Meal Planning and Prepping 101
The idea of meal planning and prepping can be a bit overwhelming.
When I decided to start meal planning, I thought it would take me hours but I realized that it was taking me less than 30 minutes of my week! Meal prepping would take me a little longer… but it definitely sets my week up for success when I do it!
There are several steps to making meal planning and prepping a true success, and I promise when it’s all done, it will be totally worth it!
Meal planning is basically choosing the recipes that you will cook in the week to come, decide what days you will have these meals and make a list of all of the ingredients you need to prepare these meals.
- Know your recipes and make a meal plan
Search Pinterest for some recipe ideas, or browse your recipe books. Try to use keywords like plant based, keto, or paleo to find healthy meals that suit your and your family’s needs.
However you choose to do it, write down 5 dinner and 5 lunch ideas for the week. I usually only do 5 meals to leave room for leftovers or nights out. Be sure to also include your sides when you are writing down your weekly plan .
Once you have your lunch and dinner ideas, write down about 3 breakfast options, and 3 snack options for the week. Usually this amount of choices is good for the week and you can switch it up throughout.
I know writing all of this down can seem unnecessary, but it ensures that you are getting enough options for 5 full dinners, breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
- Make your shopping list and grab your groceries
Now that you have your plan for the week written down, make a grocery and ingredients list based off of that plan. I like to organize my grocery list by the type of item: produce, refrigerated, frozen, cans, grains and legumes, etc..
This way when I’m at the store, I can see exactly what I need when I’m in a certain area of the store. Cross the items off of your list as you get them so that you’re not forgetting anything. There have been so many times that I had to make another trip to the store because I forgot something on the list!
I can’t say I really enjoy grocery shopping and now that I have a kid, I very often find myself doing online grocery shopping. I still make my list, but rather than dragging my kid through the store (every mom knows how unpleasant it is!) I just order my food to be picked up! It has made my life so much easier! Grocery delivery has also saved me a few times…
You could choose to stop here and just focus on meal planning.
Or you can go a little deeper, and add in meal prepping...
Meal prepping means pre-cutting all of your meats, vegetables, and fruits for the meals you are going to cook in the week to come. This can seem like a lot of work, and honestly, it IS a lot of work!
- Why would you do it?
Why would anyone want to spend more time and more work on making meals that are going to be made anyways?
Well, let me tell you the difference.
Meal planning is about carving out ONE chunk of time to prepare your food BEFORE the week starts.
Then when it comes down to meal time, everything is ready to cook and/or serve. That’s when you’re saving time, and that’s when you want to be cooking the least…. Right before dinner time!
- Pre-cut your food and organize
If you have a lazy day or even just an hour of free time on Sunday, plan to use that time for meal prepping. Feel free to choose any day that works better for your personal schedule.
Take a look at your menu for the week. What items can be cut up ahead of time? I usually chop my veggies. Then I cut up a bunch of fruit and make a fruit salad and organize it all by type. Finally, I slice up any meat that will need to be cut.
I then place all these cut-up food in separate glass containers in the fridge and organize them by meals.
If you are making lunches for the week, go ahead and prepare them in one container that is easy to grab for on the go.
I also have a bin in the fridge for my kid’s snacks. This way he can go to the kitchen and grab himself a snack whenever he is hungry. It saves me from searching for or trying to name all of the available snack options!
- Don’t feel like meal prepping?
Sometimes, honestly, I just don’t feel like doing it.
So here are a few ideas that helped me to get motivated: play some music, listen to a great podcast (I love Real Happy Mom) or have a glass of wine while prepping! (Can you tell I’m french?!)
Now that you have put the work in ahead of time, you will save time throughout the week.
The weeks I do meal prep, dinner is ready early and I’m less stressed! I also have more time to spend with my son.