One of the things I do and suggest my clients do as well is treat their kitchen like it’s a restaurant. Having been a waitress for many, many years I got to spend a lot of time in the “back of the house” – or the kitchen. And I loved it. I loved that everything was prepped and organized in shiny silver buckets and trays so that by the time we hit our dinner rush the chefs could get food out in a heartbeat.
Everything was washed, sliced, shredded and ready to go. But can you imagine if for every table that ordered food the chefs would have to start everything from scratch? It would take FOREVER to get food out. For instance let’s say I ordered a hamburger – if nothing was prepped they’d have to get out the ground beef, season it, make the patty, grill it, then wash the lettuce & tomato and slice the pickles. Not to mention what they’d have to do if I ordered a side salad.
Perhaps this was how I learned to treat the kitchen in my house like a restaurant kitchen. To live a healthy lifestyle and eat healthy you have to be willing to make food prep a priority. This is just a fact – otherwise on those nights you get home late from work, or your kids have evening activities and you’re trying to get something into those beautiful little faces it can be tempting to turn to a processed or fast food option.
I know for me that going grocery shopping with two little ones in tow can be exhausting – I did this on Sunday and it felt like I was taking care of two octopi – little hands grabbing everything not to mention the poking and kicking each other (them – not me). By the time I got to the till I was sweating and then came the true challenge – unloading a massive grocery cart of food, packing it into the bags I brought all while trying to prevent my little ones from screaming and chasing each other – they decided that it would be fun to play tag, I didn’t agree.
Finally we’re in the car, back home, the unloading happens and now I’ve got 6 bags of groceries to put away and 2 kids who have excess energy to expend. So the groceries stay on the floor and we go to the park for 30 min and play. We all needed it. Back home we come and everyone is calmer. I park them in front of a Curious George (I’m over my fear of TV ruining their lives). And I get my kitchen organized. All dry goods get put away and every vegetable gets put on the counter. Trust me, at this point it’s extremely tempting to just shove everything in the fridge and just be done with it but I know that will just create more work and chaos for me down the road.
Here’s exactly what I do for my veggie prep:
- I clean the sink and fill it full of cold water
- I wash all the lettuce, put it into a salad spinner to get rid of the excess water then lay it on a clean tea towel, roll it up and throw it into the fridge (after about an hour I throw it into a Tupperware)
- I replace the water. I wash and chop up all of the broccoli and cauliflower and put them into Tupperware and replace the water again
- I wash the kale, spin it and de-stem it (the stem is bitter) and throw it into a Ziploc bag
- I peel all the carrots. I get out the food processor and grate half of them and then slice the other half of them into carrot coins. Both go into separate containers
- I shred the purple cabbage
- I grate my beets.
- I wash and slice my celery into sticks and put into a container while saving the celery leaves in a ziplock bag and freezing so I can use them to make veggie stock at a later date
This took me about 1 hr or so to do ~ I work very quickly in the kitchen!
I wanted to write and tell you how enjoyable this was. That my kids were involved and helping with the washing and grating and that it was a fun family activity. I wanted to say that this was a relaxing time for me – that while spending my Sunday afternoon getting my veggies prepped for the week I was calm and slowly sipping on a glass of nice cold white wine enjoying this time with my kids. Because on some weekends that is how it happens.
Not this time.
Instead my kids were whiney and didn’t want to help. My stress level increased every 15 minutes as the pitch of their voice and demands for my attention and time increased. There was water and veggie scraps everwhere. They started to fight. I yelled. They yelled. There was “quiet time” in their rooms issued (I later found carrot peels downstairs). My kitchen was a disaster – truly. And I looked and felt like I’d just endured some sort of punishment. The wine came later. Two glasses.
However, it’s now Thursday when I’m writing this and every meal has been smooth sailing. Why? Because all of that prep paid off. Veggie plates were a snap to make. Salads took 5 seconds – a heaping bunch of lettuce, followed by two handfuls of purple cabbage, layered with grated carrot and finished with some cucumber & pepper slices (I don’t precut those veggies because they get slimy). Steamed broccoli or carrot coins were easy peasy to make because they were already washed and precut, same thing with stir fry’s.
So that 1 hour of prep and stress probably saved me almost 3 hours during my week so far and totally decreased my dinner time anxiety. My kids have had veggies at every meal as have I. Worth it? Absolutely. Did I feel like it was at the time? No. So, why did I do it? Because this is a habit for me. I know that putting that effort in up front is part of what I need to do to be healthy and make our meals fresh & healthy too.
How can you do this?
1) Schedule it into your day timer – literally. I know you make other things in your life a priority so simply do that with food prep as well. If going grocery shopping and doing food prep on one day is too much break it up – go shopping one day and do your veggie prep the next day
2) Involve your family – if your kids are older and can wield a peeler or knife get them peeling, slicing and chopping
3) Take a baby step – dedicate 15 minutes a night to getting something prepped in your kitchen for the next day or two (this can feel life changing)
4) Still thinking there’s no way you can make time for this? Hire somebody – it’s well worth paying someone to come in and do all this for you. Perhaps there’s a teenager on your block who’d be happy to help – you never know.
When you’re busy it’s really hard to think about coming home and doing all of that washing, chopping, slicing and dicing – but it’s SO satisfying when everything is ready to go!!
I’d love to hear what you think about this idea and one thing you might be willing to try. Drop down into the comment box below to share.
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