3 Tips for Quick and Easy Meal Prep
As a celiac and food allergic family, one thing that has been our life line is meal planning and meal prep. We often see people meal prep on social media and find it interesting as we don’t meal prep the way most people do. There are many ways to meal plan and meal prep. Whichever way works for you is best. We thought we would write a blog post about how we meal plan and meal prep in hopes that you get a new idea of how to do it and maybe find some helpful tips for you and your family. The way we do it requires little to NO extra time. We don’t have extra time so we needed a way to meal plan and prep that worked for us.
More often than not when we see people on social media meal prepping, they are chopping all of their fruits, veggies, and prepping their meats at the beginning of the week. We also see people making all of their meals for the week in one day then divide each meal into containers for each meal. This is a great way to prep if that is what works for you. We tried this for a while and found that it just wasn’t what worked for us. You know what? That’s ok. In all honesty, I felt like a failure to some degree because I just couldn’t get it together enough to do either of these methods. Spending 5-8 hours a day in the kitchen when our girls were little in order to feed them safely and cleaning up the kitchen each day did not allow time for prepping ahead (or so I thought).
Many years after our girls were all in school full time, I realized that I had always meal prepped. Our livelihood with food depended on me meal prepping. It was just different from how others did it. I didn’t have extra time in a day to chop or make full meals for the week. Below are three things that we have always done that I absolutely count as meal planning and prepping that require little to no extra time.
1. We make a month-long meal calendar. Now don’t go thinking this takes a lot of time, it really doesn’t. My family doesn’t like to eat the same foods regularly so I make sure to only repeat a few items throughout the month. If your family likes the same 5 meals, just put them on calendar repeat. I make a new calendar about each quarter. When I make a new meal calendar, I ask our whole family to give me suggestions of what foods they would like on the meal calendar, and what they would like to take off. This way, I get help making the calendar, and I can guarantee at least one person won’t complain. ;) It also means very little time making a new calendar each quarter. I made a calendar in a word doc many years ago with a month long table and made a full month calendar full of meals on it. Then each month, I go to this same document, and add or subtract meals, then save it as a new document. Takes about 5-10 minutes every few months. By now, I have a ton of saved calendars from years passed so if I really want to, I can just recycle a calendar we used before. Simple and easy.
The biggest reason I love making a meal calendar is because I hate making dinner. There, I said it out loud. It’s true, I really hate making dinner. It just feels like a huge chore. I would bake all day long and be happy but ask me to make dinner and I want to crawl in a hole. LOL Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic. If I already have a list of what I have to make for dinner it’s no big deal at all because I don’t have to think about it. Making a meal calendar is really for my sanity at dinner time. It also greatly helps with grocery shopping and staying within our budget. I use our meal calendar when I make my grocery shopping list so I know what I need for the whole week and only have to go to the grocery store once a week.
2. When I make dinner, I make almost double what we eat. What this allows me to do is pack lunches for the next day with leftovers and also freeze the remaining food. Out of one dinner comes lunch and a frozen meal another day. It takes me zero extra time in a day to make extra food, none. I already am making food so I might as well make more. This is a huge time saver for me. I don’t have extra time in a week to make separate extra food. When we need “fast food” we grab a meal that I have frozen. It’s far faster to thaw and heat up a frozen meal from home than go find a safe and fast restaurant. We don’t eat out very often as it is hard to find safe restaurants that we all like. Our version of fast food works well when we need to eat on the run too. Most of our frozen meals are simple to eat in the car when running to practices and events if need be. When I make buns, pita bread, artisan rolls, or pizza crust, I make twice the recipe and freeze the rest. The next time we need them for dinner, they are already made. