Organize My Life, Part Four: Meal Prepping
“Meal Prepping” can take on a variety of meanings depending on who you’re talking to, what they like to eat and what they consider a meal. That may mean preparing things ahead so it’s easier to cook, that may mean cooking things ahead so having a healthy dinner at home is as fast as drive thru or anywhere in between! So let’s just explore some of the meal prepping options and you can pick and choose what fits you and your lifestyle. There is no right of wrong way to do it–you just have to try things out and see what you like. The guarantee of meal prep is that your week will be easier, less stressful, healthier, and you’ll save money!
I personally, do my meal prepping on Sunday most weeks, but sometimes that gets pushed back until Monday. I like to prep for the whole week, but some people like to do it twice a week so that things stay a little more fresh. In truth, there are some things that I can’t prepare ahead of time because it might not be used for 5 or 6 days, and let’s face it, that’s just too long for some things because they’ll be sub-par when I go to use them.
Prepping for cooking later:
This is my biggest helper in the kitchen and it saves me so much time during the week. Some of the things I like to prepare in advance are:
- Slicing and chopping up any fresh produce for meals, such as bell peppers and onion for fajitas or carrots for pot roast. I also do this with zucchini to make “zoodles” with this slicer. To keep the veggies fresh, fill up the container with water before they go in the fridge! They’ll keep fresh for days!
- Boil your pasta ahead of time (to al dente) , put in a container with cold water and refrigerate. When you’re ready to use, just drain them and toss them in boiling water for 1 minute to reheat. I’ve even been known to just run them under hot tap water, but our tap puts our ridiculously hot water!
- Brown your ground meats ahead of time if you’re not using Thrive ground beef and sausage crumbles. You can do it all at once, then portion into containers and toss in the freezer or fridge for later use.
- Make any meatballs, burger/sausage patties, etc so that you don’t have to do it later.
- Slice up any meats you’ll use later in the week. If they need marinated, put them in a container with the marinade and refrigerate until needed. If you’ll be adding them to a casserole or other dish, you may be able to cook them ahead too!
Assemble ahead of time:
These are my favorite because they’re so easy on a hectic night! They’re already put together and just need a little bit to make an amazing dinner!
- Pre-assemble casseroles and baked pasta dishes. When you’re ready to use them just pop them straight in the oven! (Tip: Make a second one and pop it in the freezer!)
- If you like to bake fresh bread or rolls, prepare several batches of dough and freeze in portioned balls so you can bake it as needed.
- Make ahead any salsa or condiments you will use this week.
- Prepare burritos and wraps for the week, then wrap tightly in foil and store in the fridge. They are great for lunches!
- Put together a few meals-in-a-jar for the extra hectic nights
- Assemble your salads ahead of time, just don’t add your dressing or croutons until you’re ready to eat.
- If you’ll have a slow cooker meal or soup this week, put everything together in a large zip-lock bag or container so you can just throw and go!
- If you’re a smoothie drinker, put all your ingredients together in zip-lock bags so you can just toss it in and blend!
Cook ahead for quick reheating:
Some of the other ideas above also include cooking ahead, but these meal prepping ideas all sort of overlap at times.
- Prepare breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage. They reheat wonderfully, and you can even make them into a burrito if you want to eat them on the go! Or you can pre-assemble breakfast sandwiches–they reheat easily and the cheese gets all melty….yum!
- If you love grilled foods, cook them all at once for the whole week. We do the same thing with our smoker, and smoke several foods at once to eat during the week. (Note: We also grill and smoke foods to freeze because we miss it in the winter! It’s amazing to pull out grilled corn on the cob in the middle of January!)
- You can peel and cook potatoes that you’ll mash later with a meal. You just boil them until they’re done, drain off the water and pop them in the fridge. When you’re ready to use them, heat in a pot of boiling water until heated through, drain, and mash away. That trick right there saves a huge amount of time because peeling all those potatoes is too much work for your evening! Yet, homemade mashed potatoes can really make a meal feel ‘homemade’ instead of ‘box-made’. Ya know?
- Make ahead homemade soup for a quick weeknight meal with grilled cheese or other grilled sandwich. You could even do a soup, salad, and breadsticks for a light, quick dinner.
- Consider planning and making your desserts/sweets for the week. If you make them ahead of time you’re much more likely to stick to your diet plan and not overindulge! You’re also more likely to choose something on the healthier side. So, go ahead and make that dessert, then portion it off so you aren’t tempted to eat it all. (This one doesn’t work for me because I will eat it all Sunday and it will never even get portioned….LOL)
One things is for sure, meal prepping is not a one-size-fits-all activity. You have to be creative in what you can make ahead, and how to store it until it’s time to use it. It changes in my house from week to week. It’s definitely something you have to make yourself do (because who wants to do all that on a Sunday?) but you’ll be over-the-moon happy you did it the other 6 days of the week! You will eat healthier, and you will be more likely to eat at home more if you can just convince yourself to make meal prepping a priority every week.
I’d love to hear your meal prep ideas in the comments. Tell us how you make your week easier, less stressful, and save money by planning and prepping ahead.