5 Ways to Simplify Meal Prep
If food prep makes you cringe or induces an immediate head ache you are not alone. The hard reality is that in today's culture it takes time and intention to eat foods that are optimal for our health.
Ironic isn't it? Unfortunately eating prepackaged and processed foods are simply more convenient. Although I do not want to be a packaged food police, because let's be honest squeezable applesauce and cheese sticks basically save lives. I do want to inspire you to take steps to prepare healthy food on hand. Heck, maybe you will start to look forward to your weekly prep!
Anything is possible.
1. Pick a Prep Day
In my ideal week I like to grocery shop Saturday and prepare food for the week on Sunday. Saturday is my "game plan" day and list making and Sunday is when we execute the plan and make all out war in the kitchen.
Also, let me clarify. I do not make every single meal each Sunday for the following week. Personally I prioritze makeing breakfast through lunch in advance. That means having breakfast, snack and lunch options readily on hand. Although I may prepare a few freezer dinners in advance for the week - dinner is easier for me to make during the day and eat off of leftovers throughout the week.
Start small, and work your way up to preparing more as you get the hang of things.
Life happens, schedules change. The most helpful thing you can do for your meal prep goals is start to establish a weekly rhythm. It will become second nature like brushing your teeth or washing your sheets. The most difficult part is just starting. It you've never prepped food for your week it will seem overwhelming at first and I can almost guarantee a headache. Your reward will be about a month in of establishing this new habit a whole new (healthier) lease on life!
Welcome to the food prepper's club.
2. Start with the Basics
Stick with 3-4 staples for the week that can be easily built upon to make different meals. Thinks like baked chicken, quinoa, roasted veggies, or big bags of greens for salads throughout the week. Prepared grains or beans are perfect meal add-ons and chicken and turkey patties work well as main entrees.
Make a big batch of the 3-4 staples you choose for the week. Leave half the main entrees like baked chicken or turkey patties in the refrigerator and the other half in the freezer for the latter half of the week in order to stay fresh. You can do the same with roast veggies and grains. I don't recommend freezing and reheating beans.
3. Make a List
Assemble your menu or food options for the week and compile your list. Make sure to check off the ingredients you already have on hand. If I had a dollar for every extra canned beans or Rotel tomatoes I bought and didn't need I would retire! In fact, base your meals around the bulk of ingredients you already have on hand or in your pantry.
Make your list and check it twice before heading out to the combat zone (FYI - the grocery store). Challenge yoursef to STICK TO YOUR LIST. Unless there is a staple on sale such as meat or veggies that can be easily substituted in your week's meal plan. Then make the swap and save some dough.
This has been a good practice in self discipline for me personally. I find that I have this weird scarcity mindset that comes up when I'm around all this food. I want to buy it all for the "just in case". Especially the sale zone. Thankfully we live in a land of plenty and I am almost guaranteed those same items will be there next week. My grocery budget has thanked me.
4. Stock up on Staples
Speaking of staples...these are things you use regularly and always need on hand. Things typically in the pantry that have a longer shelf life. These items are the "bulk" items and are great to wait to purchase either on sale or in bulk.
I've compiled a free "staples list" that may come in handy for you. Especially for those of you who prefer to eat gluten, and dairy free.
5. Make it a Family Affair
Turn your spouse and kids into your most helpful sous chefs. There is plenty of washing, cutting, sorting, and plopping into bags and other various containers. Not to mention buttons that get pushed with food processor, oven and high powered blenders. I don't know why but any "button" that can be pushed lately is the biggest craze at our house for our Little. Bonus points if it makes a sound.
Then again if this idyllic scenario doesn't work right now for you, bribe your spouse to entertain the kids for a few hours while you do your food prep magic. After all, running a household is a team effort. He gets to take the kids to a park or out for ice cream and you get to make sure no one starves that week.
Plus, maybe the reward of completed meal prep for the week calls for a date night! Or a chick flick at least (with his favorite pop corn concoction of course.)
I love how our almost two year old daughter sees us preparing healthy food on the regular. As she is interested I let her pull up a chair and take bites out the the veggies I wash and cut, or stir baked goods I'm making at the moment. "Healthy food" is her normal, and prioritizing it is a part of life.
The habits we want our kids to display will be caught and not taught. Let's be parents who create new normals of healthy nourishing foods around our tables, shared with love.
I want to know...
Do you have a food prep routine each week? Please share with us your tips and tricks to make this routine task easier.
Train in Your Lane,