When life gets busy, getting dinner on the table can feel like the last thing you want to do. We'd be lying if we said we haven't fallen victim to last-minute takeaways or a bowl of cereal for dinner - but with a little meal planning and preparation you can have an easy and delicious meal, no matter what life throws at you.
Meal prep makes cooking faster, easier, and more efficient. It doesn't have to mean living off the same dish for days in a row. Instead, it's all about being smart in the kitchen and prepping as much as you can in advance.
It may seem daunting at first, but think of it as asking that dreaded question "What's for dinner?" only once, instead of every night.
Start small and work yourself up to the number of meals per week that suits you. For us, four is the sweet spot, we know we're having four healthy home-cooked meals, and it still gives us room to eat out with friends or have a night in with our favourite takeaways in hand.
Then, once you have a plan for the week and have done the shopping, commit to spend an hour in the kitchen on a Sunday meal-prepping.
Start by making a condiment or two – something that can be used across a variety of meals - such as pickled onions, a basic vinaigrette, a creamy yoghurt tahini or some hummus, and toast some nuts and seeds. These condiments are also key to transforming a basic dish into something special.
Next, roast a variety of seasonal vegetables, cook grains and pre-chop any veges for your planned meals.
When you come home late from work and can easily throw together some cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, topped with hummus and crunchy roasted almonds, you'll be feeling pretty happy with yourself.
● Avoid food wastage by shopping your fridge and pantry first.
● Include a new recipe each week, to build up a repertoire of meals you love.
● Choose recipes that use common ingredients. So if you're using cabbage, try to find another recipe that uses the remainder.
● Try different cuisines so that similar ingredients won't feel as though they're on repeat. Using cabbage in an Asian style slaw will feel very different to braising it in a spicy tomato sauce.
● Write a list. Then head to the shops or market for everything you need and nothing you don't.
Coconut lemongrass curry with roasted vegetables and pickled onions
Roasted vegetables in curries are such a game-changer. Not only does it make for a quick and easy dish but they add a delicious depth of flavour to the curry, and hold themselves really well without turning to mush. You can use any roasted veges you'd like - cauliflower, sweet potato and pumpkin work really well.
1 red onion, finely sliced
½ cup water
½ cup vinegar (red wine, apple cider or white wine)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 red capsicums, sliced
2 eggplants, cut into wedges
1 zucchini, sliced into rounds
Salt and pepper
Coconut lemongrass curry
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp ginger, grated
1 Tbsp lemongrass powder or 2 sticks of fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
1 tsp cardamom seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric
400ml coconut cream
¾ cup of chicken or vegetable stock
400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan bake.
2. Pickled onions: Prepare the pickled onions. Add the sliced red onions to a glass jar. In a small saucepan add the water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the onions and let sit for at least an hour.
3. Roasted vegetables: Place the eggplant, capsicum and zucchini on large baking trays, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 30-35 minutes until cooked through and starting to go crispy.
4. Heat coconut oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for a few minutes until the onions have softened.
5. Add all spices, and a little more oil if needed, and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
6. Turn up the heat and add the coconut cream and stock. Bring to the boil before reducing to a gentle simmer.
7. Add the chickpeas and allow the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes or so until the liquid has reduced slightly.
8. Add the roasted vegetables to the chickpeas and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
9. Remove from the heat and stir through the rice wine vinegar and fish sauce. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh coriander, pickled onions and cashews.
Want to be smart in the kitchen? Double the rice and veg, and use leftover pickled onions in this quick and easy Middle Eastern-inspired rice with yoghurt tahini sauce.