Thanks to social media, meal prepping has become an elaborate, colorful, and documented affair. Many serious meal preppers will plan weeks worth of meals at a time and prepare every meal for the week (including snacks!) in one afternoon.
If catching up to this trend seems impossible, or if all you really need is a few meals each week that are ready to go, try these simple tips.

  1. Make a menu. Planning ahead is the number one way to ensure an easier dinner hour. Once a week, sit down with your calendar, your family, and a few of your favorite recipe sources and plan for the week. Schedule your crockpot meal for the busy night when you just want to come home and relax. Plan tacos or paninis for quick meals on nights there’s a little more time for assembly. Reserve your favorite casserole for the evening you can pop it in the oven and tackle a few other chores while it bakes. Regardless, having a plan will keep you focused on your own kitchen and not the one at the drive-thru.
  1. Buy pre-cooked or chopped. The deli section of your local grocery often holds the secret to an easy prep. Buying a ready rotisserie chicken can serve as the entrée one night with the leftovers in quesadillas for the next. Canned tuna and salmon can be used in a variety of great easy meals from salads to patties. While it’s cheaper to chop your own veggies, occasionally picking up pre-chopped fresh vegetables can save your sanity and get dinner on the table more quickly. Prepared vegetables work well in crockpot meals, casseroles, or just steamed alongside that rotisserie chicken.
  1. Cook big batches of rice, beans, or grains. If you typically make a family meal on Sunday, consider doubling or tripling that batch of rice, black beans, or quinoa. These items keep well in the fridge all week and are versatile and easy to reheat as new dishes. Consider burrito bowls, taco filling, or grain salads. Add rice to chicken casserole or serve it with the gravy from your chuck roast in the crockpot.

As always, remember the most important part of any meal is the people around your table. Hopefully by planning ahead and utilizing a few shortcuts, you’ll be able to better appreciate this time together. You might even have enough energy left for family game night.