I am always asked, “Can you teach me to meal prep?”
It’s something I think we all aspire to – to take a morning or afternoon on Sunday to cook and prep meals for the week. It’s our vision of the perfect, got-my-stuff-together, go-getter, super-planner, motivated person that we want to be.
My answer is usually: “Yes, I can teach you to meal prep!” Followed by, “But first you need to Meal Plan!”
But after I mention Meal Planning, most people sigh in defeat.
Look, it’s true. What can you prep if you don’t have a plan? How can you prep for the week without a plan of what you are going to eat?
It’s not as hard as you think!
First, you might want to think about what your vision for meal prepping is. I think there are two ways to go about it:
Option A: You can pre-cook a couple grains, dice up a multitude of veggies, have a variety of canned beans, tofu and tempeh. If you have your week of meals written out (don’t worry I help with this below!), then you can easily take about an hour (or less) on Sunday (if that’s your day) and prepare containers for the fridge of the prepped grains, veggies, sauces and dressings.
Remember, having a definite plan is a:
Reducer of Waste, Too!
Option B: You can cook ALL your meals for the week and throw them in the fridge or freezer; then, when it’s dinner time, heat and serve!
I typically do not like to reheat my meals and I like cooking every night, so I’m more of an Option A person. I’m still cooking each night, but with help!
These Sweet-Potato Nachos were 90% prepped ahead. All I had to do was slice the potatoes and while those were in the oven, I grabbed my prepped veggies for the toppings and the guac, which took about 2 minutes in my mini chopper.
I DO use Option B for lunches. I will make spring rolls, peanut noodles, grain and bean salads and pack them all up for grab-and-go lunches. Typically, this can be done in a hour or less because I am not making five separate meals for multiple people.
So, now that I have convinced you that you can find your way to meal prep and that meal planning is essential, here is my suggestion for putting it all together:
If you are the main cook for the family, the easiest way to start your journey to meal planning is to make notes of what meals your family likes best. Real secret-like (or not)! Busy as we all are, trying to get everyone to focus for more than five minutes on a monthly meal plan is challenging, to say the least. I can hear the groans from the kids (and adults) from here!
I suggest while the family is enjoying a meal to ask if they would like to have this on a regular basis. Should I add this to the rotation? Maybe you already know that Mondays are vodka rigs night (they sure are in my house!), so you can just pop that into the calendar. Or you can make fun-themed nights, maybe Taco Tuesdays and change up the taco each week (buffalo cauliflower tacos!) to keep things fun and exciting!
Then when you have a good list going, get your calendar rolling. Use a dry-erase board, your phone calendar, your computer, or go old school – pen and paper!
When writing it all down, you will want to organize your week so you can cook a grain for use twice that week. If you are into meal prepping for lunches too, you can incorporate both. And we will cover this in the next segment on meal planning.
Now you have your meals all lined up for the week; now you can meal prep! Ta-da!
It’s all there for you. It might take time to get to your full week (or full month) of meals. It might be fluid, your family might decide that they want the same taco every week on Taco Tuesday or you might decide that you want to cook one or two fresh meals each week. You might decide that pre-cooking/heating up is not for you. You might just want to shop on Sunday and spend an hour or so chopping veggies and cooking a grain or two that will go with the plan and that’s okay.
Sometimes the Plan can be better than the Prep. It’s all up to you!
This will be a multi-post series on Meal Prep, and I need your help to know what you are looking for in future installments! Please let me know in the comments!