Meal Planning and Prep :: Tips, Tricks and Hacks

This is the year I turn the big 4-o.  Although I always say “age is just a number”, the reality is that I’m hitting mid-life and I need to start taking better care of myself.  After watching a few documentaries, reading some books, and listening to my crunchy friend tell me “food heals”, I’ve started to believe that maybe it’s time to put down the Whataburger and start eating better.  I’ve found that the key to consistently eating healthy is planning and prepping.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “fail to plan, plan to fail”.  It’s so true.  When I don’t have a plan in place, ingredients prepped for the week, and food available, I dive head first into a package of Oreos and then move on to Cheez-Its.  It’s not a pretty sight.

Meal Planning and Prep:: Tips, Tricks and Hacks | Houston Moms Blog

First things first, where do I start?  

  • Make a meal plan.  Whether you plan for the month or just the week, write it down.  If it’s written down, you are less likely to stray from it. 
  • Don’t make it hard on yourself.  If there is something that is easy and your family loves, make it every week.  For us, its burgers and sweet potato fries.  For your family it could be spaghetti or taco Tuesday.  
  • Make a weekly shopping list and use grocery pick up. I know a lot of grocery stores charge a mark up and a fee, but I’ve found even with the added costs, I save money by not being able to make impulse purchases.
  • Don’t forget breakfast. My family doesn’t mind eating the same thing for breakfast all week so I usually will prep 4 days of breakfast at a time. We use containers like these to store them.
  • What about lunch?  My husband usually gets leftovers from the night before.  My kids get “homemade lunchables” consisting of Applegate pepperonis, crackers, 2 fruits {whatever is in season}, and a small treat.  For myself, I like to have tuna salad or chicken salad mixed up in mason jars, or soups ready to heat up.  If I’m out with the kiddos, my lunch looks a lot more like theirs.   

I’ve got my groceries, now what?

  • Try to set aside at least a few hours for meal prep.  I know as a mom setting aside any time is hard but if you can prep everything for the week your dinner time will be so much easier. 
  • This may seem crazy but I like to start my meal prep with a clean kitchen.  Clear your counters of clutter and empty the dishwasher.  You will thank yourself at the end when clean up is a breeze.
  • Look over your plan, figure out what needs to be chopped and do that first.  When I first started meal prepping I used Prep Dish.  I love how their meal plans are broken down into prepping for the whole week.  I use this same approach when planning my meals for the week.  I decide what needs to be chopped and do it all at once.  I always have Ziploc bags full of different vegetables cut up and seasoned with oil, salt and pepper sitting in my fridge ready to be dumped on a sheet pan for a quick side dish.  
  • Prepare all your marinades or sauces for the week and store in mason jars.  It makes it easy the night of, and well, mason jars are just pretty.
  • Pull your meat of the freezer 2 days before you need to use it.  I like to give meat a good 24 hours to thaw and, if it calls for a marinade, a day for that as well.  

Additional Tips

  • Store cut up onions and tuna salad in mason jars.  The reason?  It traps the smell in.  Nothing is worse than opening up your fridge to the smell of onions or fish.  
  • Make extras and freeze.  If I have meatloaf or marinated chicken on the list I will make an extra and store in the freezer for a time when I just can’t {which usually happens a lot during the summer}.  
  • Use those gadgets! My absolute favorite gadgets include an egg cooker, onion chopper, and immersion blender.  I love to store them along with all their attachments in baskets like these in my cabinets.  It keeps everything neat and organized so I’m not constantly searching for things.  
  • Buy bulk spices.  In the past I shied away from new recipes because I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on new spices, only for them to sit in my pantry.  Then, I discovered the bulk spice aisle at HEB and it changed my life.  You can purchase only what’s needed for a recipe, eliminating wasted money.
  • Don’t forget snacks.  Cut up your fruit ahead of time, portion out snacks like nuts in individual bags,  buy individual portions of guacamole or hummus that are easy to grab and go. 

I would love to hear what your meal prep and planning tips!  What are your favorite healthy snacks or kitchen gadgets you can’t live without?

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