Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a busy lady. I’m a wife, mom, full-time teacher, and active food blogger. I proudly wear a lot of hats each and every day, but truth be told, my life gets a bit crazy at times and the only time I get to sit down is when I fall into bed at night to sleep. Yet, getting healthy, homemade foods into my family’s bellies every night (okay, most nights…since no one is perfect) is an absolutely priority for me. There isn’t a week that goes by that someone doesn’t say to me “Taesha, I’m not sure how you do it.” Honestly guys, sometimes I’m not sure either, except for the saving graces of love, determination, and meal prep.
Yes, meal prep is a total saving grace for me each and every week. Meal prep, next to meal planning, is easily the most important thing I do to set myself up for a week of healthy headache-free meals. Why? Because I head into my week with a kitchen stocked with food that allows me to throw together a meal at a moment’s notice. So, regardless of what the day or week holds, I have options waiting for me at the end of the day to deter the temptation of ordering delivery pizza or hitting a drive-thru on my way home from work in the name of simplicity. Meal prep is something I try to commit to doing every weekend, because I know that if I skip it, I’ll be a hurting, frustrated lady come midweek.
How do I approach my meal prep without spending my entire (and much needed) weekend in the kitchen? What meals do I cook? How do I store my foods to keep them fresh? People who are longing to make meal prep part of their lives ask me these questions often. So, my lovelies, here are my tips, tricks, and inspirations for meal prepping and keeping your sanity intact
- 1. Don’t try and do it all. The goal of meal prepping (at least for me) isn’t to have for the week cooked (at least, not for me), just the staples or the meals that would be the most time consuming to make. Trying to do it all will just overwhelm you and that kind of makes meal prepping counter-productive in the efforts of simplifying healthy eating. Slice the veggies for lunches. Make a big salad or pot of soup for dinners. Cook up a batch of pancakes or muffins for breakfasts. Think about what you will need to have on hand to get a meal together quickly and make those things during your meal prep!
2. Prep a little something for each meal. You’ll thank me for this later. A lot of people think to just meal prep for dinners, but breakfast and lunch need planning too! There is nothing worse than waking up late and trying to figure out how to get a healthy breakfast on the table in even less time than you normally have or trying to pack a lunch for work or school when you are totally tapped of creativity. Make sure you work in a few dishes for each of those meals into your meal prep line-up. What’s the worst that’s going to happen if you don’t need them? You throw those muffins you made in the freezer for another week or you’ll eat those sliced veggies with dinner instead of a salad? Pffftttt.
3. Meal plan! This is vital guys! How are you going to know what you need to prep if you don’t know what you are going to eat?! You don’t have to have every meal nailed down solid, but at least have a general idea so you can not only make what you need to ahead of time but also buy appropriately at the grocery store.
4. Break out that slow cooker! Okay, while that doesn’t really seem like it’s part of meal prep, I can’t tell you guys enough how amazing it is come home to the aromas of dinner already cooked at the end of a busy day. Plan a slow cooker meal for the day you have to work late or that you are having company over and you want to socialize instead of being in the kitchen. You can prep those easily as well! Just chop and/or measure out the ingredients into a container so that all you have to do to get a meal cooking is dump everything into the slow cooker and turn it on.
5. Make it a habit. Look at your week. When can you commit an hour or two to just focus on getting meal prep done? Mentally schedule it in and do it! And then do that again the following week. Meal prep may not be super easy right off the bat, but just like everything in life, it’ll get easier with practice. So make it a habit, and before you know it, you will have to spend less and less time prepping and more time reaping the benefits of being so organized!
6. Be realistic. Assuming you don’t want to spend your entire Saturday or Sunday cooking, don’t plan a week’s worth of crazy complicated meals. Make sure your menu and your meal prep is a happy balance of fun, interesting, and simple.
7. A little prep is better than no meal prep. So you didn’t have time to make that spaghetti squash lasagna you saw on Pinterest but you did manage to cook up some brown rice and hard boil some eggs? So what? You’ll be happy that night you get to quickly warm up that rice and throw some beans over it for dinner or that morning you hit the snooze button one too many times and those eggs were there to grab for a quick breakfast. You don’t have to have all your meal prep ducks in a row to benefit from having some of them there.
8. Make sure you have enough storage containers. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the last thing you want is to work hard on getting food all prepped for the week, only to discover that you don’t have enough containers to store everything in! I highly recommend air tight containers so that everything stays fresh for as long as possible. I might be biased, but I looooovvveeee my mason jars. I find so many ways to use them in my meal prep! I portion out soup in them for quick lunch bag packing, or store my sliced fruits/ veggies in them to keep them extra fresh. They come in a lot of different sizes, are dishwasher safe (a must for me in a kitchen product), and just seem to be the perfect size and shape to fit in the fridge or lunch bag. If mason jars aren’t your thing, any air tight container will do!
Just like you block of a chunk of time a few days a week to hit the gym, block off some time in your life to meal prep each week! It can (and likely will) be a valuable tool in making your healthy eating habits sustainable and doable even on the busiest of weeks!
More tips and recipes from Taesha:
Taesha is a wife, mother, and teacher based in San Diego. She aims to use her site, TheNaturalNurturer.com, to inspire people towards a healthy lifestyle through her family-friendly recipes and tips.