Ever see those recipes that just look SO darn perfect - not only do they look delicious and suit your nutritional (and taste bud) needs, you’ve already got all the ingredients, and are ready to get this show on the road!
“Then, using your food processor…” (or “dehydrator”, “pasta maker”, “bread maker”, “stand mixer”, “rice cooker”, etc.). Oh, I don’t have one of those…
It can be a sad end to what would have been one delicious story...
That’s where The Kitchen Library comes in to save the day: A lending library of kitchen appliances with locations throughout Toronto (one in Regent Park and another at Yonge and Eglinton). Now it’s never been easier to hit “pulse” on that VitaMix you’ve always wanted to try, or make those kale chips - the right way, with a dehydrator - once and for all.
I found the Kitchen Library from doing a quick search for family meal planning events taking place in the local community. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to come across such a valuable offering in the sharing economy, as well as to see the outreach programs they run. Their latest event, a Freezer Meal Workshop, which took place last Wednesday April 27th, provided me with loads of insight and actionable advice that I hope to share with our own Meal Garden users who have expressed interest in properly executing make-ahead meals.
What’s more; I had the pleasure of sitting down with Anna Carey, the Toronto Chapter Lead with the Kitchen Library, to pick her brain on meal planning and healthy eating hacks she’s picked up from her own experiences teaching (and learning from) the interactive workshops she runs.
Q: What’s your ultimate timesaving hack in the kitchen?
A: The trick is to make things in advance as much as possible. It saves time throughout the week and makes actually executing meals so much easier when ‘the basics’ (whether that be pre-chopped veggies or already pre-made marinades/sauces/stocks) are ready and packaged in your freezer or fridge in a grab-and-go format. That means prepping and portioning things out in advance (remembering that the smaller the portions - the less likely you are to waste stuff later on) and packaging them into bags or containers for quick use when the time comes to get dinner on the table. I like to use the FIFO method, but labeling your food items along with dates - especially if there’s a chance it’s going to end up at the back of your freezer - works well too.
Q: What kitchen appliance can you NOT live without?
A: I like to make bread. My favourite to play around with is an artisan French bread...which I often end up braiding if I have the time. I waited a long time to get a stand mixer, but my KitchenAid now has a place of honour on my countertop, and makes it much easier!
Q: We currently have a Healthy Eating Bootcamp going here at Meal Garden, and most of our participants include busy moms with young kids. What kitchen tool would you recommend for these folks?
A: For babies not yet eating solid food, a blender makes it super easy to prepare your own baby food - which often ends up as not only healthier, but also cheaper, than getting it store bought. For toddlers or picky eaters, I really love shaped cookie cutters! You can get a kid to eat almost anything if it’s in the shape of a dinosaur…
Q: What do you think is the hardest part about consistently getting healthy meals on the table for our families?
A: I think the difficult part is keeping it interesting without making it overwhelming. It’s easy to get stuck in the lasagne/shepherds pie/tuna casserole rut, and you end up cooking the same meals over and over again, and start to see feeding your family as a chore - or worse, a stressor in your life. There’s a balance that needs to be struck between keeping things interesting and switching it up so you don’t get bored, but not getting in over your head, which leaves you feeling overwhelmed and makes the task seem impossible. With that said, it’s important to ensure that the more “interesting” kitchen adventures don’t take too much time and are actually attainable for you and your family’s life. Basically, the goal is to continue being inspired, but not overwhelmed. Honestly, it all comes back to planning ahead and having all of the ‘little’ things already done, like chopping up veggies and portioning them out for the week ahead, having pre-made stock on hand, etc. Then, actually making that recipe you found in a magazine and committed yourself to trying, becomes actionable - rather than a just a dream.
Needless to say, planning out your meals ahead, and shopping for those corresponding groceries so that you can get some prep work done in advance is solid advice. If you need a little extra assistance with all of this, Meal Garden can be a resource you lean-on to make that entire process as simple and efficient as possible.