Weekly Food Prep: How to Eat More Vegetables

Have you ever noticed that the consistency across all diets is about eating vegetables? Some skip grains, some skip meat, some skip fruit – but they ALL contain vegetables. Funny that.

If we ate more vegetables, we would be a far healthier people. It is just that simple.

The question then becomes: how do you eat MORE vegetables?

If you think about this in terms of volume only – it can be slightly depressing. No one really wants to eat a big pile of carrots with their nightly meal. Or a few extra bunches of broccoli every week.

What we really want to do is this:

  • Increase our variety, and
  • Increase the number of times we eat vegetables in a day or week.

The main reason we don’t do this, I believe, is because of our lack of time. It is far easier to grab a bag of frozen peas from the freezer and cook those, than it is to peel and chop 3 or 4 different vegetables to serve with your family meal.

I used to be stuck in this same rut – we would have frozen peas, carrots and broccoli most nights of the week. It just become so boring.

And then – I started to change our preparation process. And it has increased the amount of vegetables we eat.

As soon as we buy our vegetables (or as soon as practical – we do have a toddler after all!), I wash and prep them all – right down to the peeling and chopping.

This saves me so much time during the dreaded dinner hour, it’s no longer a rush job – and being able to just grab a handful of a number of different vegies from the fridge and plonk them in the steamer at night, has changed our boring old peas to a glorious variety of vegetables on our dinner plate.

So today – I’m going to take you step by step through the process I follow.

Starting a weekly food prep routing will help you and your family eat more vegetables, and will help get dinner on the table every night of the week.

Step 1: Buy a variety!

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut with vegetables – buying the same old carrots, broccoli and cauliflower each week.

But there are so many more options: zucchini, squash, silver beet, asparagus, radish (yes that is a vegetable!), pumpkin, turnip, parsnip, swede, spinach, capsicum, leek – I could go on!

A simple trick to get you thinking: shop the rainbow. Try and find a vegetable from every colour of the rainbow. Think: Capsicum, Carrot, Eggplant, Squash, Silver beet – all different colours and all very different vegetables.

You don’t need to buy mountains of any one vegetable. Buying smaller amounts of each one will make it more likely that you and your family will eat and enjoy them. No one really wants to eat broccoli 3 nights a week. Well – maybe me, it is one of my favourites! But I think I might be the exception to the rule.

In order to bounce us out of our broccoli and carrot rut – we buy a vegetable box most weeks. This is something we order from Aussie Farmers, but Coles and Woolworths have a similar product – as do most of the smaller online grocery delivery services. I also love that most of these suppliers have an organic option too – which is a great choice if your budget allows.

Buying a mixed vegetable box helps immensely with the variety. We simply eat whatever comes in the box – and this changes depending on the season and what is available from the farmers each week.

OK – so now you have a variety of vegetables that you need to eat this week. What next?

Step 2 – Washing Your Vegetables

Washing your vegetables is an important step. Unless you are buying organic – your produce will likely have been sprayed or treated with chemicals of some sort. So washing the vegetables one more time is a step I wouldn’t want to skip. Plus – think of how many people have touched those vegetables before you! Ew.

If you were to google washing vegetables, you’d probably see a bunch of recommendations on vegetable washing products that you could buy. They will all claim to remove chemicals and get your vegetables clean.

I personally use water. And, if I remember, a small dash of apple cider vinegar. This removes any leftover dirt and anything else that might be lurking in my green leafys (I once chopped up my silver beet and in doing so, chopped a snail in half. Oh my – I was horrified!)

To make this process easy and quick – I fill my sink with cold water (and a dash of apple cider vinegar) and lay out some tea towels on the bench. I then pop all my fruit in first: apples, pears, etc. I swish them around and then take them out and pop them on the tea towel.

Next, I do other hard vegetables – like carrots, zucchini, capsicum, squash etc.

And then I empty the sink – and refill it with more cold water. Next I do all the green leafys. I lay these on a separate tea towel. I then use my salad spinner for these. It is very important to remove as much water as possible from the your leafy vegetables – otherwise they will go soggy and slimy very quickly.

Step 3: Prepping Your Vegetables

In order to make grabbing vegetables each night easy – they need to be ‘ready to cook’.

So – for things like carrots, capsicum, zucchini, broccoli, I slice these up just like I would for dinner. Carrots and zucchini goes into rounds, and capsicum goes into strips. I also chop some carrots into strips too so that we can have this for snacks.

For leafy greens –  I don’t mess with these too much. After I’ve spun them in the salad spinner, I remove any dodgy bits of greenery and that’s about it. Slicing these right before dinner is a 30 second job, and leaving it until then will mean that my leafy greens will last longer.

Step 4 – Storing Your Vegetables

I store my hard vegetables in glass containers in the fridge. I chose glass for a couple of reasons. Firstly, glass is better for you than plastic (google BPA and you’ll understand why). Secondly, glass allows me to see the contents. And this increases the likelihood that I will use what is in the container.

For my leafy greens, I pop a damp paper towel or cloth napkin in a glass container (or zip lock bag) and then gently place my green leafys on top. I can sometimes get mine to last me longer than a week if I do this step.

Once you have finished this step, you should have a number of containers in your fridge all full of prepped vegetables.

Step 5 – Using Your Vegetables

The most basic way to use these is to simply add them as a side to your normal meal. I will often steam a bunch of vegetables for dinner, and then serve these alongside some lamb cutlets or sausages, lentil loaf or other protein.

You can also use them as healthy snacks: like carrot, cucumber and capsicum strips with some hummus. They are quick to grab and pack into lunches too.

A stir-fry is also super fast now using this method. The actual stir-frying takes minutes – and now with all the chopping already done, you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes! (Yes – Jamie Oliver, eat your heart out!)

At the end of the week, I usually grab anything that is left over and make a fridge frittata or a fridge pasta. Basically this just a throw everything into a pot kinda meal. It means we don’t waste anything, and it means the fridge and our containers are all clean and ready to be filled again for the next week!

 

And that is it. This process takes me less than an hour each week. My toddler enjoys helping – so sometimes it takes a little longer!

But it saves me the 20 minutes per night that I used to spend trying to find vegetables, cutting and prepping them for dinner.

We now eat more vegetables, and getting dinner on the table is a much easier process.

Give it a go. And let me know in the comments below how you went. Don’t forget to share this post too if you think your friends would find these tips useful too.

 

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