Before I joined Farmer’s Fresh, I never did much prepping. I’d chop some onions or potatoes now and then. But now I have a new job and you do, too – you are now your own prep cook.
Prepping is a big part of the extra time that eating real food requires. By prepping, I mean
- washing and drying
- chopping, slicing, dicing
- cooking things that can be cooked or partially cooked ahead of time
- preparing foods that are cold and can just sit in the fridge
Here’s how to survive this addition to your schedule:
Sooner is usually better. But most stuff will survive until the weekend. That’s one of the beauties of CSA produce. It’s so fresh that you have at least a couple days breathing room over anything in a grocery store.
If you are looking for absolute freshness, you may want to delay prepping until right before cooking. But that doesn’t work for me. In the past, I used to look in the fridge and think, “I could put some (insert produce) in this dish, but I don’t have time to wash it and cut it up.” Boo! Now I wash and prep everything at the beginning of the week and have it ready to use whenever I want it. If I don’t, I’m likely to put off using it and that doesn’t do anyone any good. Any loss of freshness is totally worth it to me.
Combine prepping and planning. When you’re washing and examining produce, it’s a great time to think about what it will be good for or with. Here’s more about meal planning.
Keep prepping separate from cooking. Prep in mid morning or mid afternoon on the weekends or even later at night – far away from any eventual meal. There’s too much to do to prep and cook a meal at one time. And the energy required is completely different from when you’re cooking an actual meal.
When you’re prepping you can let your mind wander, turn on the music or the tv, sing, or invite a friend or family member to come hang out. Even if they don’t help much, it will still be fun. When you’re cooking, it’s more about keeping track of different things and timing and what comes next. There’s not so much time for mind wandering.
Get one or two good knives. A good knife can make prepping fun; a mediocre one will drive you insane. You simply have too much chopping, slicing, and dicing to do to muck around with a lesser knife. Other tools are important, too, but knives are paramount.
Delegate. Once you’ve had some experience prepping, figure out what jobs you can pass on to others.
Delegate Part II: One of the reasons I enjoy cooking for my family is that they clean up. Once the plates are on the table, my part’s done. I’m incredibly lucky, I know, that my husband just assumes this is a fair trade. But see if you can’t work something out. Focus on the fairness aspect and let them clean any way they want to. Well, almost any way. I finally had to stop biting my lip and explain to my husband that my wooden utensils can’t go in the dishwasher.
Remember, even when you have to be your own prep cook, it’s still nice to have one.