Let’s chat about 5 meal prep tips and tricks for a healthy, simplified week! These tips are doable, even with little kids around. Start implementing TODAY to simplify your week ahead!
There is no doubt, meal prep will help you eat more healthfully throughout the week. It takes the guess work out of what to eat, especially when you are pressed for time. Or maybe like me, you have little people that just want you to hold them, which is a great reason to allow a bit of meal prep into your life.
Whenever Nova wakes from her nap 1-1.5 hours before dinner, she is all about the snuggles. Knowing that she won’t be our baby much longer means I just want to soak up alllllll her sweet snuggles.
So yeah, kid snuggles > kitchen work. 100% of the time.
I know meal prep can seem daunting, especially if cooking just isn’t your favorite thing. But healthy eating starts at home, and I promise that once you begin meal prepping, your kitchen time will become simpler when you go to put meals together. I’ve found that even little bits of prep work help me in the long run when I’m wanting to get healthy, balanced meals ready in a more quick manner for my family.
Here are 5 meal prep tips and tricks for a healthy, simplified week. I recommend just starting with 1 thing, instead of jumping head first into meal prep. See if it helps you, then add more as time permits. It’s not an all or nothing thing, but I promise, every little bit helps.
5 meal prep tips and tricks for a healthy, simplified week
1. Cook a protein ahead of time
When I plan our meals, I try and think about what protein source I can choose to prep ahead of time. Typically it ischicken or ground beef. Both meats can be cooked ahead of time with not much seasoning added. Then when it comes time to turn it into a meal, I season as needed for the recipe and pump up the flavors!
Examples for how to use the prepped protein: Shredded chicken breast can be used on top of salads, stuffed into enchiladas, added to soup, turned into a curry chicken salad, added to stir fries or turned into pot pie. Ground beef can be used for tacos/taco salad, in soup, in enchiladas, on twice baked potatoes, on a deconstructed burger salad or in breakfast casseroles.
2. Cook a carbohydrate ahead of time
Just like having a protein prepped ahead of time for easy assembly, I love having a carbohydrate ready and on hand. It just makes meal assembly much quicker! Since roasting sweet potatoes and potatoes take a solid 30-40 minutes in the oven, and hold up really well for re-heating, it’s totally a go-to for me to prep. Cooking a grain like rice or quinoa ahead is another time saving option.
Examples for how to use the prepped carbohydrate: Add roasted potatoes along side a salad, use it in an egg hash, add to soup or pair with sausage and sauteed vegetables. Quinoa can be used in fried “rice”, as a base for a hearty meat and sauted vegetable bowl, combined into a meatball mixture, turned into salmon quinoa patties or added in soups.
3. Chop your vegetables
One of the easiest ways to make meals come together is to chop your vegetables ahead of time. And it’s not only useful for when it comes time to cook a meal – having vegetables ready to grab and eat makes it an instant easier choice when you’re feeling rushed. Plus vegetables are great to snack on when you’re feeling munchy before a meal!
Vegetables to chop ahead of time that hold up well in the fridge: kale, lettuce, swiss chard (all dark leafy greens), onions/green onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, celery, radishes, brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower… to list a few.
4. Make a sauce/dip
Sauces and dips make meals so much more fun! We LOVE homemade kefir ranch, hummus, chimichurri and anything for dipping basically. Sauces can give life to your plain shredded chicken in an instant. Find 1-2 sauces/dips that you like and prep them ahead of time to quickly add to your meal.
Examples of sauces to prep: kefir ranch, avocado lime cream, bbq sauce, hummus, chimichurri, greek yogurt dip, curry ketchup, roasted red pepper sauce, poppyseed dressing or balsamic vinaigrette.
5. Prepare a big lunch salad to eat from all week
I always find lunch to be the most rush meal for me. The kids and I get home typically a bit before lunch if I’ve been teaching that morning, or if we’ve been out running errands. I like lunches that come together super fast, as in within 5 minutes. No cooking or chopping, basically just assembling on plates. These lunch salads can totally be used as a quick dinner as well!
Lunch salad examples to prep ahead: curry chicken salad with grapes and celery (my faaaaaaaavorite), egg and potato salad, greek chicken and vegetable salad, tuna salad or black bean taco salad.
BONUS: Plan the order of your prep work
This tip is huge to make me more effective when I’m actually in the process of prepping foods. I wrote out all the things I wanted to prep, then ordered them by items that would take the longest first. For example, I got my oven heating and cooking salmon and potatoes right away, and while those items cooked I could work on chopping and sauce making. I became more efficient because I wasn’t waited for foods to finish in the oven, but I consistently had prep work I could be working on.
Plus any down time minutes were used for dishes which helped a ton! The worst is being done with your meal prep, THEN having to do all-the-dishes.
Do you meal prep weekly? What are your go-to items you prep ahead of time? How do you make it work with your family? What day do you typically prep food on?