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There’s a reason why meal prep has taken off over the last ­decade: It’s a convenient way for many folks to plan and execute recipes. With just one day of cooking, you can have a whole week’s worth of nourishing, ready-to-reheat dishes at arm’s reach.

But this method isn’t without its drawbacks. Though plenty of people love the ease of cooking only once a week, just as many battle boredom from eating the same meals day in and day out, especially because preprepped dishes tend to lose their freshness and vibrancy over time.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for all the home cooks out there who want to take a more minimalist approach to meal prep: component cooking, which is the practice of preparing separate ingredients in advance so they’re at the ready in your fridge or freezer. It’s like having a handful of shortcuts to a variety of flavorful dishes — a real boon for healthy eating when hunger closes in, explains Michelle Tam, best-selling author of Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!

Like meal prep, this approach can help you stick to your grocery budget, reduce food waste, and cut back on your time in the kitchen. Component cooking still involves planning, but it’s not as rigid as meal prep and offers more flexibility across different lifestyles and taste preferences.

Tips for Using Cooked Grains and Legumes

Grains and legumes offer a kaleido­scope of vital nutrients, including fiber and plant-based protein. Plus, they can open the door for you to experiment with an array of international cuisines. Red lentils are the backbone of our spicy dal (find that recipe here). Use cooked chickpeas to make homemade hummus with our recipes at Hummus, 3 Ways.

Cooked grains and legumes are also storage superstars: They keep up to four days in the fridge and can be frozen for up to six months. Rice is a great option, especially for gluten-free folks: Use it as the base for a rice bowl, like in our Spring Greens Korean Rice Bowl.

There’s also a wide world of whole grains beyond rice, including nutrient-dense quinoa, farro, and more. Learn about 11 ancient grains worth trying at “11 Ancient Grains to Try,” and then use your favorite to build your best grain bowl with our template at “How to Build Your Own Grain Bowl.”

More Tips on Component Cooking

Component cooking is a clever approach to meal prep that will help you save time and money while allowing you to whip together flavorful and healthy meals during the busy week. Learn how to prep, store, and use several various components at “Easy Meal Prep: How to Start Component Cooking,” the source of this article excerpt.

Camille Berry

Camille Berry is a wine and food writer based in San Francisco.

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a quick guide to build your own grain bowl

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