With autumn now tightening its grip around us, the nights drawing in, and a bitter wind nipping at our heels, our tastes often begin to change. Summer, with its wonderful abundance of beautifully coloured veg and fruit has come to an end, and now a hunger for hearty soups, roasted seasonal vegetables, and filling stews are now the order of the day. As such, your meal prep will most probably be changing too, in both the ingredients that you source, and the way you prepare your dishes. Rather than looking at autumn as a slightly depressing time of year, a shakeup in diet can be an invigorating experience, and while summer does tend to have variety on its side when it comes to the sheer number of ingredients available, autumn isn’t the proverbial ‘bare larder’ that you may think it is.
Dust off the slow cooker!
With the drop in temperature being the first thing most of us notice when it comes to autumn, cooking meals that are hot and filling should be high on the agenda for meal prepping at this time of year. With plenty of nutritious options available, preparing meals in slow cookers (our favourite being the Instant Pot) is an easy way to brush away the autumn blues, while filling our bodies with all the vitamins and minerals needed for the start of cold and flu season. There is also the added bonus that these sorts of dishes are generally cheap to make, and takes very little effort. In the months running up to Christmas, saving those pennies will certainly help us prepare for what is always an expensive time of year ahead!
The great thing about using slow cookers is that once you have prepped your ingredients, your work is basically done! If you fancy a wholesome ‘hot pot’ style dinner, simply choose your meat or poultry with a few seasonal veg varieties, throw them in with some stock, and let them cook. There really are no rules to what you can add to a hot pot, so go with whatever you and your family enjoy, whilst also feeling free to experiment if you so wish. Slow cookers tend to garner extremely tender results when cooking chicken beef, or lamb, and as such you can often find that the flavours will infuse throughout a dish much more readily than when cooked in a different way. Because of this, those of you who enjoy strong flavours and aromas can’t go wrong with a slow cooker, as the tender meat will take on whichever flavours you include within the pot. Either let the flavour of the meat permeate throughout the dish, or add some herbs to give it extra gusto! Vegetarians can obviously substitute the meat with a meat-free alternative, and get similarly tasty results.
When cooking in autumn, simply picking seasonal veg will always result in dishes that taste far better than trying to recreate a summer or spring menu through imported ingredients. Vegetables such as turnips and radishes are wonderful when roasted, and grow quickly and easily during the autumn months. Parsnips, pumpkin, and cauliflower too, tend to do well during the autumn season, with potatoes as an obvious and cheap option to ‘beef up’ almost any dish during the colder months. Autumn can also be a season in which to experiment a little with ingredients that have become less fashionable, by combining flavours and trying out some new and slightly ‘wacky’ ideas. Brussel sprouts, while reviled by some of the population for being “that awful green thing that ruins a Christmas dinner”, can be roasted with bacon and garlic to the point it caramelizes, and becomes a dish that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Squash has seen a resurgence in popularity of recent years, and when paired in a sage risotto, provides a warm and filling meal that is perfect for the drop in temperature that we are now experiencing. When it comes to autumn, choose seasonally, and experiment with flavours!
Bigger batches, less effort
Meal prepping in particular can be an even easier affair than usual in autumn. Whereas you may have to think about separating certain parts of a meal (we are looking at you, fresh tomatoes!) in plenty of summer dishes, autumn, with its hot pots, roasted veg and stews, is far more suited to storing meals in single containers (of which both our rectangular and new round variety are available for purchase). As such, meals can be prepared well ahead of time, and in far larger batches, which is perfect for those who like to prep more than a week ahead. So long as you have space in your freezer, meal prepping in autumn can be done far in advance, leaving you even more time to curl up on the sofa, and keep warm under a giant blanket! Comfort food, full of nutrients and flavour is the order of the day in October and November, so get prepping in greater quantities and give yourself more time to relax in the dreary months before the hectic Christmas period.
Fruits that suit the season
Finally, autumn doesn’t mean the fruit enthusiasts out there need to forego their favourite healthy snacks. While we live in a world where pretty much every fruit you could desire is available all year round, it is sensible to employ the same technique when selecting fruit as you do when selecting autumnal vegetables. Apples, figs, rhubarb, and pears are all great fruits that taste just as good in autumn as they do in summer, and handily, they are all wonderful ingredients to make into pies! Slice them up, cover them in pastry, bake in the oven, and then cover them in some delicious custard! A perfect dessert for a cold and wet evening in, watching a favourite movie or two! While the health-conscious folk out there may baulk at the idea of pastry, you are allowed to treat yourself a little in the colder months (its the rules, apparently). Besides, it’s still far better for you than chocolate cake, so indulge yourself a little!
So rather than letting the dark evenings and inevitable rain-soaked afternoons get you down, put a little effort into making your meal prep exciting and seasonal this autumn. Anyone who suffers from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) would do well to let a varied and nutritious diet help them in their fight against the seasonal blues, and pretty much everyone can benefit from eating healthily and heartily in the coming months. The fitness fanatics out there may find that their exercise regime takes a beating during the colder months, but there is nothing stopping us from eating well! Grab some fennel, broccoli or squash, and get prepping!