Rachel: Weekend Meal Prep & Other Time-Savers in the Kitchen
Rachel has taken our suggestions for weekend meal prep for the week and let it keep her organized even in the busiest of times. Find out how she saves so much time that she could add gym days into her schedule!
Since 2014, Rachel has been an engaged member of our cooking community. Between the meal prep steps we give with every weekly menu and a knife skills class she took, Rachel has reached the pinnacle of kitchen efficiency. But, her own easy cooking process wasn’t enough – she wanted to graciously help others in the kitchen, too, and started a Cook Smarts Instant Pot Facebook Group to share IP conversion advice.
Keep reading to find out how Rachel’s smart cooking routine, freezer usage, and cooking tips can help you save time in the kitchen, too!
1. Rachel, you’ve been a part of our cooking community for so long and we’re truly grateful to have such a supportive Kitchen Hero! Let’s give our readers a peek into your cooking routine. How do you tackle meals on a daily / weekly basis?
I try to think ahead. That’s actually a “rule” we follow as a team at work, and I apply it at home as well. When the Cook Smarts menu comes out on Thursday, I look at my weekend and gauge whether I will get groceries delivered or not. Then I look to what is going on with our week and I might make adjustments to the menu based on what we have scheduled. If it is a chaotic week ahead at work, then I will try to carve out more time for prep.
2. How do you utilize your freezer in both your kitchen organization and cooking process?
What works well for me is keeping whole ingredients that I regularly use on hand like vacuum-packed chicken thighs from Costco, salmon, and ground meat from our local butcher shop. I also keep some convenient things like frozen meatballs, filled pasta, and potstickers on hand for “emergencies.” Luckily those are few and far between thanks to Cook Smarts! But I just am not the type to eat a lot of pre-made frozen meals out of the freezer, and whenever I have tried, they just sit in there and eventually lead to a disorganized mess. It really is important to use the freezer in a way that you like you to cook and eat.
3. We know that you are a big fan of the Instant Pot, so much so that you created an Instant Pot Facebook group for Cook Smarts meals! Can you tell us how using an Instant Pot has changed your cooking routine, and how our recipes play a role?
My mom always remarks she is not a gadget person, but I most definitely am! I love any tool that makes things more efficient in the kitchen and the Instant Pot fits that bill. My favorite way to use it is as a prep tool. It makes it so easy to deal with everything from hearty root vegetables, grains to hard-boiled eggs. I have to confess, I am more likely to burn rice on the stovetop than make it edible, and I successfully make rice in the Instant Pot every single time. Any recipe that is for the slow cooker, I am more likely to turn it into an Instant Pot recipe.
“While using Cook Smarts, we added a gym routine, had a significant job change, and healthy well-balanced meals were never one of the sacrifices I had to make.”
4. In our last interview with you, you shared that your proudest moment in the kitchen was when you first cooked boeuf bourguignon during college break. We know you have had many more success stories since then and we were so proud when we heard you became a part-time cooking assistant at a local store in 2017! Can you give us a glimpse into what that experience was like? What were some of the challenges and triumphs when you first started?
I absolutely loved my job as a cooking assistant at Cooks of Crocus Hill, which is a local cooking store that also holds cooking classes. The biggest challenge was definitely my knife skills. We did a lot of prep before the students arrive, and I was not doing that rocking motion that leads to efficient chopping and I also was not cutting food in a uniform way.
A knife skills class helped and after that experience, I think it is an essential for anyone that wants to save time in the kitchen. You will always be pushing the “Active Time” of a recipe unless you have knife skills. Thanks to that job, I learned to embrace dough, I gained some super useful kitchen organization skills, and in general just had a lot of fun.
5. If there was one tip you could give anyone who wants to make nutritious, home-cooked meals despite their hectic schedule, what would it be?
Easy – the weekend prep! But no really – the weekend prep saves me. Between some late work evening and trying to make it to the gym in the evening, time is at a premium after work. I typically cook the fastest meals on gym nights and save the ones that require a bit more time for nights when we are home.
I usually do prep on Sunday afternoons and have a few podcasts lined up, and it has just become a normal part of my weekend. Having the ingredients chopped and ready in the fridge, and the sauces and dressings made makes home cooking as easy as a Trader Joe’s freezer meal and much more tasty.
While using Cook Smarts, we added a gym routine, had a significant job change, and healthy well-balanced meals were never one of the sacrifices I had to make.
6. And finally, what are your top 3 favorite Cook Smarts meals?
Rachel, thank you so much for sharing a bit of your life in the kitchen with us! We’re so glad that our weekly menus and weekend meal prep steps have helped you stay organized and get great home-cooked meals on the table no matter how your schedule has changed. We look forward to seeing more of your sage Instant Pot advice on Facebook!