When I first saw people prepping their food my initial thought was “These people don’t have kids” and “These people CLEARLY have too much time on their hands” oh, and don’t forget “Who has time for that?!” Here I was, a stay-at-home mom of two, with both at home most hours of the week. There was no way I had time to put together these perfectly portioned meals in neat little amazon prep containers that would taste good too. And the idea of a mason jar salad looked beautiful and sounded super fun but didn’t really make a lot of sense for a woman who was eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with her kids every day of the week.
But deep down inside I knew something needed to be done. When I made lunch for the kids, I’d often make them something and then say, “Okay, now what will I have?” all while staring into the abyss of the refrigerator with a blank stare. I’d most likely choose leftover pizza combined with the crust from the kids’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, when I tell you I’ve been there…please believe me. Because I have.
Over time, I developed a system that worked for me and the rest of the family. It doesn’t look like a beautiful array of perfectly portioned meals, but it keeps us all eating well balanced meals regularly and I stopped eating leftover pizza and sandwich crust. So, if you’re a real person, who’s busy, and wonders if food prep is for you this might be the blog you read. Here it goes……
New to Food Prep: If you are new to food prep don’t worry so much about portion sizes just yet. Yes, portion sizes matter to some degree, but nutrition matters more. Focus on nutrient dense foods like lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Professional Food Prepper: If you have been food prepping for a while and you aren’t seeing any results start using the palm of your hand as a guide. But also, I suggest reaching out to a doctor, trainer, or coach who can help you figure out what else may be going on. It may have nothing to do with what you’re doing!
Steps to Prep:
Step 1 = Decide What to Eat: Making a list of what will be for lunch or dinner during a week takes away all the daily decision fatigue. When my kids ask what’s for dinner 8 out of 10 times, I know the answer. It’s not always the answer they want to hear…. but it’s already been decided. If prep is new to you start with the meal that is most hectic or where you have the least time to cook. Mine used to be lunch time…as the kids get older it’s clearly become dinner. Make a list for your week – here’s what mine looks like for this week:
Monday: Healthy Turkey Burger Helper
Tuesday: Lentil Curry Chicken Soup
Wednesday: Rice Bowls
Thursday: Eat Out Post Concert (Daughters Christmas Concert)
Friday: Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Sunday: Daddy’s in Charge!
Green Vegetarian Salads
Green Salads with Leftover proteins
Rice with Leftover Veggies and Proteins/Chicken
Kids: Sandwiches, Dinner Leftovers, fruit, yogurt, favorite snacks
Eggs with Sweet Potatoes
Kids: eggs, egg sandwiches, egg burritos
Now, some of this may seem simple to you, but you’d be surprised how writing it down gives you one less thing to think about, can take away the stress of figuring it out daily, and hold you accountable. Example: Let’s go out to eat! Nope, we already have plans for dinner.
Step 2 = Make a Grocery List and Shop – Create your grocery list based on these meals and these meals alone. Unless of course your making holiday cookies and need some butter 😉 or the kids need milk…. AGAIN! Sticking to your list will help you stay on budget (I say to remind myself) and will keep you from reaching for those other items you don’t need in your house (just sayin’).
Step 3 = Let the Prep Begin – Some like to prep the minute they come home from the store. That’s fine. However, that’s not realistic for me personally. I usually prep the day or two after I’ve shopped. And I don’t cook everything I bought and have it completely ready to eat, although I have done that on occasion when I know it’s going to be an extra busy week. Here’s what I do:
Wash all the fruits and veggies.
Chop the veggies that will be used for snacks or will go into dinners. (I don’t always do this because when you chop veggies too early, they start to lose nutritional value. However, if I need to choose between chop the veggies early OR pull my hair out with stress or worry or make a poor decision because I don’t have time to do anything else, I’d rather chop the veggies!)
Cook the proteins. If we are using chicken/fish in our lunches, we make it all at once! Or even in dinners.
If I decide to make a sweet treat for the kids’ lunches, I’ll make it this day as well.
If we are having hard-boil eggs that week, I’ll do it this day as well.
If I’m out of granola, I try to use this day as well 😉.
If I’m having sweet potatoes with breakfast, I’ll roast them this day as well.
Fill up a bag of nuts for my purse…. cause you never know when you’ll need a snack!
I think you get the point. It’s more of a bulk prep so that everything is ready when you are. I put everything in the fridge. When it’s time to make dinner all I need to do is throw it together. If I need a snack – we have washed fruits and vegetables available. And so on and so on. I never spend more than an hour (maybe 90 minutes) in the kitchen. If I don’t get something done, I let it go. Something is always better than nothing. Simply having the list for the week is a big help! But when I do it well, it saves me a minimum of a few hours during the week and the headache of making yet another decision. Plus, I never feel rushed. And I assemble it as I go leaving room for a little wiggle! Because, well, life.
P.S. – Yes, Dad is in charge on Sundays and he knows it! I cook all week, I make decisions for the family all week. Sometimes I need a break! So, we agreed, Sunday is his day. I go along with whatever it is! It’s a good practice.