it in the fridge before starting the cook in the morning) and letting it do the work for you all day.
- Electric Smoker – Like the slow cooker, low and slow 225 degree smoking is really easy and can be left going all day while you’re out and about. Brisket, Ribs, and Pork shoulder all need more than 7 hours of smoking time, which is good for set and forget cooking. Of course, it’s better if you can put a little more wood on it throughout the smoking process, but it still works even if it’s unattended. Just make sure it’s nice an low heat for safety.
- Frozen Meals – Sometimes there’s just no time to cook at all, and this is when it’s great to have some frozen meals ready to just thaw, heat and eat. Soup, chili, sausage, fish, and shrimp are great for this approach, and are also a great way to add some variety in the middle of the week if some of your weekend prep meals are starting to bore you.
- Ultimate Cheat: Buy it Cooked – this weekend we headed out to Luling, TX for an Intro to Hang Gliding class (it was a blast, I highly recommend it) and decided to just stay the night in San Antonio rather than drive back to Houston. We knew it would likely be 5 or 6pm by the time we got home, and since we stayed the night, there wasn’t an opportunity to start something in a smoker or slow cooker. So what’s a Paleo food prepper to do? BBQ for the win! Most of the BBQ houses that you buy from out in the country make and season their own meats and don’t put in all of the additives that you get in the grocery store. Many times just a quick ask of their ingredients in sausage and rubs will tell you if they add sugar or not, and if not, you’re golden. Make sure you have cash in hand for the best deal, but if you can buy 4-8 lbs of meat and then Instant Pot & oven roast some veggies to go with it, you’re good to go for your whole week.