Meal prepping is an absolute, no-joke lifesaver. I don’t know how I’d get through the week without it, after long stressful workdays and all of life’s chores – and soon I’ll be adding a baby into the mix! Coming home and being able to throw. food. into. a. bowl. It’s a beautiful thing.
Just imagine. You walk in the door, drop your bags on the floor, kick off your shoes, and realize you don’t need to start dinner from scratch tonight. With much of the chopping, roasting, and baking already done, you’ll not only save cooking time, but cleanup will go that much faster too.
Because let’s be honest. When we get home and we’re all tired and our stomachs are empty and we just want to put our feet up, our resolve to make a healthy meal, or even a healthy-ish meal, goes right out the window. No amount of meal planning and careful shopping will prevent the inevitable internal struggle – to cook or to order in?
In my case, ordering in almost always wins the night, leaving my bank account balance that much lower, my salt and cholesterol intake that much higher, and my fridge full of uneaten food at the end of the week. Le sigh.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Meal prepping is decidedly not a new idea. I’ll get on meal prep kicks, and whenever I do, me and my tummy are so much happier. I’ve recently challenged myself to stop the takeout cycle and stick to filling my fridge with grab-and-go meals and snacks, and prepped ingredients to make cooking healthy meals a cinch.
So get out your board games and go play in the snow (er wait, where’s the snow? It’s December, right?). Because with these tips and tricks, you’ll actually have the time. 😊
8 Tips to Meal Prep Like a Boss
#1. Set Aside the Time.
This is the big one. Meal prep does take time. There’s no way around it. But that little bit of extra work now to save precious time later is so worth it in my book. For me, it’s about 1.5-2 hours per week, done right after I get home from the grocery store.
A lot of that time is down time, waiting for veggies to roast or chicken to bake or soup to simmer. Use that time to fold the laundry, read that book you’ve been meaning to get to, play a game with your kiddos. Because before you know it, you’ll have containers filled with ready-to-go ingredients and meals stacked in your fridge, and you’ll be feeling like a total boss heading into the work week.
#2. Plan Your Meals. (Printable Resource!)
I do my best to follow the two golden rules of grocery shopping: (1) Don’t shop hungry. (2) Don’t shop without a plan (as my dad wisely says, “Without the plan, all is lost.”) To help me stay on track, I bring two things with me every time I go to the store. A snack bar to keep the hunger at bay, because these days I’m pretty much a bottomless pit and would bring home five different flavors of cookies and chips if I didn’t. And a detailed list of everything I need to buy.
My grocery list starts with a weekly meal plan – jotting down what we’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the week. I’ll usually make 2-3 big batch meals to mix and match throughout the week for dinners, doubling recipes where needed, and keep in mind days when either of us has a commitment in the evening. Oh, and date night. Can’t forget date night – when we go out to a restaurant or get takeout and snuggle at home, once a week. ❤️
To help you plan your weekly meals, I created a handy worksheet!
#3. Go shopping.
Enough said 😉
#4. Cook Two Meals.
With two already-cooked or prepped meals in your fridge, getting dinners on the table throughout the week takes almost no time or effort. Take a look at your meal plan to see what you can reasonably cook up in just a couple hours. Soups, casseroles, curries, pasta sauces and lasagnas make great make-ahead meals – getting tastier as the days go by and the flavors meld together.
#5. Batch Cook Grains + Veggies.
Do any of your meals call for cooked rice, lentils, beans or other grains? How about roasted veggies? Cook these ahead of time as much as possible to save loads of time during the week. They’re great for grab and go lunches – like these Winter Glow Bowls – and super simple to serve as sides, mix into soups and stews, layer into burritos, and more.
#6. Wash, chop & prepare the rest of your produce.
Chop onions, carrots, celery and other veggies and peel garlic for savory recipes all week. Peel, quarter and freeze bananas and other fresh fruits for quick delicious smoothies (I’ll throw a huge bag of spinach leaves in the freezer for green smoothies). Wrap fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro in paper towels and store in dry bags or containers to keep from wilting throughout the week.
#7. Organize it.
Prepping meals and ingredients for a full week of eating requires a lot of food storage containers. There’s no perfect way to store and organize your prepped meals – however works best for you and your family is just fine. I have an entire drawer dedicated to glass and BPA-free plastic containers to help me stay organized and keep everything neat and tidy in the fridge. All my storage containers are clear so I can see exactly what I have on hand – cuz we’ve all opened that mysterious food container at the end of the week with our noses plugged just in case…
#8. Make it Saucy.
Afraid prepped meals will be beige and boring? A tasty sauce is your best friend. Even something as simple as adding a swirl of creamy caesar dressing will spice up a bowl of brown rice and roasted veggies any day. If you’re looking for something a bit lighter and fresh, try this 5-Minute Sunshine Sauce by Pinch of Yum. Packed with flavor and using ingredients we most likely have on hand already – I’ll definitely be giving it a whirl very soon.
Phew! Are you still with me? 😃 Getting healthy food on the table doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Hopefully these easy meal prep tips will you prep smarter not harder.
What other meal prep tips or hacks do you swear by? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!