We all have busy lives and no matter what you do in your life you and your family have to eat. Having raised 4 kids, I know your days are filled and by the time dinner rolls around meal time is a challenge so I’ve put together a series of posts to help you get some meals prepared ahead of time. Today’s post contains some great tips that that will save everyone some time and help you eat healthier.
Meal prepping is an excellent way to eat healthier and lose weight. You’ll also gain other benefits such as not spending money for last minute unhealthy food choices, running back and forth from the store to find items.
Saving time is also a perk of meal prepping, and that’s something that anyone can appreciate. Preparing meals ahead of time means you’re taking a break from the daily hassle of wondering what to fix for dinner at 5:00, running out the door without breakfast and frequenting expensive restaurants or high calorie fast food for lunch.
Those vending machines for snacks can also be expensive and unhealthy. Here are some meal prep tips to help you shop, cook and divide your meals into easily manageable choices for the days or week ahead:
Choose one time per week to cook. If you can, shop and cook your meals on one particular day and time each week. This means that the oven will only be heated once, the mess of chopping and slicing meats and veggies happens only once and you’ll have time during the week for things you want and need to do. When all of my kids were at home I often referred to this book, Once A Month Cooking for some of my family’s favorite “go to” recipes that I could make ahead and freeze.
My crock pot was another of my favorite time-saving meal time tricks. Use a crock pot save’s time and effort. The Internet is bursting with slow cooker recipes that can save you time, effort and money. Or – create your own recipes by tossing in some meat, veggies and yummy spices (plus liquid) and do your own thing while it cooks.
Plan for snacks. We all love to snack between meals and that can be deadly to a diet and fitness routine. Rather than leaving your fate to the vending machines, invest in some healthy pre-planned snacks to keep all week for when hunger and cravings hit unexpectedly. Sometimes snack preparation can be as simple as just having a variety of washed fruit in the fridge. The kids always loved having apple and carrot slices I had cut up in baggies or a cut up melon in the fridge ready to eat and jars of a few different kinds of raw nuts on the shelf. Everything wasn’t always what I would consider healthy, as the kids were older having things on hand like English Muffin Pizza fixings they could put together themselves and cook in the toaster oven were easy and enjoyable.
Another good thing to keep in mind is the timeline for freshness. Some foods, such as apples, will obviously last longer than other fresh fruits and they won’t last nearly as long as store bought packets of dried fruit.
Even though fruit begins spoiling more quickly as soon as it’s exposed to oxygen, cutting up small quantities of some fruit and veggies an placing them in the fridge for a grab and go snack are still a favorite choice of mine. Get to know your selected foods’ timeline for freshness you may need to wait for cutting or slicing until you’re ready to use them in a recipe.
Also, it’s okay to repeat meals during the days or weeks ahead. Enjoyment of your food is key here – and when you love a recipe or enjoy eating leftovers, it’s perfectly okay to make up a batch and serve it later on during the week. Doubling a recipe is a great time saver and if it’s freezable then you can easily have it again a week or two later.
It’s important to organize your refrigerator before meal prepping. You don’t want to be in a hurry to get out the door and have to rummage through the refrigerator for your carefully prepared breakfast. I find it’s most helpful to clean out all of the old stuff before I leave for my main grocery shopping trip.
These are just a few meal prep ideas. I know you’ll think of more great ideas to make meal prepping more fun and efficient as you go along. The Internet and meal prepping blogs are also good ways to see what others are doing. If you have a great meal prep tip please share it with our readers in the comments below if you want.