How To Save Time On Meal Prep To Have More Time To Study

How To Save Time On Meal Prep To Have More Time To StudyThis week we’re hearing from guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt about how meal prep can be a useful tool to save you time during law school.

Truth be told, my idea of a great Saturday afternoon is spending the entire time in the kitchen rustling up some quality grub. I’m talking scratch-made biscuits baked with real butter, sliced open while still steaming to spread a layer of homemade tomato jam, then finished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs from my garden.

Sadly, there are days, weeks, heck sometimes whole months when life doesn’t afford me the opportunity to spend so much time experimenting with recipes and concocting scrumptious three-course meals for my family.

Multitasking can take a little of the stress out of preparing food while also being able to study, but sometimes it’s not the most practical or desirable option. Instead, here are a few ways you can simplify your meal prep in order to spend more time on your studies.

Make A Menu

Growing up, I was one of four kids. There were only six years from the oldest to the youngest in my family. My mom became a single mom to us when I was only nine years old. She went back to school full time, back to work full time, and still managed to have a homemade meal on the table for us kids.

I marvel at how she accomplished that feat. One of the strategies she used that I have adopted for my own little family is to make a weekly menu. Once a week, I sit down and decide what meals we’re going to eat for the week. Then, I make a shopping list according to my menu.

Having a menu takes the guess work out of what I’m going to prepare on a nightly basis. It also helps ensure that I have exactly what I need on hand for any of the recipes I’ve selected.

A quick tip: make extra at each meal, save the excess food before even serving dinner, and designate two days per week to eat the leftovers. This way, you have premade a few meals and saved yourself the trouble of cooking at least two nights a week.

Simplify Your Menu

A menu only simplifies your life if your menu is simple. There are plenty of recipes I like to try that require my long-term attention. Risotto can take an hour to prepare and requires hands-on attention for much of that time. Other dishes like rice pilaf or couscous simply requires you to boil water, plop the rice or grains in the boiling water, add some seasoning like olive oil and herbs, cover the pot and wait.

You can still enjoy quality food without resorting to prepackaged, preservative-laden ingredients if you simplify your meal choices.

Consider a simple formula of one grain, two vegetables, and a protein (if you choose). The grain, like rice or couscous, can be very easy to prepare. A few vegetables can be microwaved or easily roasted. Empty the contents of a bag of baby carrots onto a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, top with sea salt and honey or maple syrup, and let them roast. It’s that simple.

Better yet, cut some veggies for a salad to go with your grains. Tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and bell peppers take just moments to slice and dice and add to a bowl of greens. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top with a dash of sea salt, and you have a simple meal. Or, prepare the tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, bell pepper, and olives and add to the grains for a grain salad. You can even add your choice of protein to the dish to round it out. Tofu, roast chicken, shrimp, or sliced turkey would make quick, easy, and delicious choices.

Cut A Few Corners

There are times when even a simple menu is too time-consuming for my busy schedule. That’s when I need to cut a few corners, and by that I mean get some ingredients that are already prepared. Produce departments generally offer a variety of options like sliced baby bella mushrooms, sliced bell peppers, chopped carrots, diced onion, minced garlic, and so on.

Take advantage of these shortcuts if you really need to. With the salad example above, you could quickly whip up a pot of quinoa or rice and open a few bags of mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, and onions to make your salad. No prep work necessary for the vegetables.

You can even get a rotisserie chicken premade and slice off pieces of the chicken for your protein.

You Don’t Have To Live On Takeout

I know firsthand how busy life can be as a law student and as someone taking the bar. Even when I was single in law school, life felt busier than it had ever been. My time in the kitchen is often my time to decompress, and I don’t always want to bring my studies into that sacred space.

Instead, when I’ve been too busy to indulge in my passion for cooking, I try to simplify my menu and plan ahead with a few pre-prepared ingredients so I can be sure I’m eating healthy meals without losing too much time in the books.


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About Hillary Vaillancourt

Hillary Vaillancourt is a lawyer and writer at The Vaillancourt Law Firm, LLC. She has experience in a wide variety of matters including food law, education law, real estate law, family law, criminal law, contracts, and estate planning. She earned her JD from New England Law|Boston and is licensed in Virginia.

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