Updated: May 28
Here are 10 tips you can use to help you meal prep each week. This blog post is for meal prep newbies or seasoned meal preppers who are looking to improve their routine. Without further ado...
TIP 1: STOCK UP ON FRUIT AND VEGGIES FOR ONE WEEK
Wash, cut up and contain all the fruits and veggies you bought for the week. Mostly fruits and veggies can be prepped in advance except avocadoes, and bananas because they brown once cut. However prepping your lettuce, fruits like mangoes, kiwi, melons (you name it) can help you to remember to eat them that week so they don't rot. Cuties can go bad fast, so I recommend eating them in the first few days. Cut up apples can brown unless you drizzle on lemon juice to keep them from browning. Salad green like spinach that come in plastic containers need to be sorted through for rotting leaves, washed and put into a new container; otherwise the greens will just rot in the back of your fridge. You'll notice the prepped fresh ingredients will make your fridge look colorful and closer to that Pinterest worthy life as well.
TIP 2: USE DIFFERENT CONTAINERS FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES
Stream line your meal prep routine by using different containers for meal prep, leftovers and packing lunches with snacks. If everyone in the household is on the same page, then you'll always have enough containers for leftovers and your lunch containers will fit into your lunch boxes and your yogurt containers won't reek of last night's fishy leftovers.
Glass containers work great for leftovers because you can easily wash out the smell they leave behind. There are special meal prep containers for lunches but my favorite brand it "MEAL PREP" that you can buy at your local grocery store. These containers come in all shapes and sizes for sandwiches, snacks, yogurt, hot foods, salads and more with correct portion sizing. I'm not affiliated with them in anyway, but I love using these containers at home.
These squared glass containers work well for meal prep if you chop your fruits and veggies for the week or cook chicken for the whole week. They stack perfectly in your fridge and making it easy to access.
Some people swear by Bento Boxes but working at a preschool I recommend getting one with easy to remove compartments, and putting the hot food on one of those removable compartments. This makes warming up the hot food easier for the school staff. Some school have policies in place for this as they keep up 100 to 200 hot food lunches everyday. Or if you do use Bento Boxes, try packing cold lunches only.
TIP 3: MEAL PLAN FROM A RECIPE BOOK OR A PINTEREST BOARD
Meal plan from a recipe book or create your own Pinterest board to save recipes. I've saved so much time meal planning from a recipe book, some of which had a 4 week meal plan already written out, along with groceries I need. If you live with someone who has a special diet, a recipe book for that diet will take out all the guess work and make meal planning a more enjoyable experience. I usually ask my boyfriend if he'd like to try a few recipes from the book that week, and list off a few I think he'd like. Then I know he's going to eat what I prepare for his lunch and he runs a few ideas past me about dinner that week. Every household is different but figuring out if there are any special diets you or your loved ones are on and incorporating that into your meal planning with diet specific recipe books can been a game changer! This has been such a relief off my shoulders personally, and I'm sure some of you can relate.
If you're using Pinterest for meal planning I suggest to create two Pinterest Boards, where one is titled, "Recipe Ideas" and the other as "Meal Plan and Prep". When I use this method, I add any recipe ideas to my recipe ideas boards. Then I go to my recipe ideas board, click "organize" at the top of the board, select the recipes for the upcoming week and move them over to my meal plan and prep board. That way when my meal prep day comes along (usually Sundays or Mondays) I can quickly find the recipes I need. I'm sure there are other way to meal plan on Pinterest, but this is what has worked for me in the past.
Now let's talk about kids who are picky eaters. If you don't have kids, you can skip down to the next tip. I don't have kids myself yet, however I work at a school during the day and see some children who longingly stare at their friend's lunch or try to reach over and grab a bite because they don't like some or all of the food their family has packed for lunch. Then the child goes hungry and can't focus on learning as much. Picky eaters are tricky. But what I've noticed is families who work with their child's teachers to figure out what their child DOES eat makes the whole difference. So if you're a parent with a picky eater, I feel you and suggest you ask your child's teacher what your child DOES eat, and then pack more of that. Granted it can't be all sugar and snacks, but you'd be surprised how some children just prefer broccoli over peas. Sometimes it's that simple. If you're a parent with a picky eater, don't give up, you got this!
TIP 4: MEAL PREP ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK
Pick a day or two to prepare the recipes you've pick out for the week. It can be that you meal prep all the chicken on Sundays, pack snacks and make only half the lunches. Then on Tuesday or Wednesday night, you prepare the rest of the lunches for that week. Then perhaps you also start a slow cooker recipe on Sundays to eat for Monday's dinner. Figure out a routine that would work best for you as every household might have their own needs. Maybe on Fridays or the weekend you and your family eat out. It's up to you, what works for you and your family and your budget. Decide on a day or two that you plan to implement all the recipes you've chosen for the week and prepare all the food.
