Meal Prep 101 – Start Small

We all have heard our trainers and those really fit ladies tout the glories of meal prepping, right?  When I thought about meal prepping before I got into it, I don’t know about you all, but I would get so overwhelmed and anxious!  I would think “What do I even do first?” “I don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen!” or “It’s sooo much work!”  And I am not saying you don’t have to put in a little effort, but you probably do half of it anyway with thinking about the week of dinners and grocery shopping!  I just add in cooking a couple of things on Sunday afternoon while I am making dinner and BOOM my week is soooo much easier!  And it really helps me stay on track with my nutritional goals because I feel much more guilty stopping at Wendy’s when I know I have a healthy lunch just waiting to be heated up at home. 

meal prep menu

Excuse the messy writing!

Rule #1:  KEEP IT SIMPLE!!!!  

Write down the recipes you know your family already loves, you probably have 2 weeks worth already in your mind.  Then, if you want to throw in a new recipe here and there it keeps life from getting too overwhelming!  I’ll talk about healthy swaps in another post, but for right now just keep the meal planning to recipes you know and love!  Remember Rule #1… 

Rule #2: HAVE A PLAN FOR THE WEEK 

Plan ahead, do what you can, then enjoy the time during the week!  Don’t stress yourself out, start doing 1 or 2 things on Sunday, for instance making some hardboiled eggs for quick protein snacks and cooking up the ground meat for the Chili on the day when the kids have 87 activities after school!  Once you get into a groove, you will think of things you can prep at other times, like making egg white, feta and veggie frittata cups for a quick morning meal during the week while making scrambled eggs for Sunday breakfast.  Or making extra pancakes for the kids during the week while making the batch for Saturday morning!

For me, I like to write my menu down on Sunday before I head out to the store.  I check the freezer to see what I have stored, sometimes I buy extra chicken breast, ground chicken/turkey, chicken sausages, etc. when they are on sale and pop them into the freezer.  Then I plan my menu on what I have and buy the ingredients I need to finish the meals.  THIS STEP ALONE HAS SAVED ME SO MUCH TIME!!!  If you do nothing else, do this as it will at least give you all the ingredients in the house that you’ll need to make the meals, eliminating that last minute run to the grocery store because you forgot the parmesan cheese (I speak from experience).   

Rule #3: DOUBLE UP

Double up on recipes like sauce, homemade soups, etc. and freeze a meal worth for an easy dinner another night!  If you see in my photo of my plan, I have Chicken Soup.  I didn’t make that fresh, I took it out on Sunday to thaw in the fridge and will dump into the Crockpot on Tuesday morning!  

Rule #4: FLEXIBLE MENU

Be flexible!  Just because you planned on having Chicken Fried Cauli Rice one night, if you’d rather have pizza then go have pizza!  I use Saturday as my cheat day… I don’t plan anything, I don’t worry about what I eat, but if I have a day during the week that I just am not feeling it or my kids aced a big test or LIFE!  Then I swap the dinner I planned but didn’t prep for to Saturday and go get my life on!   

Rule #5: LOOK FOR SIMILAR INGREDIENTS

Make similar things during the week, for example group recipes with ground meat together in the week, or a few chicken breast recipes together for example.   If you need coleslaw mix for one of your recipes, try and use it in another a few days later (for example: Egg Roll in a Bowl and Marinated Feta Coleslaw have very similar ingredients) and you can buy the larger bag in bulk! 

Once I have the ingredients at home, I look at the recipes and think about what I can prep ahead… usually browning some meat, roasting some veggies/ chicken breasts, etc.  I honestly pick the tasks I can do together, for instance this weekend I roasted chicken breasts, brussel sprouts, potatoes all at the same time and used some for Sunday’s dinner and now I have some lunch options!  While everything was roasting, I played with my kiddos outside.  Only other thing I did was I browned the meat for the Chili and took out the Chicken Soup from the freezer… that’s it! My kids eat what we eat for the most part.  If I am making something like spaghetti squash or cauli rice, I do make actual pasta or rice for them if they want it.  And I always have a box of mac and cheese on hand if needed, but usually they will eat what we eat!  

easy lunch

Easy lunch from leftovers! Makes the drive thru less appealing…

You know your family the best and what they will and won’t eat.  Find recipes that are simple and that you all love!  I have also found that having this on the fridge, my kids like knowing the plan for the week and refer to it when they want to know what is for dinner!  

Good luck!

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