How To Meal Prep For The Week In 8 Simple Steps (In one afternoon)
In our house, we often call the ours between 4:30 and 6 pm the "witching hours." All the kids want ALL of mom's attention. Everyone is hungry and tired. Make things easier and spend minimal time in the kitchen.
The best way to survive is to have a plan. The plan ensures 2 things:
1. It'll be easier to stick to dietary goals for you and your family.
2. You will save time during the toughest part of the day.
1 - Start Planning For The Week
- Choose a day to take care of your prep work. For most people, this will be a Sunday.
- Start planning out your meals for the week. Make a list of all the meals that you intend to prepare.
- Decide whether to focus on meal prep for dinner, lunch, or for all of your meals.
2 - Gather Your Ingredients
- Next, take your list of meals and make a list of ingredients.
- Make sure to look through the cooking instructions for each meal.
- Begin gathering your ingredients.
- Get your shopping done. Breathe.
- Get ready to prep! Note that prep does not have to occur on the same day as shopping.
TIP: Save your meal and ingredients lists to use again another week. Don't reinvent the wheel.
3 - Wash and Prep All Fruits and Vegetables
Wash and put away all fruits and veggies (apples, pears, celery, tomatoes, etc.). Cut other veggies and fruit and store in containers. Leftover veggies from last week can go into a "hodge-podge" soup. Lightly cook and puree any leftover fruit from last week.
TIP: Get the kids to help with the washing and putting away. You can play "restaurant" or "grocery store."
4 - Begin Preparing Your Ingredients
- Keep your oven busy: prepare and bake a frittata or breakfast quiche for a week's worth of breakfast meals.
- Cut or trim veggies and store in containers, ready to be steamed.
- Cut up veggies (zucchini, brussels sprouts, potatoes, etc.), add a healthy fat of choice, plus seasonings, and store. It is ready to be baked or heated.
For some meals, you can prep the entire meal and then store individual servings in airtight containers. This will work for stews, soups, and other meals where the ingredients won't get soggy or wilt if stored for several days.
5 - Prep Your Grains
Grains and seed-like grains such as rice, quinoa, and millet (preferably soaked and rinsed, can be prepared ahead of time using a rice cooker.
For cauliflower rice, process it in a food processor, and store it or cook it to be warmed on meal day.
6 - Make Your Sauces
Marinara Sauce. Pesto. Salsa. Curry. Whatever sauces you have planned, make them, jar them, and freeze or refrigerate them. Prepare your marinades, then move onto step 7...
7 - Prep Your Proteins
For beans, soak them the night before and pressure cook them in this step. Cut up any meats (stew meat, for example), and store, ready to be put in a slow cooker in the morning. Put any meats in marinades, store in bags or containers, and freeze or refrigerate. Prep things like hamburgers, so they're ready to cook (you could also fully cook them and then reheat them later).
TIP: We love pressure cookers and Instant Pots. Whether you're making beef or beans, a pressure cooker is like a time machine. You don't have to wait 6-8 hours for melt-in-your-mouth stews; it can be done in 30-40 minutes in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
8 - Pack, Label, Refrigerate, and Freeze
Keep things organized! Keep "take-out-and-eat meals in one area of the fridge (chicken salad, cut up carrots and celery for snacks, etc.). Keep "meals-to-be-warmed" in another (that frittata you made, beans, lentils, green beans or broccoli to be steamed, etc.). Keep "need-to-cook" items in another area (hamburger patties, stew meats, and veggies, marinated items, etc.).
Refrigerate meals for the first half of the week. Freeze meals for the second half. Label using dry-erase markers, or a Sharpie on a little masking tape.
TIP: Get good containers for storage. You're going to be using these a lot. We suggest glass for refrigerated items and BPA-free plastic for frozen items.
It may seem like a lot of work to prep all of your meals in one afternoon. But 4-5 hours spent in the kitchen on one day will save a lot of time, money and stress for the rest of the week...freeing you up for the witching hours.