The beginner's guide to food prep

Remember when your mam would sit you down and tell you that, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”? Maybe your Leaving Cert, a job interview, or your theory test were around the corner and she had your nan on standby to light a candle for you. Well, she was right and nowhere is that saying more true than in the kitchen. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the basics of food prep to turn you into a kitchen whiz in no time.

The basics of food storage and prep

We’ll get to the meatier tips in a minute, but first let’s take a quick look at the best practices around food prep.

  • Always read the labels on your food for proper storage instructions, and never use food past its use-by-date. If you’re washing food, make sure your hands and any counters and cutlery you’re going to use are clean too.
  • Freeze any meat you don’t plan on using within three days to keep upset tummies away. Invest in freezer bags and store meat in portions to avoid freezer burn or contamination.
  • Never defrost meat at room temperature. Your safest bet is to pop it in the bottom of the fridge and leave it overnight. Only cook your meat if you’re sure it has properly thawed out.
  • Never put cooked food on a chopping board or plate, etc., that had raw meat on it.
The beginner's guide to food prep

1.    Stock the Staples

The first rule in food prep is to always be prepared. That doesn’t have to mean always having a well-stocked press, but grabbing the staples goes a long way: basics like tinned tomatoes, beans and legumes, rice, pasta and potatoes, onions and garlic. These are all extremely inexpensive, versatile and require little or no preparation.

They can serve as a basis for soups, salads, risottos and pasta bakes. Add some veggies, meat or fish and some seasoning and you’ll cook up something delicious.

2.    Bulk Cooking

Cooking what you can for the week ahead is a great way to save time during the week. Although it’s probably the last thing you will want to do on Sunday evening, you will be so glad you did.

Great things to cook in advance are chicken fillets, hard boiled eggs, and pasta. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to use.  Another tip is to make a large batch of your favourite sauce and refrigerate it rather than making lots of small batches of it.

3.    Container Crazy

Once you’ve got your basics tucked away, you’ll need to work on building up a hearty collection of containers. Always have a variety of tupperware, freezer bags and Pyrex dishes on hand in graduating sizes so you can portion and store different foods properly.

4.    Freezer Friendly

If you’re a meat-eater, keep some frozen or long-lasting meat and fish like chorizo, tinned tuna and frozen chicken goujons handy. Together with some rice or pasta and a sauce, you’ll have yourself a quick and delicious meal.

As well as being healthier, these are all quick meals so you’ll have the tidying up sorted in time to sit down and catch up on Corrie.

5.    Swot up

Swotting isn’t just for school! And we promise you that studying as an adult is much more fun.

Pull out a cookery book or food blog every weekend. Bookmark or print out some recipes you’d like to try out for the week ahead. You can also write up your shopping list and purchase what you need ahead of time too. (Don’t forget about our handy delivery services for when you don’t have time for a mad dash to the shop.)

Google is your next best friend as you’d be surprised with what you can cook up with leftovers. For example, if you have some cod left over from a fish pie, some chorizo in the fridge and love the taste of paprika, see what kind of paellas, stews or spicy fish cakes come up when you Google the ingredients. Add some rice or chips from your press and you’re sorted.  

YouTube is a great go-to as well. One of our favourites is The Domestic Geek who has a series of weekly meal prep videos. The lovely Donal Skehan will talk you through dozens of recipes on his channel too.

Take these tips on-board and you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a cooking whiz!

Stock up on everything you need at Tesco Ireland

Whatever you’re cooking, you’ll find everything you need in your local Tesco. If you follow our tips, let us know how it goes on Facebook or Twitter.