In the midst of a busy week, there’s almost nothing worse than arriving home late and realizing you forgot to defrost the chicken, or the broccoli you thought would make a healthy side has gone mushy. Food prepping in advance may sound daunting, but in reality, a couple of hours each weekend will save you time, money, and sanity each week.
Work With What’s Available
The first rule of good food prep is to start with what you already have. Don’t rush to the store and buy the produce that strikes your fancy or the meat on a good sale until you’ve first cleaned out your fridge.
Yes, that’s right, pull everything out and take inventory. One blogger calls this her lazy meal prep because it seems almost too simple.
Once you’ve emptied the fridge, assess what you have and how it can be used.
- CHOP any vegetables and fruits that are still good.
- ROAST any veggies that are on the verge but still work great in frittatas or over rice.
- BLEND the berries, citrus, spinach, etc. that’s too good to throw out but too far gone to eat by itself. Freeze in ice cube trays for smoothies.
- LIST what’s left and meals that work.
- LABEL the snacks in reusable containers so your family knows what to grab first.
Chances are, when you’re done, you’ll have a head start on the next week’s meals.
With food, of course we want good quality, but don’t overlook the obvious. If you’re spending three nights a week boiling rice or quinoa, cook it all in one big batch and refrigerate the leftovers for reheating. Grains work great in salads as well and make an easy lunch.
Shredded chicken is one of the most versatile items you can keep on hand. Each weekend, slow cook a batch of chicken breasts or purchase a couple of rotisserie chickens and debone. Once you have a container full of shredded chicken, you can make tacos, pizza, salads, sandwiches, wraps, casseroles, soups… the list is truly endless. And since you’ve already chopped veggies and cooked a grain for the week, you have a ready made meal no matter what time it is when you arrive home. (Ground beef or turkey works great, too!)
Another staple of epic meal preppers is boiled eggs. Cook up a dozen or so each weekend and add to lunches for extra protein, grab as quick snacks or breakfasts, or chop and add to salads.
Keep it Simple
We’ve all heard of the K.I.S.S. method, and it applies to meal prep. If you know you’ve got a busy week, don’t try to plan elaborate meals that require immediate prep and monitoring. Stick to simplicity. If you let your meal revolve around the basics (protein, grain, vegetable) you’ll always have a plan.
Consider foolproof repeats. Taco Tuesday works because everyone knows what’s for dinner–and all taco ingredients can be prepped beforehand so only reheating is necessary. Plan your meals around your schedule and don’t forget fallbacks such as brinner, breakfast for dinner. Plan off nights, as well, for ordering pizza or Chinese.
With a little work, food prep becomes easy and effective.
What’s your favorite food prep tip?