Conclude Your Meal Prep: Know How To Store And Revitalize Your Food
You have shopped, chopped, and cooked your food. How to become a pro at preserving that home-cooked goodness? In this post, you will find tips to store your culinary creations and add those final, flavor-enhancing touches. Let's ensure your meals stay as delightful as when they first left the pot.
We identified 5 stages of meal prep in the earlier post:
Pre-cooking storage and preparation.
Final touches and consumption.
This post looks at stage 4, food storage, and stage 5, final touches and consumption.
Here are all the posts in this series:
(Stage 4) Food Storage Tips
Here are some simple criteria for storing food well:
Easy Steps to Store: Make sure storing food is straightforward.
Space in Storage Area: Ensure you have enough room, especially in your fridge or freezer.
Retain Food Quality: Foods should keep most of their texture, main nutrients, and taste. Don't worry too much about losing small nutrients. A recent podcast mentioned that losing these is more of a myth.
Prevent Spoilage: Food should not get stale or moldy.
Some approaches did not work for us. We faced these challenges:
Special Vegetable Storage: Storing asparagus upright like flowers didn't work. It took up too much space, so it was hard to do. We store herbs, asparagus, and other special vegetables in their grocery bags in the fridge as-is.
Tomatoes: Storing tomatoes outside the fridge for 1-2 days was not practical for us. We shop less frequently. Also, my family believed everything belonged in the fridge. So, we either keep tomatoes in the fridge or use canned tomatoes.
Flat Freezing: Freezing in Ziploc freezer bags was tough. Reusable bags were hard to clean, and it felt wasteful using one-time use bags.
Crisper Drawer: Using the crisper drawer for vegetables was inconvenient. It was hard to access, easy to forget what's inside, and we preferred storing chopped food.
I've included photos of our food storage. I mix various foods in each box. This method saves time and space in storage, washing, and unpacking. Interestingly, every time I took photos, it was during shorter 4-day weeks. Once, I took the meal boxes out of the freezer for a photo. Another time, I took a photo before putting the food boxes in our fridge and freezer.
We found these effective tips:
Quick Cooling: After cooking, we cool food quickly by spreading it on plates. We sometimes keep these plates in the oven with the door open and set the oven to defrost. This blows cold air and speeds up cooling. Our goal is to keep the food outside the refrigerator (or cooking pot) for less than 2 hours.
Stacking Box: We use cuboidal boxes as they stack better in the fridge.
Multiple Small Boxes: For some items, we use several small boxes instead of one large one. This makes it easier to slot the boxes individually in the fridge and as the food is consumed, you gain back space sooner.
Labels: We label meal prep boxes with Post-it notes to track meals and days.
(Stage 5) Final Touches And Consumption
We have made our food in large batches and stored it in the fridge or freezer. Now, how to make it feel as close as possible to freshly prepared hot food?
Eyes (Sight): Fresh food looks like it's just come off a hot pan onto your plate or when it is steaming. Eating from a plate makes food look fresher than eating from a plastic container. Food that is plated with white space and in a vertical arrangement looks tastier. Different colors in food, like yellow from turmeric, red from chili powder, black from pepper, or green from boiled vegetables, add to the visual appeal.
Nose (Smell): Fresh food has an aroma (orthonasal olfaction). Chilled food doesn’t have an aroma. Food with a smell feels freshly prepared. Ensure your food releases a good smell to enhance the feeling of freshness. You can help with this by sprinkling lime or lemon juice on your food before eating and using the right amount of salt. The citric juice makes you salivate more, and the saliva and salt help in retronasal olfaction. Keeping the plate close to you is better than keeping it at arm's length. Drinking coffee from a cup without a lid is better than from a closed-lid cup.
Ears (Sound): The crunching when you bite into your food or sizzling from food on a hot plate contributes to the sense of freshness. The sound of metal cutlery on china plates feels more satisfying than plastic cutlery on plastic bowls.
Skin (Touch and Temperature): Fresh food is often piping hot, and cooled down just enough to eat. The food should feel firm, not mushy, to the touch. An agave-fiber-based straw feels better than the clinical cold feel of a metal straw.
Tongue (Taste and Mouthfeel): Your food feels fresh or “better” when it has a variety of tastes like salty, umami, sour, sweet, or bitter. Crunchy, not mushy, textures and hot (not cold or lukewarm) temperatures in food enhance the sensation of freshness.
We do this to maintain food texture and temperature:
Thawing in Fridge: Thaw food in the fridge for 24 hours instead of a quick defrost in the microwave.
Reheating Rice: Cover rice with a damp paper towel when reheating.
Gentle Reheating: Use low power to reheat food in the microwave.
No Refreezing: Once the food is reheated, eat it or throw it, but do not refreeze it.
I sprinkle some lemon juice and soy sauce on my food to add a zing and final touch to it. Seeing someone add a final touch to your food makes it more appealing. We cook a variety of foods to get a variety in color and appearance. I eat slowly, without any digital distractions, to focus on the mouthfeel, aroma, and taste of each morsel. This helps me enjoy the food more. More in my blog on my Fitness Fanatic identity.
Here is a video showing my plates across several days.
Here are all the posts in this series: