Meal Planning and Meal Prep. These are probably some pretty scary words for some people. And I get why! They sound time-consuming. I am a BUSY mom. And I’m sure you’re busy too. So when I hear about people spending hours making freezer meals or spending an entire Sunday afternoon prepping meals for the coming week, I start to get a little anxious. I realize the benefits of doing those long afternoon preparations, but it just doesn’t fit into my busy lifestyle. But even with that said, do I meal prep?? YES!! I have some tips to help you meal prep EVERY WEEK, in less than 30 minutes. And I want to share them with all of you.
How a meal planning and meal prepping strategy will change your life:
When I started meal planning and meal prepping, it was amazing to me…
…how much money I saved on groceries
…how less often I had to go to the grocery store
…how much more nutritious my meals became (especially lunch and breakfast)
…how much time I saved every day cooking meals
…how less stressed I felt during the week
If these changes sound good to you, then I want to help you start meal planning and meal prepping, today. It only takes 30 minutes of your time to meal prep and it will significantly improve the quality of nutrition in your meals and the time your spend making your meals.
If you want to get started meal planning and meal prepping today, I have a FREE eBook called “One Week of Dinners“ that has 5 healthy dinner recipes that take 30 minutes or less and comes with a complete printable grocery list. This will help you get started and since I have done the meal planning portion for you in this eBook, you just have to do the Meal Prep portion! Get your One Week of Dinners eBook now.
MY MEAL PLANNING STRATEGY
As I shared in a previous post, Meal Planning 101 (if you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend that you do because it’s a good place to start), I have a very SIMPLIFIED meal planning process. It makes meal planning a BREEZE and has been totally efficient for me. Since we are focusing on Meal Prep in this post, I won’t get too much into Meal Planning, but in brevity, I meal plan according to my family’s schedule, our favorite recipes, and my binder of NEW recipes that I want to try (mostly recipes from Pinterest). Then, I begin my Meal Prep Strategy.
**Side note: I am totally a Pinterest recipe stalker and I truly feel like one of my hobbies is looking at recipes on Pinterest… Anyone with me on this?? BTW, if you want to follow me on Pinterest, I’ve pretty much done all the hard work in finding healthy, clean food recipes for you, so you can totally steal all my awesome pins! [FOLLOW ME ON PINTEREST]
MY MEAL PREP STRATEGY
- Make a balanced meal plan. A simple meal prep strategy begins with a balanced meal plan. (Check out my post on The 10 Best Meal Planning Tips for Busy Families. It will rock your world.) Make sure you don’t plan for 7 dinner meals that each require 10 minutes of prep. You need to balance quick and easy meals that require very little to no meal prep, with meals that require a little more prep. It also helps to mix your week’s meal plan with familiar meals that you can make quickly with meals that are new.
- Make a grocery list and shop your fridge and pantry FIRST! It drives me crazy when I go buy something that I already have at home. I like to follow my budget and try my best not to buy needless food items and supplies. I plan my meals for the LEAST amount of waste as possible, so it bothers me when I have to throw away any bit of food. I’m sure you feel the same way.
- Go grocery shopping TO ONE STORE, if possible. Some people clip coupons and go shop at 3 or more stores to get deals, and while that is great for them, I simply don’t have that kind of time. I have to shop with 3 young children and if any of you have to do that as well, you know how crazy that can be. Shopping at one store helps with my speed and efficiency because I choose the store that is closest to my house and I know its layout. That way, I can find everything VERY quickly. It is AMAZING how much time I can WASTE in a grocery store simply because I am unfamiliar with the layout of where everything is
- Meal prep the same day you grocery shop. And no later than the day after you grocery shop. It depends on my schedule whether or not I meal prep right when I get home from grocery shopping. My grocery shopping days are usually Monday morning and my meal prep time is usually Monday afternoon (my kids happen to be busy at this time 🙂 ). Occasionally I have to wait until Monday evening or even Tuesday morning, but my meal prep gets done as soon as possible. The longer you wait to meal prep, the lower your chances are of actually completing your meal prep, which means your likelihood of making your planned meals for that week goes down as well. Every day you wait to prep your fresh ingredients is also another day towards their expiration.
