Everyone has seen all those pretty Pinterest and Instagram posts with the little containers of perfectly prepped and planned meals. This leads to the question-How can I possible do this with a family to feed??
It’s not as hard as it seems! With a few little tips, a clear grocery list, some input from your family, and an afternoon of cooking, you can have a week’s worth of healthy meals that will not only save time, but keep everyone’s bellies full-while sticking to a healthy food plan-and perhaps even saving some money and frustration at the same time.
Everyday I have people tell me that they cannot meal prep for a myriad of reasons:
-kids are picky eaters
-spouse refuses to eat “rabbit food”
-everyone in the household has different eating styles-allergies, vegetarian, gluten free, etc.
-it’s too expensive
-it’s too time consuming
With a little planning, ALL of these situations can be handled, and you will not only save time, but money.
In my home, meal prep solved ALL of those problems AND also solved the teenager issue of “There’s nothing to eat!” My family has consisted of a spouse that eats anything, a daughter that swings between vegan/vegetarian, a teen linebacker that needs food nonstop, a teen son with weight issues, and a person who experienced a million sensitivities who also eats extremely healthy (yes, that would be me, pre healing my gut-those issues are now completely gone! You can read about THAT here!). Meal prep has been an absolute blessing to me-the shopper, the cook, the mom.
To be straight up-you don’t need to prep your food in those pretty containers. You can, it looks nice in photos and stacked in the fridge, but it’s not necessary. It can be helpful for packing meals that need to be on the move, like lunch, or for the person in your family with specific food needs, but I tend to use regular large size Rubbermaid containers for prep. These can even be frozen for future use, and are microwave/dishwasher safe as well. I’ve also used Ziploc freezer bags, which work so well with small spaces in the fridge.
Make a Plan and Think Streamlining Your Proteins
The first thing you need to do is plan your meals. Ask your family for input if needed. List your favorite meals, take eating preferences into consideration, and make a menu with at least 4 main dinner meals. Look for ways to streamline your meals based on main ingredients; are there two or more meals with chicken? Beef? How can you prepare those meats for use in all your recipes? Is there a way to make or divide certain meals into half vegetarian? Half gluten free? Can you prepare some of a meal without onion, or peppers, or heavy spices that your children may not like? If you approach it this way-you will likely find that it’s not so hard to satisfy everyone in your family. For example, if you’re planning an Italian dish, can you make a small portion without meat sauce? Can you make a small portion with gluten free noodles? If your favorite dish is heavy on spice and onion, you can separate a portion without those strong flavors. These portions are easily placed into their own small containers.
Check Your Schedule Plan your Shopping
Next, look at your schedule for the week. Are you home every night for dinner? Do you plan to eat out? Are there nights that you need to grab something and run? Make note of those occasions.
Using your meals as a guideline, start to plan your grocery list. To make things super easy, double some of your recipes for lunch leftovers, or for the freezer. List the produce and proteins you will need in total for all meals so that you can easily buy in bulk portions. Check your add-ons like spices, canned needs, cheese, etc; before doing your shopping.
Once you have your grocery list in hand, check local sales, and gather coupons if you are a frugal shopper-you can also save by shopping in bulk at places like Costco and Sam’s Club.
Plan Your Cooking
I highly recommend shopping and cooking on separate days, just to give your self a sanity break. Or, plan to cook 2 or 3 times a week, but cook more than one meal-again, using the same “main” item, like your protein, makes this mush easier! For example, using chicken bought for three meals, using one portion as a main dish, another portion for a chicken and rice dish, and another portion for chicken tacos or fajitas. The chicken is prepared at the same time, and you will have 3 dinners ready to go-and maybe even some leftovers for lunches!
Meal prep day was often an afternoon of family time when my kids were teens. They would help, learning to cook as we went along. One teen would chop veggies, another would cook up ground turkey or beef, while another stirred sauces and checked the oven. We could usually prep a week’s worth of lunches and dinners in an hour and a half. It was an absolute blessing to come home after a busy day and literally be able to list off menu items available to reheat from the fridge!
It’s been a few years since the teens became adults and moved on with their lives, but all of them still prep meals in advance. Even when I am alone at the beach, I cook once or twice a week for myself and enjoy having a very active lifestyle without concern about stopping to plan and fix my meals, or run the stove on a super hot summer day. Below is my all time healthy meal prepped favorite recipe for you to try and enjoy!
Meal planning and prep is a HUGELY popular topic with many of my clients and friends, and one of my favorite healthy lifestyle hacks to teach. If you’d like to learn more, or get some ideas and assistance in starting your journey with this great time saving healthy life hack, just reach out to me!
Meal Prepped Super Healthy, Super Yummy Chicken, Rice, and Veggies
This is SO easy and SO tasty! I keep it in my fridge year round for quick meals.
You will need:
Chicken breasts, cooked, and chopped into bite sized pieces.
Rice of your choice, I use brown rice in the cups that heat up in the microwave.
Steamed veggies of your choice-cook until blanched if storing them in the fridge.
Favorite sauce-I use a natural sweet and sour, but soy, hot sauce, all add a different flavor to this dish and can be used to mix it up.
I keep these things handy, and literally throw it all together, heat for a minute of two, add my sauce and salt and pepper-and I have a hot, incredible tasty and healthy meal ready in under two minutes!
from my professional website Beewell.com