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 you can do ahead of time 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 in 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. That is, make sure you have enough containers to put your prepped ingredients in without totally depleting your container stash.
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!)
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.
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 is a photo slideshow of a half-dozen examples of me from my own kitchen “arming” prep.
Your Turn: What are your best food-prep tips for saving your sanity as an independent music teacher? Share in the comments!