On a side note, if you're someone who prepares meals every day whether it's lunches and dinners AND breakfast. Bravo, good for you!!! But I'm sure there's a small part of you that wished there was an easier way so you'd have more time for yourself and your loved ones and other priorities outside of preparing meals. I'm telling you, streamlining your routine to do most of the food prep, such as breakfast and lunches on one or two days out of the week will make your life so much easier. You can also google or Pinterest ideas for easy dinners such as "one pan dinners" which is a life saver for me when I have a busy day and have to cook dinner too. It's okay to take short cuts, it's okay to make life easier, and it's okay not to have to eat a 3 course meal every night. Even frozen family meals can be just as good, if it saves your sanity. You do you, and figure out ways to make your life easier because you deserve it!
TIP 5: GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
You might find that there might be days, weeks or months when you just can't bring yourself to meal prep like you "normally" would. Your normal might differ from my normal when it comes to meal prepping. However, life happens whether it's a new job, new baby, remodeling or a death in the family or health issues. You name it, life happens to everyone because we're only human and not robots. So give yourself grace and buy frozen meals, eat out or order pick up or delivery when life gets busy. No one is perfect, so it's okay to take it easy sometimes.
TIP 6: USE PRINTABLES OR NOTEPADS FOR PLANNING AND LISTS
When you do meal plans, write grocery lists or list recipe ideas for the week you can make the experience so much more enjoyable if you make it pretty! This can be the difference between what feels like a chore and what can feel like a ritual. I like to use preprinted meal planning pads you can buy at target or amazon to plan my menu and grocery lists. Or I like to print out pintables to do the same thing. Sometimes this can make all the difference to motivate me to meal plan! Oh pretty supplies, how can I resist?! Anyone else feel this way? Please share in the comments below.
TIP 7: MAKE IT A ROUTINE ON CERTAIN DAYS
Pick a day to meal plan, grocery shop and meal prep. Routines are what we do on a daily, or weekly basis. Routines are what makes some goals a reality. Do you what a Pinterest perfect fridge? You need a routine. Do you want to save money on eating out everyday? You need a routine. So pick a day to meal plan for the upcoming week. This can be a Thursday or Friday morning or afternoon or maybe a Saturday morning. Then decide when you will grocery shop. Will it be Fridays after work or Saturday afternoon? Once you decide your meal plan and grocery shopping days, then you can decide when to meal prep. Maybe Sunday or Monday night? Again, every household has different schedules and needs. Also it's okay to switch up the days every once in a while if you're going on vacation, so you only need to meal plan for half of the week. But generally it helps to keep it around the same days to meal plan, grocery shop and meal prep most weeks to get in the habit of a routine and help you maintain that routine.
TIP 8: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DIFFERENT WAYS TO SHOP
Order groceries online, in-store pickup, delivery or shop in-store
In a time like COVID, grocery shopping online has gotten easier! I usually pick a day like Friday night, or Saturday morning to order my groceries and pick up the next day or that afternoon. This makes meal prep that much easier on Sundays. There's nothing like grocery shopping online while drinking a glass of wine.
What I love about grocery deliveries to my home is I can use the time I would have spent grocery shopping at the store, cleaning out my fridge and putting groceries straight into my clean fridge once they arrive. I save about 1-2 hours on time and money because I only buy what I need instead of walking the whole store buying things NOT on my list.
I usually shop in-store if I haven't had time on Fridays or Saturdays to order groceries online, and just need to run to the store on Sunday so I can start my meal prep. Sometimes delegating this task to someone can save me time.
TIP 9: MEAL PREP IN BULK
Meal prep in bulk to use ingredients for meals during the week
Foods like chicken and salmon can be cooked earlier in the week (Sundays or Mondays) to be used in lunches or dinners during the week. This makes dinner so much easier when you're making tacos for dinner or salads for lunch. Other foods that can be prepared in bulk are rice, quinoa, beans, and hard boiled eggs.
TIP 10: CLEAN YOUR CONTAINERS AND FRIDGE ON A REGULAR BASIS
Make sure everyone in your household brings home lunch containers everyday so they don't get lost or moldy. Also try to clean out the fridge once a week if possible, to prevent leftovers from stinking up the fridge and house. Most likely no one wants the left over fish from 3 days ago, so chuck it in the trash.
If you follow these tips, your fridge will start to look more Pinterest worthy. Are you ready to make your life easier by creating a weekly routine? Are you ready to save money instead of eating out everyday? If you follow these 10 tips, your life will become SO MUCH EASIER.
If you haven't jumped on the meal prep bandwagon, now might be the time. You'll save money by bringing meals from home instead of eating out, and stress less about what to eat for lunch that day. So when you punch out for lunch, you'll have a whole hour to yourself. Imagine what a meal prep routine can do for you. I only share these tips because I've struggled over the years, and don't want to see others struggle.
If you want to follow along my meal prep journey, and everything about organizing and interior design, follow my Instagram account @calmlivingorganizinganddesign.
I hope you found this post helpful! Share your meal prep tips in the comments below.
Lots of love,
Founder of Calm Living Organizing and Design