Food Prep and the Studio Schedule

Are you wondering why in the world you’re seeing a food post on a piano teacher blog? 

Well, first of all, if you don’t know me already, besides piano teaching, one of my life passions is cooking.

Second, we eat, right?

Third, as we can all attest, the schedule of the independent music teacher can make mealtime a struggle – especially if you have a family. After school and early evening is prime time for both music lessons AND asking the universal question “what’s for supper?” If you’re the person in your family who’s generally in charge of mealtime, this can make for a real struggle!

Today I want to share with you my three biggest food prep tips for keeping your meal-time work efficient and organized. Then, when you walk out the door of your studio late evening, you can breathe easy knowing dinner will be ready in a jiffy.

Also, stay tuned for a new post series coming up called Music Teacher Eats for meal plan ideas that are easy, healthy, and quick to prepare!

 

TIP #1 Prep as much as You Can

The first one is nothing new under the sun. I’ve read plenty of advice online for years about food prep but it never really had a lot of staying power for me until a recent revelation.

Confessions of an imperfect foodie piano teacher: I haven’t always been great at my own tips. All three of the things I’m telling you about today have only made their way into my life on a regular basis within the last couple of years!

What was the revelation?

When I thought about food prep, it always seemed like it was about preparing meals you could do entirely ahead of time such as layered jar salads or “everything in a freezer bag” meals. That just didn’t appeal to me.

What I found is it doesn’t have to be that at all. Just consider how much can you do ahead of time in order to get as many ingredients into their end-game form needed prior to cooking/assembly.

Disclaimer: Since this photo, I have tried to minimize plastic bag use! 🙂 Unfortunately, it packs better in the vegetable drawer than containers. I’m sure there’s such thing as reuseable plastic bags but I’m not there yet.

A few specific tips:

Have plenty of storage

You have to prepare to prepare. That is, make sure you have enough containers to put your prepped ingredients in without totally depleting your container stash.

Label it

Don’t rely on your memory to recall what recipe that 1-cup container of diced onions was for. Mark it. Get some freezer tape and a fine-point sharpie and write it on the lid. Use the initials of each meal such as “BB” for “Burger Bowls” to save time.

Go Further Than You Think

Prep isn’t just about vegetables.

  • Is there a spice mix? Mix them together.
  • Does chicken breast need to be diced? Cut ‘er up.
  • Cheese measured? Separate it out (for real!)

Except for…

There are a few exceptions/rules I have for myself. For example:

  • Don’t dice up tomatoes ahead of time if it means putting them in the fridge.
  • Don’t cut up fruit like apples or pears because they brown (I don’t like doing the lemon juice thing.)

 

TIP #2 Prep Less, More Often + Visualize

Once a week is not enough for me on this front. Looking ahead just 2-3 days 2-3 times a week seems to be the most practical.

Try to pick consistent times. For me, prep happens best on Monday mornings, Wednesday evenings, and Friday mornings. More frequent consideration means you’re only dedicating 20-40 minutes at a time rather than 1-2 hours.

It’s also really important during these frequent bought of prep time, to read through your recipes. Know them. How much effort and time will it take? Do a quick 30-second mental walk-through and picture yourself going through the motions. Visualize

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of getting caught in the middle of a recipe because I didn’t realize how long it would take or I was missing an important ingredient.

 

TIP #3 “Arm” Your Kitchen a.k.a. Lay it all Out

Prepping ingredients – or even entire meals – ahead of time is a pretty universally-known concept.

What about everything else you need to make that meal though? Food prep work isn’t just about chopping! Sometimes it can take 5-10 minutes just to get the pots, utensils, canned goods, and spices out.

Use the downtime of your morning to not just prep ingredients but also “arm your kitchen” so to speak for cooking the end-of-day meal.

Set out every tool you will need: large skillet, spatula, cutting board, knives, can opener, etc.

Then, when you get home (or walk out of your home studio), you can hit the ground running cooking and assembly dinner.

(Psst! This is something I talked about with Leila Viss in Episode 11 of her Key Ideas podcast!)

Here are some photos from my own kitchen “arming” prep. (Hoover your cursor over a photo to pause the slide show.)

 


Your Turn: What are your best food-prep tips for saving your sanity as an independent music teacher? Share in the comments!

 

4 Comments

  • Great post! Tip #1 One thing that works for me is a slow-cooked meal prepared at noon. We plan 1-2 of these a week, on my busiest days. After going through three slow cookers over the years, we now simply use a large stainless steel pot on our induction stove, on 1.5 all afternoon. It works exactly like a crock pot. Favourite recipes are chili, braised roast (beef or pork) with veggies, chicken stew, and sausage and sauerkraut. Tip #2 I also have a four week menu that rotates my dishes so I know what groceries to shop for and what’s for dinner — organized by my prep time (aka my piano teaching schedule).

  • Great ideas, Rebekah!
    I also do the crockpot thing for Bolognese sauce- to which spaghetti is added the last hour, and semi-meatless beef stew: less beef, more beans.
    I always make a double batch of everything.
    We have a sauteed fish meal and a frittata or quiche every week.
    Saturday nights, it’s a clean-out-the-fridge meal.

  • I buy the thicker freezer bags, and wash and reuse them. You can turn them inside out (scrub out anything gunky, and throw it away if it had raw meat) and stick them on the top rack of the dishwasher, just anchor it with a cup or something next to it.

    Bags for cookies/breads I sometimes just throw in the freezer until the next batch.

    • I’ve definitely done the washing the bags thing for vegetables but probably not as much as I should! I’ve never considered putting them in the dishwasher. The freezer is a good idea too!

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