Being prepared is the best way to be. You can never be surprised by an unexpected turn of events and you will always know you are covered in case anything happens.
This is a bit dramatic. Yes, life can be a bit crazy and things can get a little topsy turvy but for the most part we humans adjust and adapt pretty well.
But there is a lot to be said about planning ahead which is why I find my weeks to go much smoother when I take the time to prepare a few things each weekend like my lunches and our family dinners.
Meal prep is exhausting! I mean, let’s be honest, you spend a good portion of a whole Sunday making food you aren’t going to eat right away. WHAT?!? But hear me out! It’s worth it.
I start with mapping out my dinners and how I’m going to shop for them. I go so far as to plan out my grocery list by sections so that I’m not overwhelmed. I list out all the fruits and veggies from the produce section first then I map out all the proteins I’ll pick up at the butcher counter. I try to spend as little time as possible in the snack and packaged food aisles but I do spend some money on froze foods, especial fruit and veggies. Some weeks we go through the fresh stuff fast enough that they don’t go bad but having a bag or two of frozen produce helps in our smoothies and when we were craving something sweet. I also stock up on froze fish and chicken for those nights when we’re flying out the door for the gym or soccer practice or meetings or some other event that keeps us busy.
Then I head home and make some simple main dishes that will last us the week. Chicken is a favorite. I cook a batch of chicken breasts with some butter and an Italian seasonings packet sprinkled on them and it serves as our protein for lunch and dinner. They make great chicken, rice, and veggie bowls for dinner! Along with a large batch of chicken I make up some rice and steam a bunch of veggies. Or, if I’m feeling creative, I’ll swap out my rice for some sweet potatoes (or yams, I can never tell the difference).
Then comes the packing. I have these Ziploc containers that have three sections: small, medium and large. I pack my veggies into one, a handful of trail mix or almonds into the smallest, and then load up the larger compartment with my rice/potatoes and my protein of choice. I love these things! They work not only for me but also for little Geek, as well.
His lunches look a little more playful with the cupcake wrappers used to hold fruit or chopped veggies. He loves cucumbers and tomatoes so I make sure to have some handy. We play around with wraps, sandwiches, and kabobs to mix in some protein for him and some healthy carbs. He enjoys helping me plan these little bento styled boxes for his school lunch. I think he gets a kick out of having so many options to eat.
Once we have food for our lunches all mapped out and ready to go, I spent some time on meal planning for dinner throughout the week. I skip the nights we have a late practice or when I have a meal already made from the night before. We get creative with leftover food and re-purpose different items to make new meals. Chicken works well in tacos, burritos, and rice bowls.
In the past I’ve gone ahead and prepped freezer bags of food to be plopped in the crock pot for a hearty dinner. I’ve done a number of recipes from Hawaiian pineapple chicken to stews and I always keep track of the meals that go over well so I can make them again in the future. These are great for those soccer practice nights or evenings when I’m not home. I can pull a meal, put it in the crock pot, and have dinner waiting for the boys that is easy to serve.
Does this take a lot of time? Yes! But it saves a lot of time during the week, too. And it can help alleviate the pressure of having homemade meals each day when there is so much going on in a busy household. Those few hours on Saturday or Sunday spent prepping all these meals makes the rest of the week run smoother and helps us keep our healthy goals within sight.
A few tips and tricks to help you plans out your week of meals.
- Have enough containers that fit your needs. Whether it’s plain Tupperware, plastic baggies, or Bento styled boxes with compartments, have them cleaned and ready first thing. And make sure you have all the lids that match! Nothing is worse than starting to plan a weeks worth of meals then find out you have mismatched lids.
- Keep side snacks on hand to fulfill those cravings in between meals. Jerky, almonds, trail mix, and granola are great fillers. Trail mix and granola are easily made and customized at home.
- A scale is a handy tool to have. It makes portioning out the food much much easier.
- Lists!!! Make lists of the ingredients you needs, the meals to make ahead of time AND lists of snacks to make and pack for each day.
- Stickie notes help, too! If you log your food, using a stickie note to remember the weight of each item can make recording your meals a cinch. Stickie notes also mark whose lunch is whose when you are making multiple meals for more than just one person.
- Good freezer bags are a must!! No cheap baggies! If they aren’t good quality they could possibly break while loading them or allow in the cold air and cause freezer burn. Nothing is worse than spending hours prepping meals only for them to go bad in the freezer because the bags used were no good!
- Pinterest is your friend! Check it out for ideas, suggestions, and tips. No point in reinventing the wheel when there are lots of awesome resources out there to pull from. Many of my meal prep ideas come from Pinterest.
- And lastly, give yourself a clean, LARGE work space. You’ll be handling a lot of food and making sure you have a clean work surface plus extra space will make you less nuts as you prep.
Check Mrs. Geek out on Pinterest and Instagram for any meal prep ideas.