culinary tips to save money with meal prepping with Elyse Kopecky of Run Fast. Eat Slow.

TOP 10 CULINARY TIPS TO SAVE TIME AND MONEY

Elyse’s tips to help you get organized and save time in the kitchen.


Bonus:
Keep reading to also cut down on food waste and save money at the grocery store. 

 

Cooking wholesome and delicious meals day in and day out takes time and effort. There are no complete shortcuts (that’s called takeout!). If you want to eat better, you’ll have to dedicate time in the kitchen. The more you cook, the faster and more confident you’ll become, until one day you realize you do love to cook.

 

Follow Elyse’s essential organization tips below to save time and feel less frazzled when five o’clock rolls around and you realize everyone is hangry and you have nothing planned for dinner. 

 

The following is partially excerpted from Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. but revised and updated with Elyse’s latest tips for busy, working athletes and exhausted parents. 

 

#1 MEAL PLAN 


Write down at least 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts and 3 lunches for the week and then write out your grocery list (I prefer to write this on a magnetic paper pad on the fridge verses using my phone or an app). The rest of your meals for the week can be simple or come together creatively from leftovers, but this will give you a huge jumpstart. By planning out your meals for the week, you can do one big grocery run. Fewer trips to the store will save you significant time and money. Organize your grocery list by section of the store, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed while navigating the endless aisles. 

 

#2 DOUBLE FAVORITES 


Learn to cook family-favorite recipes in larger batches especially for dishes that freeze well (soups, sauces, grains, protein, etc). Any time I’m making a sauce or soup, I double the recipe. I especially love having leftover soup or rice bowls for lunch. Also get in the habit of prepping ingredients that you can use for multiple dishes. For example, use a food processor to grate a ton of veggies to use in Superhero Muffins, salads and soups. Cook extra rice or quinoa to use in Power Bowls (Nutrient-Packed Power Bowls was our most popular Meal Prep class!). My family loves shredded chicken for tacos, bowls and salads, so I try to make a big batch every Sunday. 

 

Power Bowls are our go-to weeknight dinner. Read one of my favorite Power Bowl recipes here.


 

#3 STOCK YOUR FREEZER WITH WHOLESOME TREATS


Bake treats that can double as breakfast for rushed mornings. I try to keep Superhero Muffins, Trail Mix Breakfast Cookies and Energy Bites stocked in my freezer to easily grab for quick fuel before a run or to pop into kid lunch boxes. Also stock your fridge with high-protein snacks to prevent hangry meltdowns. 



#4 MEAL PREP ONCE A WEEK


Block two to three hours once on week on your calendar to Meal Prep. Try to schedule your meal prep routine at the same time every week, so that it becomes a habit. If you have kids, ask your partner to take them on an adventure, so that this becomes your time to enjoy cooking. Cooking is so much more fun when you’re multi-tasking like a pro chef and not getting interrupted by a hangry kid. Sunday afternoons work best for me, so I schedule playdates for my kids or my husband takes them to the park or pool. It’s a big commitment, but the whole family eats better all week when I cook essential components for dinner in advance.

 

Check out our most popular Meal Prep classes if you need further inspiration.

 

#5 START WITH THE BEST INGREDIENTS


Fresh, high-quality ingredients require less work in the kitchen to transform into 
deliciousness. There is a huge difference in taste between produce that has been shipped from halfway around the world and produce grown locally. Local produce is picked at the peak of freshness and delivered to you before the nutrients and flavors begin to degrade.

Organic or local meat, eggs, and veggies are also more nutritious. Food from family farms is often more expensive, but the quality is so much better. Look for a local CSA to save money and ensure a weekly fresh delivery. 

 

#6 EMBRACE CREATIVE LEFTOVERS


In our home, we love leftovers. Leftover proteins, veggies or grains can be transformed into multiple dinners. Our favorite way to use up leftovers is on top of rice bowls or tossed into pasta dishes. I’m known to throw together some very random combinations, embrace it!

 

#7 ORGANIZE YOUR FRIDGE, FREEZER AND PANTRY


I’m still working on this! My kitchen gets so heavily stocked with ingredients that it can be hard to keep nuts, seeds, flours, oats, rice, quinoa, etc all organized in perfectly labeled jars. But an organized kitchen makes me happy. When you can easily grab all the baking ingredients that you need to make your weekly batch of Superhero Muffins from one shelf, you’ll save significant time. Also get better at labeling things that go into the freezer especially if you’re following tip 2 and 3 above. 

 

#8 COME UP WITH WEEKLY THEMES 


It’s ok to repeat your favorite wholesome recipes every week or stick to consistent themes. Here’s a few weekly theme ideas that take the guesswork out of figuring out what’s for dinner. 

 

  • Sundays – “Soup Sunday”

  • Mondays – Pasta dish with protein/veggies. My kids love pasta especially Turkey Meatballs, Marathon Bolognese and Pesto Pasta with Sardines (find all 3 of these recipes in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.)

  • Tuesdays – “Taco Tuesday” (bowls, tacos, salads)

  • WednesdaysPower Bowls (rice bowls with veggie, protein, sauce)

  • Thursdays  Leftovers

  • Fridays  Breakfast-for-Dinner or pizza + salad night (Movie Night)

 

Plus, I try to rotate the main dish protein to incorporate fish once a week and red meat once a week.

 

#9 KEEP BASICS STOCKED 


Stock your pantry with all the basics like flours, grains, beans, pasta, vinegars, oils, sweeteners, nuts, seeds, and seasonings and you’ll save time at the grocery store. This enables you to avoid getting lost in the endless aisles of packaged foods when you’re just running in to grab fresh ingredients for dinner. You’ll be able to stick to the outer perimeter of the grocery store, which is where all the whole foods are stocked. If you need more guidance, check out the chapter on how to stock your pantry in
Run Fast. Eat Slow. 

 

#10 MULTITASK LIKE A CHEF


Once you get the hang of cooking, you’ll discover it’s fun to channel your inner chef and manage multiple pots on the stove at the same time. For example, while the soup 
simmers, cook hard-boiled eggs or quinoa for lunch the next day. Waiting for the oven to preheat? Whirl together a smoothie for breakfast. Your oven can multitask, too. While the chicken bakes, throw in a couple of sweet potatoes or beets on the top shelf of the oven for future dinners, or, when you bake cookies, roast a tray of nuts. Just be sure to set multiple kitchen timers so you can keep track of everything!

 

Most importantly, enjoy cooking and savor all your delicious and nourishing hard work!  

 

Ready to up your culinary skills and nutrition knowledge? Join Elyse's upcoming "Indulgent Nourishment" class.

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Photography By:
Page Bertelsen, Erin Scott, Andy Hughes, and Elyse Kopecky