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With the start of the school year, it’s time to get back to a more structured routine. Meal prep requires a minimum of planning, especially during busy evenings. Here’s a one-month game plan to help optimize your time in the kitchen. Ready, set, go!

Three weeks to one month in advance

Keep a list of your top hits

Every household has their top favourite dishes. Why not survey the members of your family to find out which of the meals you’ve made in recent months were a resounding success? Make a list of them, along with all the ingredients needed to prepare them. Keep your list handy when viewing the weekly flyers. When the products on your list are on special, take the opportunity to stock up. This way you kill two birds with one stone: you reduce your grocery bill and delight the whole family!

Prepare dishes to freeze

Expecting rain? Take the opportunity to cook meals and replenish your freezer. These ready-made dishes will save you precious minutes on weeknights. We suggest opting for recipes that are just as tasty straight out of the oven as they are frozen then reheated!

  • Sauce-based dishes: Stew, chili, and spaghetti sauce all freeze well and are perfect during the chilly fall weather.
  • Lasagna: Revisit this classic by concocting our three-meat version. A recipe the whole family will love!
  • Soup: Simple to make and wonderfully comforting, this butternut squash soup will quickly become a must on your menu!
  • Shepherd’s pie: Add a touch of originality to your weekly menu with this Texas variant [Texas chicken shepherd’s pie].
  • Quiche: A recipe combining vegetables and ham that’s quick and easy to make . . . and is sure to disappear in the blink of an eye!  
  • Meatloaf: Traditional or pack with veggies, this popular dish is always a family fav!
  • Desserts: Try our fabulous brookies, a delightful chocolate chip cookie/brownie hybrid. Serve them with a scoop of ice cream for a decadent treat!  

Stock your pantry and freezer

Flyer in hand, stock up now to avoid having to make multiple trips to the grocery store once school is back in session. And don’t forget to take inventory of your pantry and freezer. This helps ensure you don’t buy things in double and triple (especially meat, as this is one ingredient that doesn’t last forever, even if frozen). Here is a list of some kitchen staples to always have on hand:

  • Canned legumes, fish, fruits, and vegetables;
  • Rice, couscous, pasta, legumes, and dried peas;
  • Chicken or vegetable broth;
  • Cereals, granola bars, cookies, nuts, and dried fruits;
  • Nut butter and jams, honey, maple syrup;
  • Meat or fish to freeze, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables.

One week in advance

Plan theme nights 

Are you out of inspiration? Suggest a theme for each meal of the week. Not only will it be easier to narrow down what dishes to make, but you’ll have fun while doing it! Plus, the kids will get a kick out of it!

  • Mexican night: tacos, fajitas, nachos, spicy soups, burritos, the options are endless!
  • Vegetarian dishes: Make room for yummy chickpea salads, tofu meatballs, and Asian stir-fries with noodles and edamame for example.
  • One-pot recipes: Themes that offer endless inspiration for tasty meals . . . with fewer dishes to wash to boot! This recipe for sheet-pan jerk chicken and veggies is simple, delicious, and well balanced.

Use those leftovers

Leftovers can be transformed into brand-new meals that are quick and delish! Here are some versatile ideas that turn last night’s meal into today’s tasty lunch.

  • Souvlakis: This timeless Greek dish can be enjoyed at lunch in the form of succulent Greek-style chicken sandwiches.
  • Roast chicken: Your leftovers will be delicious in this gourmet pasta salad, perfect for lunch.
  • Pork chops: Cut into strips, they can be tossed into a wrap, or a couscous or quinoa salad.
  • Salmon: Leftover salmon is delicious between two slices of bread topped with cream cheese and thinly sliced cucumbers.   

The night before

Meal prep time!

For peaceful, stress-free mornings, get into the habit of preparing a few things the night before:

  • Program the coffee maker;
  • Set the table and take out breakfast foods (such as cereal, fruit, muffins, bread, or spreads);
  • Prepare breakfast ahead of time. These [overnight oats] can be made the night before, ready and waiting when you wake up;
  • Thaw the meat in the fridge for dinner the next day;
  • Ask your kids to help with the lunches, getting them to wrap snacks and pack utensils.

Foresight is the key to maximizing your time in the kitchen. By adopting this strategy now, you’ll spend fewer hours cooking . . . and more time relaxing!