Cutting down on food prep time

I think there are two main areas of concern for families and homemakers today – providing healthy food for the family and reducing the cost of living. I wrote about reducing the cost of living recently. If you didn’t catch that post, here’s the link to it. So today, I’m writing about healthy family food that is from scratch and can be prepared in 30 minutes when everyone comes home from school and work. This also works for the parents who work at home – either continuing their roles as stay at home mum/dad or for those who are choosing to work at home after Covid. Let’s face it, when you’ve got small children who can’t prepare their own meals, everyone needs a bit of help. It’s tough to get those plates on the table so that the kids have plenty of time to do their homework, play, talk to their parents and siblings or relax before bed. When they go to bed, everyone relaxes.
Before we go any further, I’m not giving you recipes for meals – everyone knows how to roast a chicken, BBQ steak and chops, fry fish, boil, poach and fry eggs or load up the slow cooker with the makings for a casserole. No, this is more about ways to get homemade food ready quickly – the food prepared ahead of time, stored in the fridge and then served with some form of protein. If you’ve got a small selection of side dishes in the fridge, you can get them ready while you cook your protein. Instead of making the same old salad you always serve or peel vegetables to boil or stir fry. Side dishes provide variety, new tastes and excitement. And if you’ve taken some time earlier in the week or on the weekend to prepare your side dishes, they’re fast, convenient and waiting for you in the fridge. Goodbye monotony, hello diversity.

You’ll need storage containers. I use glass containers with plastic lids or bamboo lids, (above). You can see what’s inside without taking them out of the fridge, they seal fairly well and will keep food fresh for a few days. I’ve just ordered some Rubbermaid containers which are 100% airtight and leak proof. They’ll be much better than the older containers I’ve been using. My general rule is to store for four – five days. Some things can go longer but I feel comfortable with a shorter period because I want to eat what I make and not waste anything. So far, that’s served me well. Be careful with rice, read about that here.




have this a few times a week now and I love it. Peel and slice your
chosen vegetables, put them in a large bowl and pour over one tablespoon
of salt. About an hour later, when the vegetables have wilted, wash all
the salt off and allow the vegetables to sit in a colander to drain. Then make your spiced vinegar. You’ll need a large glass
jar and the following ingredients.


is not preserving/canning, it’s refrigerator pickles that will be eaten
during the following week so your jars don’t need to be sterilised but
they must be clean.

Following is the pickling liquid I use. It
won’t be to everyone’s taste, I love vinegar, but I want you to start
with this recipes and modify it to your taste. I don’t add the water to
mine, I want the full vinegar taste – I drink the left-over vinegar
😍. You may add more or less sugar, different vegetables or spices or no
spices at all. Just play around with it till you find what you like.
It’s a delicious addition to grilled or barbequed meat, chicken or fish


  • 2 cups white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pickling spices (optional)
  • Bay leaf

all ingredients in a saucepan and heat on the stove. Bring to the boil,
then simmer for ten minutes. When it’s ready, allow it to sit and brew
for an hour or so. I sieve out the spice mix as I’m adding everything
to the jar. Cover the vegetables with the liquid and put the lid on.
Store in the fridge for a week. These are delicious served with any
meat, eggs, fish or on sandwiches.

This German meal is a filling and delicious recipe that everyone will love. It’s great for vegetarians or served with a salad, makes a delicious meal.

Serves 4

  • 6 large potatoes
  • 2 large onions
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup flour
  • salt and pepper

Grate the potatoes and finely dice the onions, add to a colander and allow to stand for 30 minutes while the juices drip. Add the potatoes and onions to a bowl, squeezing them to remove most of the juices. Add the eggs, flour, salt and pepper and mix well.

Put about ½ cup of oil in a frying pan, heat to medium heat then add ¼ – ½ cup circles of the potato mix. When the first side is golden brown, turn it over and cook the other side. Each one takes about 5 or 6 minutes and you can usually fit 4 into the pan at one time. If you’re making a large amount, use two pans.

Drain on a clean cotton cloth or paper towel and use a new paper towel or clean cotton cloth on the base of the glass box for best storage. Leftover cooked puffers
can be stored in the fridge for three or four days and eaten with a
variety of salads or sausages. Reheat in the microwave or in a dry frying pan on low heat.

I used to grow cabbages in winter and then make enough sauerkraut from them to last about nine months.This is great as a side dish to mix in with salads and for cooked meats. The post I wrote about it is here.

Make up your favourite pancake batter, mine is here:

  • 2 cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 peeled and grated apple 

Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until it’s a smooth batter with no lumps. Add the grated apple. Allow to stand for 1 hour before cooking. Leftover batter can be stored in the fridge for another day. I cook one large round pancake then cut it into triangles because I can’t be bothered fiddling with the small round shapes.

You can pre-cook the chicken on the weekend or during the week as you prepare that night’s meal. It will take five minutes to start it cooking and just remember to remove it from the heat about an hour later.

Boil a chicken in water, a bay leaf and parsley according to it’s size. About an hour will do most chickens. When it’s cooked, remove it from the broth and when it’s cooled a little, portion the flesh according to your taste – shredded or larger portions, and store it in a sealed container. Pour the broth into a container and store in the fridge. During the week you can make chicken curry, hunter’s chicken, chicken tacos or plain chicken with vegetables. Use the chicken broth for your sauces or make a simple soup by adding sliced vegetables and either rice or small pasta and cook for a further 30 minutes.


And don’t forget your drinks, snacks, sauces, chutneys and desserts. I always have a jar of lemons or limes in the fridge over summer. When I have a drink I can add a slice of sweetened lemon to the iced water. It’s suitable for iced tap water or carbonated water from a Soda Stream. When you get to the end of the slices, add the syrup to your drinks too, by then it will have a wonderful sharp lemon taste. A one litre jar will take three large lemons.

All you need to do is to add sugar syrup to your lemon slices. Sugar syrup is usually equal parts water to sugar. However, I use light syrup which is 2 cups tap water to 1 cup white sugar. Mix together in a saucepan and heat it on the stove.  As soon as the sugar dissolves, add it to the lemon, seal and store in the fridge.

I also should add that if you have your own vacuum sealing system (I don’t but I wish I had one) you could peel and slice your vegetables and store them in the fridge. Put all the mixed vegies in one bag, don’t bother separating them. That would cut down a lot of time in overall meal prep.


I have this gravy mix made up and sitting next to my stove. It’s so easy to make gravy or sauce after I finish cooking the meat. No more going to the pantry to find the seasonings, flour, spices etc. All you do is add the mix, stir and add water. It’s a real winner.


I know cooking from scratch everyday can be difficult especially if you’re out working or you’re looking after small children or caring for loved ones, but it is healthier and cheaper than the alternatives. I hope you try a couple of these ideas and hopefully they’ll help you cut down your prep time during those busy after work and school hours. If you can’t do two, do one.  Slowly, add another one and work out things that will help you cook from scratch. And if you’ve got any ideas that work for you, share them with us.  It might be just the thing someone is waiting to find.  xx

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