There’s a lot to love about meal prepping–it’s a great way to save money, stay healthy, and hone your cooking skills.
In the summer, though, when social schedules fill up and weekends away become more common than those spent at home, it’s a tricky skill to master. How do you purchase the right amount of ingredients or prep the right amount of food, without the worry that social plans or spontaneous trips will come up and leave your groceries spoiling in the fridge? It’s hard to perfect, but we have a few tips for making it easier.
Step 1: Streamline Your List
During the year, planning an entire work week worth of meals is efficient, productive, and budget-friendly. In the summer, though, it’s far rarer to have five days entirely free. To keep things manageable, cut back on meal prep and plan for two days at a time, instead of five. Find two recipes you’re excited about, buy the ingredients, and make twice as much as you need. That way, you can enjoy two dinners or two lunches, without wasting any food if last-minute midweek plans pop up, or enjoy four dinners in a row with no leftovers by the time your weekend plans roll around.
Step 2: Shop Seasonally
A guaranteed–and sustainable–way to keep things fresher longer is to shop seasonally. Produce is at its peak in summer, and your local Farmers Markets will stock everything that’s in season in your area. Local food goes from farm to plate, whereas packaged, grocery-store produce travels from the farm through production lines before reaching the store, meaning you’re losing out on more than a few days of shelf life. When you shop at the Farmer’s Market, you’re not only supporting local farmers, but also investing in food that’ll taste fresher far longer. Win, win.
Step 3: Store Properly
Another top tip for making your summer grocery shop work for you is proper storage. Be sure to store all of your perishable produce in the fridge as soon as you get home from the market, to maximize freshness. Heartier produce–like carrots, lemons, and oranges–will last up to a month in the fridge, while most berries should be eaten within a week. If you buy a bunch of produce, but you’re not sure you’ll have time to use it, the freezer is your friend! Your future self will thank you for freezing those strawberries and blueberries when it comes time to make a delicious smoothie a few months down the road.
Step 4: Use It Up
If you find yourself in a pinch and unable to use up what you’ve bought on a full meal, there are tons of creative ways to ensure it doesn’t go to waste. Why not blend up your berries with some soft summer herbs and pour them into popsicle molds? When kept at a consistent temperature, they’ll last for 6-8 months in the freezer. If you’re looking for a more adult way to make the most of what you’ve purchased; use your berries and herbs to make delicious simple syrups for flavoring your summer cocktails; they’ll last for up to a month. Bon appetit!
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