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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 Homemade Condiments

Sauces and dressings are the quickest way to liven up your component meals and introduce new flavors, so you’ll always want to have a few tucked away in your fridge. “I always make a few sauces at the beginning of the week and store them in the fridge so I have instant flavor boosters on hand,” Tam explains. “Just combine veggies, protein, and a sauce, and you’ve got a healthy and amazing meal in minutes.”

Many sauces, dressings, and condiments take minimal effort to prepare and have a shelf life of a week or so. They’re typically healthier than their store-bought counterparts, and you might find they taste better too. (Get started with our collection of fresh and flavor homemade condiment recipes.)

In a similar vein, a dollop of a fermented condiment — think kimchi or ­sauerkraut — can be mixed into a salad or a sandwich filling, added to the side of a grain bowl, or used as a topper for virtually any protein. (For a delicious way to get more probiotics into your diet, try our favorite sauerkraut recipe.)

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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