Smart Mamas Cook! *Prep Work* | The Gingered Whisk: Smart Mamas Cook! *Prep Work*

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Smart Mamas Cook! *Prep Work*

Welcome back to the Smart Mamas Cook Series! How did your meal planning go last week?

This week we are going to talk about PREP WORK! (I'm about to throw a ton of info your way, but don't get intimidated! It's easy, I promise! These are all baby steps.

Just like in any restaurant, spending a little bit of time doing your prep work helps cut down tremendously on the amount of time you spend running around your kitchen while you are trying to cook! The less stressful you can make cooking, the easier it will be for you, and since you can't for see things like the kiddo dumping over the whole bucket of legos and then stepping on one (ok, I did see that coming...), the dogs going berserk because the neighbor dogs are on a walk and they aren't, or your husband asking you to help him choose which water filter to buy for his new emergency preparedness kit, you need to give yourself a break and make it easy!

The first step in this is to take care of your produce as soon as you come home from the grocery store (or as soon as you can get to it).

  • Wash all your fruits and veggies so they will be ready for you when you need them.
  • Split things like grapes or baby carrots into individually sized snack containers so you can just grab em and go! 
  • Rinse off your herbs, wrap the ends in a wet paper towel and place them back in your fridge (this helps them stay fresh longer).
Do some prep work for the week!
  • If you know you are going to need shredded carrots in three different meals this week, instead of shredding carrots on three seperate occasions, shred all of them now, seperate them into containers and place them back in your fridge. You can also do this with onions, garlic, and pretty much any veggie (Ever since having Ladybug I can't look at an onion with a knife in my hand without losing every ounce of mascara I am wearing. So I make Joel do a TON of onion chopping, and just store it in little baggies. I have also seen pre-cut ones at Wal-Mart!)

Get your Mess In Place!
  • Yup, its actually called "mise en place" which is french for "putting in place". Basically it means, get out all of your ingredients and put them on your counter where you can find them. Get out all your tools and saucepans, every single thing you are going to need to cook your recipe! That way you don't have to hunt for that one kitchen utensil you rarely use or that one spice container that will invariably be the last one you look at. 
  • If you can, or want to, it even helps to pretend you are on a cooking show and place all your ingredients pre-measured in cute little bowls (or any bowl you happen to own). That way you only have to toss it in at the right moment! You don't have to think about it, you know exactly how much you have, and throw it in! 

Make Extra, Save Extra
  • This concept doesn't really help you save time today, but for the future. It doesn't really take any longer to make two lasagnas as it does one. So make two and place one in the freezer! Then one day when things are crazy and you have a tight schedule all you have to do is pull a meal out of the freezer.
  • The same concept goes for soups, casseroles, or homemade stock. Making extra doesn't take a whole lot more time, but you can place extras in either individual containers or large ones and store them in the freezer until needed. (Leftover chicken stock and wine can be frozen in an ice cube tray and then placed in a ziplock bag!)
  • I know people who will spend one day a month making freezer meals for just this reason. That way you always know you have something you can eat, or if a friend needs a dinner, or you have guests coming over, you already have food! 

I know right now this seems like a lot of extra steps to take, but trust me when say it will help! Sometimes taking an extra 5 minutes to do a few more things will cut out so much frustration and running around that it actually ends up making things faster! Trust me! And I'm going to ask you how it went next week, so you had better at least try it! Twice! :)

Week 1: Meal Planning 


  1. Hey Jenni,

    Lots of good ideas. I'm just wondering though about the washing everything right away tip. Can't that cause your fruits and veggies to go bad quicker?

    I loved your mess in place joke! :)


  2. You know, I've never had a problem with our produce going bad faster because we washed it. But we do actually eat ours at a reasonable pace, so it doesn't sit long. Maybe that is why?


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