- Meal prep the following items:
- All fruits and vegetables
- Hard-boil eggs
- Make sauces (i.e. pesto, spaghetti sauce, etc.)
- Cook the grains (i.e rice, quinoa, etc.)
- Store your prepped items appropriately. Make sure to store your food in sealed, air-tight containers to preserve freshness. A great tip is to put a paper towel in the bottom of containers when storing lettuces or herbs because they tend to last much longer without getting wet and soggy.
I don’t go crazy with meal prep and that’s what helps make my strategy FAST and EFFICIENT. There is no need to make little packets of seasonings for your meal prep or to make entire meals ahead of time to freeze them (unless you enjoy that kind of thing 😉 ).
The key is to make your meal prepping process as QUICK and EASY as possible so that you will actually do it!
Sample Meal Plan from my own week:
My meal prep process is so simple and fast (because it has to be with my busy schedule!). As I said earlier, I simply DO NOT have 2 or more hours to spend prepping my meals for the week. I am going to show you my meal plan from last week and show you what I prepped ahead of time to make my week of cooking WAY easier. You can see how I came up with my meal plan using my simple meal planning process in this Meal Planning 101 post.
m – egg salad sandwiches with dill
t – spaghetti squash pesto with roasted garlic and a salad
w – roasted vegetable enchiladas and a salad
th – cauliflower soup and a salad (I am seeing a trend here of salads…. ;))
f – mexican pot-luck with friends
s – veggie burgers (store-bought) with sweet potato fries and homemade honey mustard dip
su – stuffed shells and asparagus
m – lunch bowl with quinoa, sweet potato, avocado and brussel sprouts on top of spinach
t – lunch bowl with quinoa, black beans, corn, onion, tomatoes and avocado on top of spinach
w – spaghetti squash pesto leftovers
th – roasted vegetable enchilada leftovers
f – cauliflower soup leftovers
s – lunch bowl with sweet potato, avocado, hard-boiled egg and brussel sprouts on top of spinach
su – paninis with pesto (<– leftover from the spaghetti squash pesto) , mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach
m – overnight peanut butter oats
t – steel-cut oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, and honey peanut butter
w – steel-cut oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, and honey peanut butter leftovers
th – overnight banana, peanut butter and coconut oats
f – Havarti and avocado toast
s – pancakes with sliced strawberries and homemade whipped cream
su – overnight peanut butter oats
At first this week’s meal plan may look overwhelming but doing this meal planning has actually totally SIMPLIFIED MY LIFE! What I have not included on this list is the small variations I make for my kids but I don’t want to scare you away so I will stick with this for now 😉 Comment below if you would like to know what my variations were for my kids and I would be more than happy to share them with you and I will include them next time.
**TIP: As you can see from my sample meal plan above, one important part of my meal planning is that I make enough dinner to have leftovers so we can eat the yummy leftovers for lunch the following day. This helps lower the cost of my groceries and significantly cuts down the time I spend preparing food.
What do I Meal Prep?
From the sample meal plan above, this is what I prepped for the week:
- Washed and sliced 8 sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, 1 onion, 3 peppers, head of cauliflower and celery.
- Washed asparagus and chopped off the ends.
- Made one cup of quinoa.
- Shredded 2 carrots.
- Made the pesto sauce.
- Hard-boiled 8 eggs.
30 Minutes of Meal Prep is all it takes.
As you can see, all of this meal prep takes LESS than 30 minutes. It is SO easy to do and it gives you the drive throughout the week to actually MAKE the dinners that you planned on making. Cooking shows make EVERY recipe look SO easy and that is because all of their veggies are prepped, their sauces are made and their grains are cooked, etc. Your goal to meal prep is to make cooking as easy as doing your own cooking-show (without going too crazy on meal prep of course). Trust me, it will make a HUGE difference.
*Meal prepping will prevent you from grabbing take-out which can break the budget and is usually bad for your health. Plan and Prep. It will change your life.
I hope that by sharing my meal prep process, I have encouraged you and helped you feel equipped to start your own version of meal planning and meal prep that works best for you. You and your family deserve healthy, homemade meals that will keep your bodies full of energy and maintain a healthy immune system.
Feel free to ask me any questions! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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