If I am “on my game” I try to meal prep every week at least for Monday-Friday meals. I work several miles from a town and only have a half hour lunch and no cafeteria on site so I have to bring my own meals if I want to eat. This is a blessing as I can try to keep it healthy. I thought I’d share my process and some tips. You can use these tips to meal prep for the week or even to make freezer meals. I generally meal prep once or twice a week depending on my personal plans. I keep snacks at work and replenish as needed.
- It’s all about making a game plan
- Decide what you will be cooking that day
- Print out the recipes
- Make your shopping list so you have everything (bonus points for writing the shopping list in order of the flow of the store – veggies, deli, meat, canned good, dairy, etc)
This particular day I was making healthy banana pumpkin bread (breakfast with yogurt), sweet potato, bean and kale skillet (lunches) and ground beef egg roll in a bowl (supper). I don’t have a problem eating the same meals a few days in a row. If you don’t like to do that, I would suggest making a full recipe and freezing the rest in individual portions and building up your freezer stash to grab something different throughout the week. You want your recipes printed and on the counter to follow along as you go. Make sure you shop a day or two in advance so you have everything you need in your fridge and pantry.
- Do any prep in advance (chop veggies, thaw meat, etc)
I knew I’d be using spiralized sweet potatoes and you can spiralize and store them a few days in advance in the fridge. You basically want everything ready to go once you start cooking. Chop garlic, veggies and for sure thaw your meat if using any.
- Set out any cookware and utensils you’ll need including knifes, pans, garlic press, can opener, measuring cups, etc
- Set out all non perishable food neatly the evening before your cooking day including spices, canned goods, etc
I like to go to bed with a clean kitchen, but if I know I’m cooking the next day, I set out all the utensils I will need. I also set out any spices, canned foods and storage containers.
- Take shortcuts where possible
I like to use this bagged kale, it is already chopped and I can just throw it in the pan. Of course, if you buy whole kale, just chop and store it the day before. I also eat my lunch and supper with veggies. I LOVE the steamable veggie bags you can get at the store. Sam’s Club has great options. I just microwave the veggies as I cook to put them in the storage containers with the meals. I eat a lot of broccoli (it is an on-going joke with my co-workers) and one bag is good for 2-3 servings for me. I NEVER feel bad about eating a lot of veggies.
- Make food in order that makes sense
- Double up recipes
I baked the bread first, making a double batch. Once it was in the oven, I could move to the stove top. I double recipes a lot of times if they freeze well. This bread makes about 12 servings each and my husband and I both like it in our yogurt in the morning so bake once for twice the amount. This goes for a lot of meals also. Taco meat, spaghetti meat, grilled chicken breasts – cook once and store the leftovers in the freezer for those super busy nights when you don’t know what to cook or don’t have time. If I am making a salad, I make 3-4 at a time. One to eat that night and then you can store the others for about 3 days tops in the fridge. If I get all the stuff out, I just chop once and am done.
- Tidy as you go and schedule cleaning breaks
- Use one skillet meals where possible
- Set out all Tupperware or storage containers you will use for your meals
- Let food completely cool before storage
I make the lunches first in a skillet, wipe it and then make the suppers in the same skillet. You want to clean and tidy your kitchen as you go so you don’t have a huge disaster when you are done. Take a 5 minute break or whatever. I try to keep the dishes to a minimum – use the grill, Crock Pot, Instant Pot or whatever.
I set out my Tupperware to divide out my lunches. The black containers were bought for cheap on Amazon (just search meal prep containers) – they are the perfect size and can be put in the dishwasher. The clear ones are Rubbermaid. The glass bowls are nice to use at home – that is my egg roll in a bowl. I eat that with more steamed veggies.
Finally, let your food cool off, especially if you are going to freeze it. You don’t want all that moisture and condensation inside – it’ll make your food watery when it thaws out.
I hope my tips helps you. One hour of work will save you HOURS of time throughout the week. Sometimes I dream meal prepping but the results are always worth it. Enjoy!