Meal Prep. These are two words that used to make me CRINGE!!! I mean, meal planning can feeling challenging enough, but taking intentional time to prep meals in advance? Now, that is WAY too much work.
However, meal time around our house can be stressful, to say the least! The kids can quickly go from cheerful to full-on whiny if their tummies are rumbling and I don’t have dinner on the table at the moment they feel hungry! Plus, at 5:00, I often feel worn out both physically and mentally from the long day.
Enter meal prep!
This has been a lifesaver for me! I don’t do it perfectly, and still need to become more efficient, but doing even the most minimal prep at the start of the week makes putting together a meal so much faster. I’m here to share with you some tips I’ve learned along the way, and I hope it’s helpful for you! These tips are great for basic meal prep and can also be applied to putting together freezer meals. This week I cooked up 3 freezer meals for after baby arrives, so they’re ready to thaw out in the fridge and enjoy the next day. I know I will be thankful I took the extra time and planning for these meals once we are in the thick of sleepless nights and full-on exhaustion! (and the high that comes with a new little baby! I’m sure I’ll rather hold a beautiful, sweet-smelling newborn than be in the kitchen making a meal!)
So, first things first! You first have to have a PLAN! I plan out each week’s menu on Sunday and get groceries that afternoon or evening if that fits in our schedule. It’s impossible to meal prep effectively without knowing what meals you’ll be making for lunches and dinners later that week!
Once you’ve got your weekly grocery haul, make a list of the things you can prep in advance. You can do as much or as little as you prefer! For example, I don’t LOVE leftovers (I mean, some things are amazing the day after, but I’ll always prefer freshly cooked veggies!), so I don’t fully cook meals in advance. Instead, I look at the menu and see what I can do all at once to simplify putting the meal together. Here are the things I try to do in advance:
- brown any ground meat
- clean and chop fruits and veggies. This is great for meal prep and also to have healthy snacks available to grab!
Simple, right?! I think so!
On top of this, I think of any other things I can prep to make sure I have healthy options in the fridge and ready to go:
- cook up some hard boiled eggs
- cook or grill a couple chicken breasts to add to salads for lunches
- bake, mash and season sweet potatoes for a healthy carb to add to any meal
- prep meatballs or other meats that have to be assembled
- peanut butter protein balls! These are a great snack option, and are quickly devoured by the whole family!
One REALLY key thing for me is to make the most out of the oven! If I’m using the oven to prep a meal, I try to bake or roast as many things in there as possible if the temperatures of recipes for the week are the same!
And finally, what are my top 5 tips for a successful meal prep sesh?! (these especially apply to making a bunch of freezer meals)
1. Prepare to make a MESS out of your kitchen.
2. Crank up some tunes.
3. Throw on an apron. Trust me, don’t skip this step! Especially when red sauce is in involved 😉
4. Call on a friend or two to join you. WAY more fun this way!
5. Give yourself permission to take a very long nap when you’re done and the kitchen is finally clean again. Ok, maybe this is just for those who also happen to be 9 months pregnant?! hehe!
Comment below with any tips you’ve found to be helpful, and what questions you may have!