So many people have a love/hate relationship with meal planning. You plan everything out, make the list, do the shopping and you feel so organized and wonderful. THEN, your busy weekday hits and you come home and realize you still have to cook dinner! How do these meal planning lovers do it? Welcome to Meal Prep 101!
Meal Prep 101
Taking a few hours on a less busy day to get a lot of the prep work done will save you oodles of stress during your busier days. Don’t have a few hours to spare? Just one will do and you can get the kids in there helping you. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids some healthy planning and eating practices! Many hands makes lighter work, right?
There are a couple different kinds meal prep days you can have…
Fresh Meal Prep Day
Fresh meal prep day is when you plan to use everything this week and keep everything in the fridge – aka, no freezer meals. More often than not, this is the method I personally stick with
Freezer Meal Prep Day
These are, truthfully, my favorite kind of meal prep day. There is something so comforting about having a slow cooker and 2 soup pots going of various soups and spaghetti sauces. It makes my soul smile.
Freezer Meal Prep Day for stocking up the freezer with soups, stews, meal kits. You can buy meats and veggies in bulk when they’re on sale and marinate them in all sorts of ways. When you’re on a budget these days are life savers. They’re so great, they deserve their own post (coming soon)
The Combo Meal Prep Day
Depending on what you have planned for the week, or when your groceries expire, this may be the best option. make one or two meals to put in the freezer so they keep for the rest of the week and the rest for the fridge.
Meal Prep 101: Tips for a Successful Meal Prep Day
First things first – Plan!
This first tip is a freebie – Obviously before you can meal prep you have to have a meal plan written out and a shopping list! To make this step infinitely easier use the FREE Ultimate Printable Meal Planner! It’s 8 pages of organizational awesomeness!
1. Double check your list and your kitchen before you go to the store.
This will ensure you have everything you need and will also save you money so you’re not guessing how much you need or accidentally buying items you already have.
Truth be told, there are plenty of times that I’ve planned my meals and shopping around what’s already in the fridge. Do you know how many different dinners you can make when you only have 1 chicken tender, a piece of lunch meat ham, 1/4 bag of cheese, 3 mushrooms and 1/4 of a bell pepper left over? LOTS!
2. Plan your prep strategy while you’re planning out your menu.
Yes, I really did just tell you to plan more stuff while you’re planning. And, make a list of what can be prepared ahead of time.
Trust me on this though. Some things can be pre- sautéed or roasted, some things can be pre-chopped, some meal kitted. What you want to be careful of is planning on a week that is 90% roasted, or everything requiring the same pan or pot when you only have 1 of said pot. I’ve made this mistake before.
Roasting is my go to strategy because, while it takes time, it gives such good flavor and anything can be roasted. Just a chop it and leave it situation. No other effort (no shame in the “lazy way” being the go to). So there HAS been a time or two when I’ve planned too much roasting, ran out of pans and everything took way more time because the pans had to wait their turn. Oops!
3. Don’t shop and prep on the same day
For some people, shopping and prepping on the same day isn’t a big deal…that is, if you don’t have kids in the house, aren’t busy, or have tons of energy, it’s not big deal. BUT, it’s a rare person that the above statement applies to. If you think about it though, the process of meal prep day is actually 4 steps. Planning, shopping, prepping, cleaning. It’s adds up (but, again, worth it!)
I personally like to shop the afternoon before and then prep the next morning or afternoon depending on my schedule. I have way more energy and tend to be more organized that way!
Meal prep day can get a little messy in the kitchen when you have a lot of things going at once. Multi tasking at it’s best! If you clean as you go, that helps immensely, but half the reason for meal prep day is not only getting everything cooked, but keeping major kitchen cleaning off your to-do list as well. It all get’s knocked out in the same day.
4. Label Everything
I know this sounds like a no brainer but it really is important. Particularly if you plan to put anything in the freezer! If you chopping the same veggies for various dishes ahead, it can look confusing. What if you 2 bags in the fridge, both with chopped onions and peppers with slightly different amounts…?
Put that permanent marker to gooooooood use!
5. Make sure you have enough bags and containers
This one sort of goes with the double checking and planning, but having to stop in the middle of prep day to go get more bags and containers is a huge pain. You can’t do this without them.
Sometimes it takes a couple weeks before you figure out the strategy and timing that works best for your schedule and family, but seriously, when it clicks, meal prep day makes life A MILLION times easier!
What are your favorite Meal Prep Day Strategies? Tell me in the comments!