It’s so important to keep eating healthfully, especially as we get older. But aging can make it more difficult to keep up with a garden and still attend to all of the other chores that keep a household running smoothly. When I was younger, I could go out to the garden, pick, wash, and process my garden harvest all on the same day. However, the older I get, the slower I get. So to continue putting up produce from the garden, I’ve learned to spread the entire food prep process over two days.
Before I begin, I check to make sure I have enough jars, lids or freezer bags on hand. Then, on the first day, I pick, wash and refrigerate all the produce that is ready for harvest. On day two, I chop, spiralize, stew or roast the prepared produce from day one, one fruit or vegetable at a time, and then transfer each to appropriate containers for storing in either the freezer or refrigerator. By giving myself an extra day, I can continue to use home-grown produce the way we like it and that makes for a happier, healthier household.
Everyday Food Prep
Doing a little food prep every day makes it easier to prepare healthy meals every day. Having already done some of the work prior to mealtimes makes it easier to make healthy choices.
Some of the things I do for everyday food prep:
- Boil or bake a couple pounds of potatoes, cool, put in plastic bags and refrigerate. Use these for hashbrowns for breakfast, potato salad for lunch, or sliced and browned in skillet for dinner.
The already-baked potatoes can also can be double baked: cut in half, scoop out potato and mash, adding cheese or sour cream as you mash, refill the skins with the mashed mixture and put in oven until hot or browned on top.
- Cook a cup or two of rice, cool and portion out by cupful into snack or sandwich bags and put in fridge or freezer. I use the cooked rice in stir frys, rice pudding, chicken and rice, etc. Barley can be treated the same way as rice. (It takes longer to cook though than rice.)
- Poach chicken breasts to cook up a lot of chicken for freezing. Boneless skinless thighs will work too. I poach them in chicken broth, then when cool I slice or cut in chunks and pour the broth over the chicken for freezing, just to cover. The broth keeps the chicken moist with no danger of freezer burn.
When I freeze chicken parts, I lay them out on large sheet pan that has either parchment paper or Saran wrap on it. Be sure chicken parts do not touch or they will stick together. Set in freezer until frozen then put in freezer bags. Later, I can retrieve however many pieces I need without defrosting entire package of parts.
I love making my own bread but I’ve cut back the amount of bread I eat, so once I bake and slice it, I freeze it. I put a piece of wax paper or parchment paper between slices, or between every two slices, so they will come off the loaf easily, instead of having to defrost most of the loaf to get one or two slices. The papers are easily cut into bread size separators.
Holiday Food Prep
I’ve always loved cooking holiday meals and I’m not ready to give it up to the younger folks. Luckily, I’ve found that I can use a lot of food prep for holiday meals as well. For for big holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter I first make a list of dishes I’ll be serving on the big day and make sure I have all the ingredients I need for each dish. I prep only one dish a day so it doesn’t seem like such a chore.
A couple weeks prior to Thanksgiving, for example, I make my cranberry sauce and put in freezer, make pies or cakes and put in freezer, prepare any casseroles, dressings or bake sweet potatoes and put in the freezer. Having all of my side dishes prepped in advance leaves me the time and energy to concentrate on cooking the turkey or roast on the day we will eat it. Although on a few lesser holidays, I have also roasted the turkey, made gravy and portioned out and put in the freezer week or two before the big day. That was the best dinner ever!
This works for normal weekly meal prep too. Whatever you put in freezer already cooked will be eaten up well before the “freezer date eat by” deadline. Just be sure to date everything and write what it is on package and be a dinner winner everyday!