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Do you need some tips for efficient meal planning and prepping? If so, today is your lucky day!
I think we can agree that we’re all really busy. Whether it be with work, family, kids, volunteer commitments or all of the above and more, sometimes the last thing we want to do at the end of a long day is think about, prep and cook dinner.
I get asked about meal planning and prepping all the time, so I’m excited to share tips with you today about how I plan and prep in order to make efficient use of my time and ingredients. By doing these things, I’m able to spend more time with Cecilia and Travis while saving some money along the way.
Most of these tips come from lots of trial and error in my own kitchen as well as some tricks of the trade I picked up from my time running the cooking school and teaching cooking classes full time.
TIPS FOR MEAL PLANNING
- Set a grocery shopping date in your calendar as a recurring event. This way you already have that time set aside in your week when you will get yourself to the store and shop for your week ahead. Our set grocery day is Sunday.
- Once you’ve set your grocery day, start thinking about your menu for the week a few days before. I always start menu planning on Friday. I don’t typically plan my menu all in one sitting, but I take time to look at both my and Travis’ calendar to see how busy we’ll be and to realistically plan what we’ll have time to cook. If we’re super busy, I opt for simpler meals or something that can go in the slow cooker with minimal prep. If we have more time on our hands, then I’ll make something a bit more involved. The key is to be realistic with your time and your energy.
- Don’t forget to include healthy snacks in your menu planning as well as breakfast and lunch.
- Created a personalized grocery list in Excel. This may sound a bit over-the-top, but it’s super simple and easy to do and will make your shopping so much easier! I created categories in the way my grocery store is laid out and have different boxes for produce, meat/seafood, dairy, dried goods, snacks, etc. That way I’m not zigzagging the store while trying to grab everything on my list and I’m not searching for ingredient after ingredient in each aisle I stroll down.
- When you menu plan, write your meals for each day on the back of your grocery list. This way, in case you need to reference your weekly menu while at the store, it’s there.
- Write nightly meals on a chalkboard or piece of paper that hangs in your kitchen. I have a chalkboard I write our meals on so I don’t have to think about what I’m cooking each night and what I shopped for. It makes my life so much easier and keeps me organized.
- If needed, keep a running grocery list all week. I mentioned before that I generally start my list a few days before grocery shopping day, but when things come up during the week that I need, I add them to my list. For example, mid-week last week I ran out of foil, so I started my grocery list right then to make sure I didn’t forget to buy it and have to make an extra trip to the store.
- Schedule leftovers into your meals! We generally cook dinner every other night and have leftovers on the odd night. That schedule works perfectly for us because our leftovers get eaten and we don’t get burned out on cooking every night after a long day.
- Think about how you have to purchase products and plan your menu accordingly. For example, I shop at a store where I have to buy carrots in a one pound bag and don’t have the option to buy them in singles. Because of this, I plan my meals in a way that all those carrots get used up one way or another. The same goes for chicken broth, but since it freezes well, I generally make a plan to use it all or freeze it for future use.
- Before you make your list, check your fridge to see what you have that needs to be used. Do you have milk, cheese, tomato sauce, etc that is about to expire? Plan to use it in a recipe!
TIPS FOR MEAL PREPPING
- Think about what is most important to you. Are healthy snacks the most important thing you want to prep? Or do you want to get a leg up on dinner? Figure out which will make your life easier during the week and prep it first.
- Prep what you have time for. Don’t stress! Every little but of prep helps and if you don’t get it all done one day, finish it the next day you can.
Schedule Prep Time
- Just like your grocery trip, schedule prep time in your weekly calendar. Whether your prep time is during your child’s nap, on the weekend, before work, or in the evevning, put it in your calendar and keep that appointment.
Chop, Chop, Chop and Wash
- Wash, dry and store all of your produce when you get home from the store.
- Look at recipes for the week and see what needs to be chopped. Most hard vegetables (think carrots, onion, celery, peppers and broccoli) will keep for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container once cut. Softer vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, etc) can last up to a few days. You may need to have two chopping days depending on your menu, but once you do it, you can just dump containers into your pot and save time in the evening.
Don’t Forget Healthy Snacks!
- Prep and store healthy snacks. When you’re feeling peckish (or are just plain bored), it’s so easy to go straight for the pantry and eat any unhealthy thing you’ve got in there. I’ve started washing and storing fruit in small containers in the fridge so I always have a healthy snack ready for at home or on-the-go. No more mindless eating of all the chips!
Use Quality Storage Containers
- Find and use quality storage containers.
- Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ is a new line of storage that is perfect for your prepped vegetables, healthy snacks, leftovers, you name it. They are ideal for everyday use and are made of premium materials that will last.
- What sets these containers apart from others I’ve used is their stain and odor resistance, how perfectly crystal clear they are and that they are 100% leakproof. Guaranteed! I have marinated chicken in Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ and instead of flipping the chicken around in the container like my recipe suggested, I’ve just flipped the entire container over for hours and had zero leaks.
- Another cool feature, is that they have innovative flaps that when lifted provide proper ventilation and reduce splatters while microwaving.
- They stack perfectly to save room in your fridge. This is one of my favorite things about them because it makes my fridge look so organized!
- Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ 10 piece set is available nationwide at Walmart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target, Amazon and other fine retailers. You can also learn more about them here.
If you are looking for recipes that have ingredients that can be prepped ahead of time, look no further! I’ve listed some below and tips for what can be prepped ahead of time and stored in your fridge!
Roasted Tomato Soup – chop your onions and carrots ahead of time and they’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Easy Chipotle Chicken Tostadas – chop your onions ahead of time and cook/shred the chicken. You can even make the sauce ahead of time and just cook your onions and throw it all together when you’re ready to eat.
Slow Cooker Turkey Chili – complete the first three steps in the directions the night before and store it in your fridge. Pop it all in the slower cooker and add the rest of the ingredients in the morning!
Super Easy Chocolate-Dipped Apple Snacks – make these easy snacks on the weekend and enjoy them all week!
Other healthy snacks – wash and store fresh berries in small containers and slice red peppers and store with a small container of hummus. These are perfect to grab on your way out the door!
Happy planning and prepping!
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