My food prep days for this post were the worst possible days to do it…or the best…depending on how you look at it.
The first thing to do is to plan well, but not rigidly.
First, set aside a chunk of time to prioritize food prep. And prioritize is the key word. I have decided that eating healthy is important to our family, but I don’t want to spend all my days chopping vegetables. I plan it this way so my children may scream at my ankles for an afternoon, but on most days, dinner takes a few minutes to throw together. I want healthy food quickly accessible and so I make a choice to work hard to make that happen. I also am on a tight grocery budget and planning well is key to making the most out of your groceries.
Second, plan your meals. Plan it, Don’t Panic was a great book for me to read to give me some guidance on this. I personally have a month overview going always, with known meals or dinner guests already written in. Then my week’s plan is plotted generally (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) but is fluid. I have to be ready to flex for change of plans, last minute dinner guests, and children whose food intake varies greatly from day to day. Even having a basic overview of what you’re going to have helps you know what to make and how long it’s going to last.
Third, plan what you’re going to make. Make a list of the items and prepare. This is important if you have to factor in your grill-man. I personally have no idea how to grill, so when I want grilled chicken for the week, I have to plan this around when my amazing, wonderful, much-better-cook-than-me is available. So Sunday night (of this food prep week) he grilled about eight chicken breasts for us that I had marinated earlier that day.
But when you have two small children, a business you run from home, and ministry responsibilities at church, things may not go as planned. Today was just such a day. First, over the weekend, I did not have time to go to all three grocery stores, I frequent. So, not everything I planned to make was even in the house. Also, I prefer to use a morning for food prep because the kids are in better moods and there is more time and less pressure with dinner coming too. This particular afternoon the kids were crabby and I had not had time to clean the kitchen in preparation for the food prep based on some other things that had to be done. So I flexed. I re-worked my strategy and changed the plan. I moved the prep into two or three days and just re-worked the meal plans for the week.
With all the factors I had to strategize. I had originally planned to have roasted vegetables with dinner this night. But I didn’t have the red peppers or broccoli. So I had to prioritize getting the salad veggies ready because that’s what my husband and I would have for dinner with the grilled chicken. Then I was able to make a list of what I would have to do the second day.
I started with carrots. I had already steamed some over the weekend for the little one, but I needed to prepare various carrots. Knowing this I could save time by peeling and chopping them all at once. I sliced up some for snacks for my husband to take to work, some very small for my daughter’s afternoon snacks (with sunflower butter and raisins), chopped some in a bag for the roasted vegetables I’ll make later in the week, and then grated some in the VitaMix for salads and Ryan’s Tuna. (I only recently discovered that I did not have to do all this grating by hand). Then I did the same with the Brussel sprouts—2/3 chopped (the smaller ones) for roasting and 1/3 grated for salads. Then added celery for snacking. I also saved all the ends of the carrots and celery thanks to a recent frugal meal planning tip.
Then I was able to throw salads and dinners together quickly.
After dinner, and after the baby was in bed, my three-year-old and I made Sunflower Muffins together. She loves to bake with me and she knew she would get one when they were done. I had also thrown some hard boiled eggs on the stove before I started on the veggies, so those got chopped and prepped for snacks for my husband and baby.
When I had time I baked a huge sweet potato, that I used for dinner that night (after the girls finished their veggies) and then had it for the rest of the week. I also steamed broccoli. I used this for the baby for a main vegetable, but I also chop this up and add it, along with frozen spinach—to our scrambled eggs in the morning*
So this is what I prepped on Monday:
Carrots and celery sticks for husband’s snacks (enough for the week)
Thinly sliced carrots for toddler’s snack (enough for the week)
Grated carrots for Ryan’s Tuna which I will prepare Wednesday
Grated carrots and Brussels sprouts to add to salads for lunches and dinners during the week
Chopped carrots and Brussel sprouts to prepare for roasting
Hard boiled eggs cut and seasons for husband’s lunches
Hard boiled eggs chopped for baby’s snacks
Sunflower muffins for breakfasts (2/3 muffins were frozen for future weeks)
Bag of “ends” to freeze and make chicken stock
This is what I prepped on day Tuesday:
Baked Sweet potato
One of my other favorite food prep items is to create Convenient, Easy, and Healthy Baby Finger Foods.
After that the meals just came together—was half-ready for roasted veggies later in the week and prepared with a lot of food to feed my family healthy foods on busy days. I hope this was helpful to all who asked. Every time is different. I don’t always do this, but when I do, we eat healthier, save money, and have less stressful pre-meal hours.
Do you have additional questions? Was this helpful?
*One of my husband’s many brilliant ideas saves me LOTS of time. I make scrambled eggs three times a week and re-heat them in a sauce pan on the other mornings. This is great because I don’t have to make the big breakfast on days we head out early or on Sunday mornings while we are trying to prepare for church.