Meal prep is my life saver. Seriously. I know a lot of people groan at the thought of taking time out of their weekend to plan for the week. I get it! You want to spend your weekends with loved ones and friends and relax, not think about your work week. However, prepping for the week on Sundays has become something that I simply cannot live without. It does not have to consume your entire day, either. What it most likely will do is set you up for a week of healthy eating choices. To me, that is worth the hour or so that I take every week to prepare. If I have pre-portioned lunches and snacks, plus a few meals started for me, I make healthier choices and feel better all week long. So, I am going to give you a few examples and tips that I use to plan healthy meals and snacks to save time during the week. Mix and match what works for you.
I always do my grocery shopping on Sundays. I keep a Note pad list on my phone for my menus and I use a grocery list app to get ready to shop (I am a fan of the “Buy Me a Pie!” app – weird name, but I can color code items based on their location in the store to make grocery shopping more efficient, and I like that.). I know there are people out there who also use meal planning apps that basically pull from a database of menus and give you the grocery lists, but I like to freestyle it. If you do use one of those apps, let me know which one(s) you prefer!
Some menu examples:
*freedom – this week we start spring break, so I am definitely not cooking the first night of break.
Where do I get my meal ideas? Lots of places: Pinterest, my cook books, my Cooking Light daily calendar, etc. When I come across something that would be great for an upcoming week, I note it at the bottom of my weekly meal list. Then I look at my schedule for the upcoming week. Do I have any meetings that mean I will be home late? Do I already have dinner plans? I am fortunate to have an awesome boyfriend who usually works from home and is willing to “slave over the crock pot” (i.e., turn it on when I ask him to), so I like to use crock pot meals on my later work nights. I mix and match my recipes to the days of the week based on my projected time/energy levels, and then make my grocery list. I also list lunch options and snacks. I am out the door by 6:45 each morning, so it helps to be able to glance at my list and say, “Oh yeah, I’ll just grab this quinoa salad and these snacks for the day.”
I also look at my ingredients. Does one recipe that I am dying to make call for a small amount of something? How can I use that ingredient again later in the week (if it is perishable)? You may have noticed that I made both chili and 3 pounds of taco meat during one of the weeks above. We get beef from my parents, and it is time to start using up the ground beef. That week became “Operation: Cook all of the Meats” week, so I made a huge batch of chili on Sunday, ate some of it for dinner, and froze the rest. Same thing with the taco meat. Now, I will have weeks in the future where I can just pull those things out of the freezer for a super quick dinner. Score!
So, here is where my Sunday prep comes into play: as soon as I get home from grocery shopping, I start my prep. I find that if I sit down or do something else, my momentum is shot. I am that weird person who actually enjoys grocery shopping, so I usually come home excited about all the things I can cook (I told you I’m weird). Some of the things I may do to prepare my meals and snacks in advance:
- hard boil eggs
- chop and portion out fruits and veggies (I am big on berries and occasionally forget that I don’t really like carrots, so I will portion those every now and then)
- make a big salad (usually a quinoa salad) and portion it out for my lunches
- prepare a casserole or quiche
- make spaghetti sauce, taco meat, etc. so it is ready to heat when I need it
- prep the parts of a crock pot meal so I can just set it all out with directions for boyfriend
You get the idea. I want to be clear that I do not do all of this every week – it varies. For this week, all I had to do was pop a quiche in the oven and chop some berries. Some weeks I do more. Do what works for you. I get that children take up a lot of time and you like to hang out with your offspring, so if you have little ones running around you may only get eggs boiled or fruit chopped. Hey, that’s a start! After awhile, prepping may become second nature like it is to me.
Do you have any great meal prep tips? Share them!