A prep day in the kitchen can save you a lot of time making meals, and can help make healthy eating much easier! While you’re at it, make a batch of delicious freezer burritos!
We have started school back this week, which basically means I have a lot less time to do things around the house. Cooking included.
I am looking for ways to streamline breakfast so I can make the most of the time I have before the kids get up. I have been cherishing the two quiet, peaceful hours I have in the morning to start my day, and getting up to make an elaborate breakfast is not really an option if I want to get going with school on time.
Two things making my mornings more intentional and enjoyable right now: Crystal Paine’s course Make Over Your Mornings and my Instant Pot. MOYM helped me get the motivation I needed and helped me set up intentional routines. My Instant Pot is also my new best friend in the mornings since it means we can have perfect steel cut oats in just fifteen minutes. (Steel cut oats make the BEST oatmeal).
Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats in the Instant Pot :: combine 1 C steel cut oats, 3 C water, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1 apple, sliced in 1″ pieces in the Instant Pot. Select Manual, set the time for 3 minutes. Turn off and do a ten minute natural release (I have also released the pressure myself if I’m in more of a hurry).
Breakfast is not the only meal I want to come together quick, fast, and in a hurry. The rest of the day is full and most days do not leave a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. Sure there are still days where I want to linger with fresh pasta and I still make our own sandwich bread. But as much as I can, I want to make meal prep as simple and straightforward as possible while still prioritizing real foods made at home.
Kitchen prep days are one way I can do that. By investing an afternoon (and part of an evening) in the kitchen, I can make breakfasts, lunches, and dinners just a little easier.
This is the second prep day I have shared. You can check out the first one here. The posts are meant to give you ideas for your own kitchen prep day. Follow the same steps I did, or decide for yourself what foods would be most beneficial to prepare ahead of time.
I really hope this helps you to save time and be able to eat well even in busy seasons too. Let me know if you have any more ideas, tips, or questions!
Kitchen Prep Day
We did school in the morning, then at lunchtime I started working in the kitchen. Several things were more hands-off and could be cooking while I prepared other foods. My Instant Pot also made much quicker work of cooking the rice and the beans.
I still had meals to make the family, nap time to arrange, and everything else that goes along with having four kids, so I was distracted and the process took longer than it would have if I just focused on the kitchen. Of course, if you can manage a free afternoon without distractions, your prep day would take less time. But, I just was in and out of the kitchen all afternoon, and reminding myself that the end result would be worth it was sufficient motivation.
Here is what I did, in the order I did them. (Though, of course, they overlapped because of the various cook times).
1. Cook brown rice.
I actually did this the day before so that I could use part of it for fried rice. I cooked it in my Instant Pot, but I love this method of baking it in the oven too. Extra rice can be frozen for future use.
2. Soak & cook beans.
At breakfast, I put dry pinto beans and dry black beans in two bowls and covered each with water. The beans were ready to cook after lunch. I cooked the black beans first in the Instant Pot (it took 20 minutes to cook and about 15 minutes to release the pressure). Three cups of the black beans were used for freezer burritos, one cup was saved for sheet pan nachos for lunch the next day, and the rest were put in six pint jars to freeze.
After the black beans were done, I used the Instant Pot again to cook the pintos (it took about 25 minutes for these to cook and about 15 to release the pressure). I put all of the pintos in jars. One bag of pintos filled 9 pint jars.
3. Start simmering chicken broth.
I took out two chicken carcasses which I had put in the freezer after roasting them, and added them to the crockpot along with 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp whole peppercorns, 2 carrots, an quartered onion, a few halved garlic cloves, and enough water to fill the crockpot.
I turned the crockpot on low to simmer for 4 hours. After 4 hours, I strained the broth out into a large bowl, then refilled the crockpot with fresh water to simmer for another 3-4 hours. I filled mason jars with half of the first batch, then topped them off with broth from the second batch at the end of the night. (This was the last thing I did just before bed). I ended up with about 24 cups of chicken broth.
