“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
No wonder that’s a famous quote! I don’t know about you, but for me, if I don’t meal prep at least some of my food for the week, I end up failing and making something less healthy at the last minute.
I get tired come dinner time and I don’t feel like making anything too time consuming. The baby gets fussy and doesn’t want anything to do with anyone except for me, so I can’t get anything done. Or the fact that I’m tired after a long day with a fussy baby makes healthy food very unappealing. It doesn’t only affect my dinner making, it affects my lunch making as well. I make lunch and snacks for my son and my husband for the next day every evening after dinner. This is probably my least favourite thing to do during the week, but if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done and they go starving.
I haven’t quite mastered the whole meal prep thing yet, although that is my goal sometime in the future. But I do help myself out quite a bit by getting the snacks ready for the week and making a plan/menu.
I am home with my little girl all day, so it’s easy for me to start making dinner around 3:00 in the afternoon, and then when it’s time to eat at 5:00, we just reheat our meals and we’re good to go! Little miss needs to be in bed by 6:30 at the very latest because she gets up at 5:30 every single morning. No matter how early or late she goes to bed. And her big brother will sleep walk if he doesn’t go to bed on time (so strange, I know. I could write all about this in a post of its own). So it’s important for us to eat dinner somewhere between 5:00 and 5:30 every single day!
Since I’m a stay-at-home-mom, what I do to meal prep may not work for the working mom, especially if you work late, but I will also give you some extra tips on what you can do to help if you aren’t home all day with your little ones! I’ve done it before when I had a job to go to, and I still do sometimes to help me out during the week, so I encourage you to give them a try!
Ok so here is my meal prep routine:
Make A Menu
On the weekend, typically Sunday, I sit down with my iPad, a notepad, and a pen, and I make a dinner menu for the entire week. I find all my recipes on Pinterest and I pin ones I plan to make to a Healthy Recipe board to come back to later. I used to have a healthy recipe binder I made myself eight years ago when I first started eating better, and I’ve added to it for years! But I haven’t actually opened it and used a recipe from it for probably three years now. I actually just got rid of that binder a few weeks ago. Pinterest is my recipe book now! But if you’re more of a paper person, I highly recommend making a healthy recipe binder. Just print off recipes you find and put them in the binder. You can even do what I did and categorize them! Chicken recipes, beef recipes, breakfast recipes, etc.
I try to find recipes that have simple ingredients that I actually know where to find in the grocery store (there’s nothing worse than roaming around the store not knowing where to find something, especially with a toddler in tow), and ones that sound fairly easy to make!
I try to make at least one slow cooker meal to make it even easier on our family, especially now that our son is in more sports during the week. Seriously if you don’t own a slow cooker, you are not even really living! Go get one. Like, now! Most recipes you literally just throw all the ingredients in the pot, turn it on, and go about your business. The best part? Your house will smell ah-maze-ing! Just don’t leave your laundry hanging to dry in your living area or they will smell like your meal too, oops!
I also don’t make a SET menu for each day. I just find seven recipes that I want to make, and write them down in my notepad, then the night before or the morning of, I look at my menu and decide what I want to make for that day depending on my mood and our family schedule. I found when I wrote certain recipes for certain days, I ended up switching the days around quite often anyway. So this way is easier for me, again, because I’m home all day anyway. If you work and need to have a set schedule made up, then just assign the recipes to each day!
Make A Grocery List
As I find recipes and write them down on my menu, I immediately look at the ingredient list for that recipe, and write down anything that I don’t have and need to get. I keep this list organized by category to help make getting groceries quick and easy. I also add anything to this list that I’ll need for snacks or breakfast for the week. Making a grocery list like this actually helps to save us money because I’m only buying what I need, and no food goes to waste, as long as I stick to my plan.
Get The Groceries
I know this part probably didn’t need a heading, but you never know who’s reading! Someone out there might want an exact step-by-step guide.
Next I go get my groceries! I usually get them on Monday or Tuesday, depending on how empty my fridge is, but if you’re a working mom, you’ll need to get your groceries whenever you have time. Preferably on the weekend so you’re ready to go for the work week!
Peel, Chop, Roast, Boil
My next step is always to help myself out with snacks and lunches for the week, since I dread this part and like to get it out of the way. I cut up any veggies my family will eat. For my husband it’s carrots, snap peas, and sometimes bell peppers. For my son it’s cucumbers and carrots. I cut up enough for the entire week and put them in little plastic bags, and shove them in a drawer in the fridge. That way I can just grab them when I’m putting everything together the night before.
I also boil some eggs, peel them, and put them in an air tight container filled with cold water. They can stay in the fridge like this for up to a week, but they never last that long. Eggs are such a nutritious and filling snack!
You’re technically not supposed to wash berries until right before you eat them to avoid them going bad faster, but since this part can be very time consuming, I wash enough for about three days, and put them in a container in the fridge to grab. After the three days, I will just do this step again for the remainder of the week. I’ve never had an issue with rotten berries after three days.
If you like to snack on things like nuts or dried fruit, you could also make serving sized bags of these and put them in your pantry. I’ve recently started keeping a bag of almonds or other nuts in my car for those days I’m running errands and feel a little peckish.
Next I will look at my dinner menu and try to prepare some items for the recipes I’ve picked. For example, if I will be making marinated chicken breasts one day, I will make the marinade and put it in a ziplock bag in the fridge. Or better yet, I might even put the chicken in the marinade and let it sit until I’m ready to make it.
If I have a slow cooker meal planned, I might cut up all the ingredients and put them in a large ziplock in the fridge or freezer so I can just dump everything in the pot in the morning.
If I’m roasting veggies in the oven, I will wash and cut up the veggies and, you guessed it, put it in a ziplock bag in the fridge until it’s ready to go.
There are so many little steps you could do to help make your evenings a lot less stressful and time consuming. If you have cauliflower rice in an upcoming recipe, throw some cauliflower in the food processor to make the rice, then store it in the fridge until you need it. Or better yet, buy some already blended! Costco has bags ready to go! I have even frozen these in 2 cup portions and it has worked well for me!
If you need shredded chicken for one of your recipes, boil the chicken and shred it to save you time on the day.
I also have been cooking sweet potatoes in bulk for my meal prep lately. Since I’m currently doing the Whole 30 program, I can’t have my usual toast in the morning, so sweet potato toast has been my saving grace. However, you have to bake the potato first so that it’s not in your toaster for a half an hour to cook in the mornings. So, I roast a bunch of slices of sweet potato, let them cool, then shove them in my fridge to use every morning.
And last but definitely not least, I always make sure to make enough dinner for lunches for both me and my husband the next day!
An Hour of Work Saves Hours of Frustration
It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s really not! You have the knife in your hand to make dinner, you may as well cut up all the fruits and vegetables you need for the week. You already have the oven on, why not roast all of the veggies on your menu? It’s Sunday afternoon, you don’t have to work, the kids are playing, you’re in the kitchen already, do whatever you can to help yourself out for the week.
It may take an hour or two to get all of it done, but think about how much time and stress you’re saving during the busy weekday evenings. I’d much rather take my time on a Sunday afternoon to meal prep than rush and stress out on a Thursday evening with my toddler screaming between my legs while I’m trying to cook a healthy dinner before I have to take my son to Taekwondo in an hour.
I’d love to hear if any of this has helped you out with your meal prep, or if you have any tips or recommendations to help make my life easier! Please comment below so we can chat!