Over the years I’ve talked quite a bit about meal planning and how it saves my sanity as a busy mom of a large family! It’s still true today. When I don’t plan ahead for meals I find myself struggling to come up with ideas at the last minute when everyone’s bellies are grumbling.
One of the keys to success when it comes to meal planning is the ability to do a little meal prep in advance. By preparing some of your meals, or even just dicing the vegetables ahead of time, you can prepare your meals with less work and less time.
Meal Prep 101
Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before you begin meal prepping:
- What goal are you trying to achieve through meal prepping? Do you want to lose weight by eating better, save money, or free up your time? Do you want to save time on busy – or busy weeknights?
- Do you want to focus only on dinners? Lunch boxes? Healthy snacks? Freezer cooking?
- When will you do your meal prepping? Meal prepping doesn’t have to be a Sunday night special. Having the flexibility to pick what to eat on the fly is the best strategy, so pick a day that fits your lifestyle.
Now that we’ve covered a few basic things, let’s start meal prepping!
Step 1: Plan your meals
Before you start making anything, you need to know what meals you will be having throughout the week. A few days before your meal prep day, make a list of meals you want to eat for the following week. This will make sure you only buy what you need for those meals when you go shopping, which will also help you save money!
Step 2: Create your shopping list & Get to the store
Nothing will kill your productivity faster than being mid-prep and realizing you are missing a key ingredient. To avoid being in this situation, you want to make a grocery list. Go through each individual recipe (even the ones you know by heart) and write down all of the ingredients you’ll need to make each dish. Then, using your list, check what ingredients you have on hand and mark them off the list. Afterwards, you’ll only be left with what you need to buy from the store and you won’t miss a thing!
Step 3: Have the Right Tools
Having the right tools for meal prepping is a big help. Here are a few of my suggestions:
- Slow Cooker. I use my slow cooker as much as possible to save time during the week, but you can also prep meals and make meals ahead of the time with your slow cooker!
- Instant Pot. Prep your meals quickly with an Instant Pot. Pre-cook food twice as fast!
- Mason Jars. I like storing snacks, salads, and leftovers in Mason jars. You can also make overnight oatmeal in them!
- Glass Pyrex Containers with Lids. These work when a Mason jar doesn’t!
- Half Sheet Pan. These are perfect for pre-cooking and roasting veggies in the oven. Not to mention roasting vegetables gives them so much flavor!
- Muffin Tin. You can make more than just muffins in a muffin tin!
- Bento Style Lunch Boxes. These easy open lunch boxes keep food separate and stack inside your fridge!
- Cutting Board. I love my bamboo cutting board.
- Menu Planner. Planning your meals and getting them prepped for the week is so much easier when you have a menu planner! I use my Purpose 31 Planner for planning our meals.
Step 4: Start prepping!
Now that you have all of your ingredients and your meal plan handy, it’s time to start prepping. I usually like to prep meals for the week on Sunday but you can choose any day of the week that works best for you. You might like to do this the day you come home from the grocery store. Do what works for you. Once you’ve finished preparing each meal, store them in an airtight container and put them in the fridge or freezer for an easy meal!
Here are some ideas for prepping meals in advance.
- pre-cook meat
- chop vegetables
- wash and prepare fruit
- wash and dry lettuce
- prepare salads
- remove wire tie from fresh herbs and place stems in a glass of water
- make homemade “uncrustable” sandwiches and freeze
- make lunches and store in fridge using your favorite lunch container
- store healthy snacks in glass mason jars or air tight containers
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re short on time or can’t put together a full meal ahead of time, then do what you can. Just having your vegetables pre-chopped can save you tons of time in the kitchen later. Making a bunch of different cuisines at the same time can also help you plan themed nights, reorder your meals for unexpected guests, and more!