Do you ever wonder how some people manage to have it all together and get it all done, keeping the house clean, working, and still finding time to make meals at home rather than eating out several times per week?
Learn how to save time throughout the busy work week with these easy meal prepping tips . . .
Meal Prepping Made Easy
Planning what’s for dinner and actually getting it to the table can be especially challenging for a working parent. The week starts out with the best of intentions, then by Thursday, you are ready to grab take-out on the way home because it’s going to take too much time to cook.
It doesn’t have to be such a daunting task. Think of it as a game….. The first step is meal planning. You don’t have to start with the entire week if it’s not something you are used to doing. Take it a few days at a time.
What type of meals does your family eat? Slow-cooked, soups, casseroles, pasta, grilled meats….. Do you have a salad almost every night with dinner?
Prepping meals for the busy work week
Here are some time-saving tips to help get your family’s meal on the dinner table without making you crazy when you walk in the door. Whatever your grocery shopping preference, whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, or even every couple of days; you invariably have meals in mind when you shop.
Some are extremely detailed with their lists and menu planning others of us sort of fly by the seat of our pants. Either way, there are quite a few things you can do to help with the weekly meal preparation.
Meal Plan Before shopping
Meal plan. It’s not super hard. Just like you tell your kids, turn it into a game of sorts. You could even put a list on the refrigerator to remind you what you planned for dinner that week.
Take one recipe at a time and think about how you could make preparing it easier. Most families have meat, starch, and a vegetable for dinner most nights during the week. With the occasional soup, slow-cooker, pasta, or casserole thrown into the mix.
For the Meat, starch, vegetable nights:
1 When you get home from the store, don’t just throw that package of chicken, steak, or pork in the fridge or freezer. Take a moment to figure out what you bought it for. Whether it’s a new recipe you were going to try or you just felt like buying chicken, take the time and decide what you are going to do with it.
If it’s for stir fry-slice it. If it’s for grilling- it only takes a moment to put the spices or marinade on the meat. Label the freezer bag and pack it away. If you bought a pound of hamburger to make spaghetti. Go ahead and brown it while you put the other groceries away. Cooked ground beef is very handy to have around, and it stores great in the fridge or freezer.
2 Pre-wash and or slice vegetables. If you always slice bell peppers for recipes, why not slice them up and keep them in a container so they are ready to go. No big deal if you need to further dice them.
You can do the same with most vegetables. In fact, follow this easy tip for making your fresh produce last 7-10 days
3 Potatoes- you can peel potatoes the night before and keep them in water in the fridge to make mashed potatoes. Rice can be pre-measured and loaded into the rice cooker to be turned on when you get home.
- Casseroles– These can easily be made up ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen. If that’s not possible, at least get out the casserole dish and the dry ingredients with the recipe to make it easier when you get home.
- Crockpot/Slow-Cooker meals– The working mom’s best friend. These can be made up the night before and just put the crockpot on when you leave in the morning. Some crockpot meals are easy to make up and store in the fridge or freezer in storage bags.
More Meal Prepping Tricks for Busy Families
Another trick I like to use is to tape a note to my coffee pot that simply says, “what’s for dinner?” While setting the coffee pot in the evening I read the note and it gets me thinking about tomorrow night’s plan. I check the planner, see that I need to thaw chicken, beef, pork, casserole, etc. for the meal the following day.
When I’m pouring my morning coffee, there it is again to remind me about what we are having so I don’t stress out when I walk in the door after work and everyone is hungry.
If you have older kids give them some responsibility in having things set up for you, or put the casserole in for you at a certain time. Learn More about How to Start Menu Planning to save both time and Money
Keeping true to yourself is the most important part of meal planning! If you don’t like cooking, don’t try to force it! Instead, make to-do lists of what you need for recipes, then go shopping weekly instead of daily; if you do enjoy cooking, great! Get all your groceries together and cook away!
A meal plan can be created in a variety of ways. Some people do it on a computer; others write it down on paper. You can even do it by writing out the recipe steps or jotting down what you need for that day/time block.
There are also tons of various apps and websites dedicated to meal planning.
Make your own recipes! One of my favorite tools for meal planning is Pinterest because you can create your own recipe boards, so when you create a grocery list, all the items are right there on your phone or computer screen. You can also save meals that you see online, which makes it even easier when it comes to meal planning.
Don’t try to stick to the same list every week! Get creative and have fun with it. But remember, if you are making a different type of recipe for dinner each night, your grocery list will change too, so be sure to check it before you go shopping!
Once you find recipes that work well, be sure to write them down! I have a recipe binder filled with my favorite go-to recipes that I don’t ever plan on giving up.
And last but certainly not least, get your loved ones involved in meal planning! If they are part of the process, your husband/wife/kids will be more likely to get behind your new healthy lifestyle.