4. Make salsa.
I made a big batch of salsa in my food processor in about ten minutes. Half of the salsa was used for freezer burritos, and the other half was refrigerated.
5. Shred carrots.
While I had the food processor out, I shredded carrots to make carrot raisin muffins.
6. Make smoothie bags.
Putting together bags of greens, veggies, and fruit for breakfast smoothies did not take long at all, but will save time in the mornings when we have smoothies and eggs for breakfast. I will just need to add yogurt and whey/water when it’s time to mix them up.
I made two variations:
- mixed super greens, celery, carrots, blueberries and apples
- mixed super greens, celery, carrots, and strawberries (I will add ripe bananas when I make the smoothie, I just didn’t have any ripe ones on hand).
7. Make freezer burritos.
When the black beans and salsa were done, I was able to mix together the burrito filling and roll up the burritos. I made 18 burritos, which will be great for quick lunches!
8. Bake muffins.
I baked a dozen carrot raisin muffins to freeze for lunches. These are some of my favorite picnic muffins. I will be able to just pull them out of the freezer and pair them with cheese and fruit for a very simple lunch.
The most important part of this list is, of course, what you can do with all the food you prepared. Here are some ideas:
- Rice :: 30 minute fried rice, use as an easy side for meatloaf or almond & parmesan crusted chicken
- Beans :: sheet pan nachos, black bean & spinach egg rolls, pintos and cornbread, hearty 30 minute chili, crockpot mexican lasagna, black bean salad with roasted sweet potatoes, mexican pizzas with beans and tortillas,
- Chicken broth :: 7 Amazing soups that come together fast
- Salsa :: sheet pan nachos, cheesy chicken and salsa soup, serve with quesadillas or tortilla chips
Ridiculously Easy Freezer Burritos
- 4 C brown rice
- 3 C black beans
- 3 C greens, chopped
- 2 C salsa
- 1 C yogurt
- 1 C shredded mozzarella
- 1 C shredded cheddar
1. Mix together the filling ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Scoop out a heaping 1/2 C filling onto the center of a tortilla. Fold in the sides of the tortilla towards the middle, then fold the bottom up and roll the tortilla into a tight burrito. Repeat the same folding to wrap the burrito with the piece of foil.
3. Continue to wrap burritos until you run out of filling. (I made 18 burritos with 10″ tortillas).
4. Bag the burritos in a ziploc freezer bag and keep frozen until ready to eat. Warm the burritos in a 300° oven for 30 minutes, or heat in the microwave.
Do you do prep days in the kitchen? What foods do you prep?
How do you make meal prep easier?
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These burritos look great! Definitely doing this one this week. Just curious, what kind of greens do you use? Lettuce gets pretty slimy when it freezes/thaws. But maybe having it mixed it with everything else kind of masks that?
I use greens like spinach, kale, and chard. I do not typically put lettuce in cooked food.
Katie kleiser says
This post was so inspiring. Encouraging me to accomplish more in my kitchen. I read it a couple of times and sent it to my sister who has cooking days set aside at times as well as tries to eat healthy. I’m working towards those goals myself and reading this post as well as looking up the high lighted suggestions will help me attain that goal. I enjoyed reading your first prep day entry as well!
I look forward to trying the burritos to freeze. I think that would make for a good dinner to take for a family that’s in need of dinners for whatever reason. The burritos with some carrot raisin muffins I think would be greatly appreciatied. Not that they go together but ones a great snack and the other is a ready meal. Although, I like how you made the muffins into a great lunch on a picnic before too. So many good ideas! Thanks for the post!
I am so glad it was inspiring Katie! It’s great that you have goals and are taking steps to achieve them. Getting things done in the kitchen can really ebb and flow for me, depending on the season of life. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
I agree that burritos and muffins would be a great gifts for a family. They are both so adaptable and versatile.