It’s dinner time, you’re famished, but don’t know what to eat. If you’re like most of us, this situation almost always results in less than ideal food choices. While the drive through and convenience/packaged foods are okay in moderation, we certainly don’t want to be relying on them too often. If you’re short on time but still want to enjoy highly nutritious and delicious meals, then you’ve come to the right place. Meal prepping is a great way to ensure you and your whole family have healthy meals to eat off of all week long (even on those crazy, busy days). Do it like the experts by following our 5 tips for successful meal prepping below:
1. Choose a day/time to prep your meals for the week. This part tends to take quite a bit of time, so make sure you have a few hours cleared in your schedule to prepare and cook your recipes for the week. When prepping meals, people typically prepare a breakfast, lunch, and dinner option. However, you can choose to prepare multiple breakfast, lunch, and dinner options if you’re not too keen on eating the same thing day after day (but if it’s your first time, we recommend starting small as to not overwhelm yourself!). Just remember, the more meals you prep, the more time it will take. And although this part takes time, your future self will thank you because you won’t have to even think about cooking again for the entire week.
2. Consider each food group. When coming up with recipes that you would like to cook, don’t forget to make them nutritious! An easy way to do this is to choose at least one vegetable for each meal, one or more protein sources, and a whole grain. Then, feel free to get fancy with tasty additions like spices, herbs, and sauces. For example, this whole wheat lasagna is perfect for meal prepping. It has healthy grains from the whole wheat pasta, protein from the turkey sausage, and if you pair it with a side greens salad, you’ve met all 3 components! Feel free to drizzle some olive oil on the salad for an added punch of heart healthy fats!
3. Make a detailed grocery list. Before heading out to the grocery store to purchase your ingredients, make sure you check and double check each recipe. Be certain you aren’t missing anything. Nothing throws a wrench in your plans quite like realizing you’re missing a major ingredient halfway through the cooking process! Another helpful tip is to make sure your pantry and fridge are stocked with the essentials. Having shelf stable items on hand, like dry beans, rice, pasta, nut butters, canned goods, and cooking oils make this step a breeze.
4. Pre-portion meals using reusable containers. This tip is especially beneficial to those who have to eat on-the-go. For example, when you’re rushing out the door to school and don’t have time to pack a lunch. Or, when you’re going to be away from home all day and want to avoid the drive through. Simply reach in the fridge and pull out one of the meals you’ve prepped. It’s really as easy as that!
5. Make it a family affair. If you’re going to be spending a couple hours in the kitchen, you might has well have fun doing it! You probably already know that here at Every Kid Can Cook, we’re all about spending time together as a family. One of our favorite ways to do that is by cooking together. Families who cook and enjoy meals together have opportunities to bond, learn about nutrition, learn about organization and planning, and develop “soft kitchen skills” (like mixing, measuring, and cleaning up).
What have you found to be helpful in making nutritious choices when you’re short on time? What kinds of things do you like to meal prep? Let us know on our Facebook page!