If you are looking for a way to make planning, prep, and meals easier and faster you may want to begin by prepping in advance as soon as you bring home your groceries. Spend a couple hours on Saturday or Sunday to do food prep and you will be amazed at how much time you can save and stress you can avoid throughout your busy week.
The first part of good food prep is meal planning. If you sit down and work out at least a week’s worth of meals in advance on paper, it serves several purposes in making everything run smoother.
You save money grocery shopping if you have a plan.
You won’t be wondering what’s for dinner at dinner time.
You can make healthier choices and set yourself up for success.
Meal and snack time options will be more plentiful.
Meal Plan & Shop
So sit down, make a list of dinners, lunches, breakfast ideas, plus your family’s favorite snacks then make a grocery list. Grab the list, your coupons, and your wallet. Next head to the grocery store and load up on everything you need. Bring it home and set it all on the counter. Most times before I do a big grocery run I also like to scrub and empty out the refrigerator so it’s ready to be loaded up for the week.
If you need some inspiration, this book is a good resource with 3 weeks of meal and snack plan ideas.
Once you have done your shopping for the week (or maybe even the month) brought home bags overflowing with fresh vegetables, canned goods, pasta, meat, dairy, etc… Now what do you do with it? How do you prep it all for the week ahead so that you are not pressed with coming up with dinner every night at 5:00? I’m going to share with you my favorite tips, methods, and tricks for making weekly food prep work for me. We’re going to prep for all 3 meals including bag lunches, and snacks.
Gather Your Tools
Make sure you include these items on your shopping list if you are not already stocked up: Mason jars, freezer bags, sandwich bags, and plastic lidded containers in various sizes. These are key tools to meal prep success so I suggest designating a shelf or basket for storing these items handily. Reusable containers like this or like this are perfect for prepping lunches.
Bring home your groceries and set them out on the counter. You can go ahead and put away things like milk, butter, etc.. into your clean fridge. The idea behind meal prep is to get as much done in advance when you have time so that during the week you are just doing minimal work to get dinner on the table and lunches packed. Now you are ready to get started on The meal prep….
Fruits and Veggies
Wash them well to remove wax, dirt, and pesticides that may be on them. Place them in strainers or on paper towels to drain. Check your weekly menu and pre-prep your veggies for meals-slice, dice, shred, etc.. I have a mandolin and I absolutely love it for food prep, makes it quick and easy. I just rinse between different items and move on to the next one. Once I’ve finished the slicing and dicing, I divide them up into bags and smaller plastic storage containers. Don’t forget to designate some for healthy snacks and put them in special containers – carrot sticks, cucumber slices, apple wedges, grapes, cherries, etc… If salad is on your menu for lunches or dinners make those up as well – mason jars are great for this.
Prep and cook meat
Again, looking at your meal plan, you can pre-cook a lot of your meat and freeze it for quick reheating and adding to your meals. Chili on your list? Brown and drain 1 pound of meat. Hamburgers? Go ahead with seasoning and flattening them up. Place them in freezer bags divided by sheets of wax paper. If you buy meat in larger bulk packs to save money but don’t want to cook it yet you can still divide it up into smaller portions before refreezing it.
Divide up snacks in individual packs
I tend to not buy many things already individually packaged because it costs a lot more. It’s cheaper to buy a large bag of chips and divide it up yourself and really, it only takes a couple minutes to do. This is great for snack time or for packing lunches, you can just grab one or two items and toss them in the lunchbox.
If you have kids, my favorite trick is to turn an entire loaf of bread into peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. If you have the freezer space make them all ahead and place in freezer bags, stack in the freezer then simply pull one out and pop in the lunches and it will be thawed and ready by lunch. You could do this with lunch meat and cheeses as well.
Make slow cooker meals
Make up your favorite slow cooker meals in advance. Place meat, starches, veggies, and seasonings in big freezer bags. Freeze, and pull them out in the morning, dump into slow cooker and come home to a hot meal ready to go. If you don’t already own a slow cooker you should definitely get one…or two. 🙂
Now, you’re pretty much done and this gives you a fabulous start to your week with just a couple hours of preparation! Now grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up, you deserve it!
I do the bulk of my food prep on one day but during the rest of the week you should think ahead. If you make pancakes for breakfast then make a double batch and freeze extras in baggies for microwaving on busy school mornings. Having soup for dinner? Freeze the leftovers in small plastic lidded containers for lunches.
I’d love to know how you prepare for the upcoming week. Let me know in the comments below!