Have you ever had one of those days where life is chaotic? First, you woke up late and had to run out the door disheveled. Second, work was so intense all day that the next thing you know it’s time to go home. Your stomach starts growling as it yells at you for skipping lunch. Next, you pick up your children from school. Let the extracurricular fun begin as you dart to your children’s sports practices and piano lessons. By the time you get home, you realize you still have to cook dinner, put the kids in bed, and wash two loads of laundry for your spouse to pack since they are leaving tomorrow for a TDY. You are exhausted and have spent most of your day nutritiously deprived. Out of comfort and convenience, you grab whatever food you can and start eating like a ravenous dog. I’ve been there too, so I designed meal prep tricks for days just like this.
Meal prep has allowed me to save a lot of time, money, sanity, and calories! I usually spend two hours total meal prepping for the week on Sundays. That is breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for nine people. During the week, I do have a lot of dishes since I am just reheating the healthy-already-prepared meals. Dinner time “cooking” only takes five to 10 minutes a night. What a life saver when you have been running around all day. This prep may seem complicated at first, but it can be broken down into a few simple steps.
Step 1: Gather your recipes, equipment, and make a shopping list!
Is your family vegan, vegetarian, or allergic to certain items? Do you follow a strict diet like Keto or Paleo? No matter what type of diet you have currently or want to follow for a healthier lifestyle, the internet is loaded with recipes. The first time you meal prep, it will take about 30 minutes to print off a stack of recipes that will fit your family’s tastes and health goals. After that, you can just rotate through the recipes to find what healthy meals to prep that week. Simply type “healthy meal ideas” into the search engine and options will flood your screen. Pick some of the recipes you found and write a shopping list of items that you need to purchase from the store. Also, make a calendar of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for your family. Take inventory of your kitchen equipment. You want to make sure you have all of the pans needed to cook and lots of individual reusable plastic containers. If you find you are needing more equipment, add it to your shopping list.
Step 2: Don’t forget your shopping list at home and go to the grocery store.
When you get to the grocery store, only pick up the items on your list. This ensures you have the items needed to make the healthy recipes. This part saves you money because you won’t impulse buy items. It saves your waistline, since you are not tempted to grab those cookies or candy conveniently placed next to the checkout line. Saying no is always a good thing with a PT test looming over. Try to buy local and organic whenever it is feasible. Even without buying organic, meal prep is still far healthier than buying fast food or eating processed food.
Step 3: Cook, package, cleanup!
Take out your recipes and cook. Get as creative as you want with the meals. It can be grilled chicken on a bed of salad or vegan pizza. Prepare the food to your family’s taste. I also like incorporating one new vegetable or fruit a week into our meal prep. Wash all fruits and veggies for snack time prep. Have your children shop and prep with you. They will learn valuable life skills and you are doing an activity together. That is what composes memories.
When your food is done. Package them with one meal per container. Snacks, like almonds, can be placed in sandwich plastic bags, if wanted. Place them in the refrigerator. Clean up the kitchen. You did it! Now you have ensured your entire family is eating nutritious meals all week and saved yourself a lot of time. When you need a meal, simply take it out and heat it up. No more pots and pans needing to be cleaned up every night.
Next time you are running out the door late in the morning, you can grab an overnight oatmeal with fruit and have a healthy breakfast. When you realize you are working through lunch, pull out your grilled chicken salad. When extracurricular activities have you getting home late, make turkey tacos in five minutes!
Here is one of our favorite meals to prep every week:
Turkey Taco Salads
• 1 teaspoon olive oil or vegetable oil
• 1 onion chopped finely
• 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
• 3 cloves minced garlic
• 8 tablespoons fresh cilantro
• 3 tablespoons lime juice
• 2 pounds ground turkey
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• tortillas or brown rice
• 2 cups lettuce
• 1 oz Feta Cheese
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until simmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.
2. Add cayenne pepper, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add ground turkey and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked, about 4 minutes.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Put lettuce, tomato, feta cheese in meal prep plastic container.
6. Slice the avocado and place on top of bed of lettuce.
7. Divide turkey evenly among the prepared salads in the plastic containers. Garnish with healthy toppings such as: such as shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and avocado, and cilantro leaves.
8. May be served with a tortilla or brown rice, if wanted.