When I first started blogging in December of last year (I've only been at this about 6 months), I never dreamed I would actually have so many engaging followers. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to get questions from all of you and the one thing I'm asked about often is meal prepping. It's no secret that I'm very passionate about weekly meal prep...if you follow me on Instagram, I often share photos of my various meal prep favorites so I thought I would share some of my tips here in hopes you can get ideas, inspiration and reassurance that meal prep doesn't have to take a lot of time or be overwhelming.
Typically, I start the process on Sunday by sitting down and planning meals for the week including dinners, school lunches, breakfast, snacks, etc. I make my grocery list, plan when I will spend time batch cooking and always throw in a few recipes to try for my blog. If I have time on Sunday, I'll make a big batch of protein pancakes (see recipe on my blog) for my husband and son, a breakfast hash for me, a large pan of roasted veggies, a few baked or grilled chicken breasts for my kids' lunches, and a batch of protein bars for everyone to enjoy. I also put together "grab and go" snacks and lunch items for my kids so they're not grabbing pre-packaged items at the last minute.
On Monday, I hit the grocery store (usually I load up at both HEB and either Whole Foods, Sprout's or Trader Joe's. I buy a ton of fresh produce (I also receive a weekly box from my local CSA), enough protein for the week and whatever staples I need (oils, nuts, extra protein bars, etc). I spend Monday washing, chopping and prepping ingredients for the week's meals and cooking whatever I can in advance. This might mean making a batch of meatballs for lunches or tossed with zoodles, a batch of pesto to add to chicken or eat as a snack with plantain chips, a large pot of coconut rice to go with any fish or protein or a crockpot of shredded chicken or pulled pork for sandwiches. I also spend time preparing small containers of celery sticks, sliced bell peppers, grapes or strawberries to toss into my kids' lunches. Basically, I know what healthy foods they like so I make sure these items are always readily available.
When it comes to food prep, I find it best to prepare more than I think I'll need. If I only need to chop a few carrots for a dish, I peel and chop the entire bag and use the rest next time. If I'm only using half an onion, I dice the entire thing and store it for next time. I am a huge fan of using a garlic press (see link here) and keep several garlic cloves minced and ready to go so I can throw them into dishes. If I'm making a batch of protein bars or energy bites, I'll make a double batch and freeze half for next week...I do the same with meatballs. It's all about staying ahead of the game.
Believe me, I'm by no means "super mom". There are definitely weeks that are crazy and I'm scrambling to get dinner on the table and a decent lunch prepared for my kids. Normally, I'm an extremely organized and Type A person so meal prepping alleviates my stress and makes me breath a little easier knowing my family's meals are covered for the most part. If I cook a big dinner, we use every bit of the leftovers for lunches or to be incorporated into dinner the next night. I hate wasting food so I eat leftovers every day for lunch...most of the time the food is even better the next day!
One of the keys to maintaining a "clean eating" lifestyle is planning ahead. It takes 1-2 hours of planning/prepping to be prepared for the week ahead. We all have busy schedules but your family's health should be a priority so I encourage you to take a little extra time each week to make life easier and healthier. It's one of the best investments you can make!