I’m a busy parent. Between work, getting my son to and from school and weekly evening classes (taekwondo and soon, swimming as well), household chores, and weekly errands, there’s barely enough time to sit down for a proper meal together, much less make one. But I, like many others, somehow manage. How? Truthfully, with take-out at least once a week. But for the other 6 days, some pre-planning, and use of clever kitchen appliances, help make meal prep easier.
Hands down, my number-one small kitchen appliance is my Instant Pot. I bought mine, the Ultra 10-in-1, on a whim this past holiday season hoping it would help make healthy and hearty meals quickly and easily. While there’s a bit of a learning curve, and it takes some experimentation until you get the hang of it, the Instant Pot is a meal planner’s dream. There are several go-to dinner recipes I rotate through each week, particularly for the days when we’re home late and I don’t have much time to whip up a meal. For example, I’ll prep sauce for Korean short ribs, then pop them in the Pot before taking my son to an evening class so they’re ready to eat when we get home. Even if we’re running late, the Keep Warm function kicks in. (Note: Instant Pot does not recommend leaving the Pot on while unattended, but I feel confident enough to do so, as long as I wait until it comes to pressure before leaving, and when I know I will be back home within the hour.) Or, I keep fresh grated cheese in the fridge that I can use as meal prep for homemade mac and cheese, which can be made in the Pot from start to finish in about 10 minutes. Some nights, a jar of salsa and a package of chicken thighs thrown into the Pot make for delicious (and quick) chicken tacos – zero prep required.
I often use my Google Home to help in the kitchen, asking it for quick ingredient measurement conversions, or to set timers when I’m cooking multiple things at once. I also use my smartphone or laptop to call up recipes, and an app called Bring for keeping track of my weekly shopping list. A smart refrigerator like the Samsung Family Hub can take this up a notch, and make meal prep a breeze. You can store shopping lists where everyone in the family can see, and add to it, to avoid last minute runs to the store to complete dinner. Easily access recipes to follow right from the fridge’s screen so you don’t dirty up your phone’s touchscreen with hands full of flour. You can even order groceries and have them shipped right to your door from the fridge.
One of the most time-consuming parts of making meals is prep like chopping vegetables and making sauces. A food processor can help simplify this meal prep task, and a large-sized one lets you do big batches to package and store in the fridge or freezer using plastic containers, Zip-lock bags, or even a Fresh Vacuum food sealer for perfect portions. Having one handy, you can quickly slice or chop vegetables to add to a stew or stir fry, grind items like nuts to crust a salmon or top an Asian dish, shred vegetables for a salad or cheese for a lasagna, or puree or mix sauces for pasta.
Prepping ahead of time can help drastically reduce the time it takes for a meal to go from oven, stove (or Instant Pot!) to table. If you can, try and prep for the week’s worth of meals every Sunday, and package everything so it’s ready to go right from the fridge or freezer. Then dump the ingredients in and have a delicious roast with potatoes ready in no time, or pasta boiled to pair with your reheated homemade sauce and salad with pre-chopped and stored vegetables.
Check out lots more small appliances that can help with meal prep in the kitchen at Best Buy Online.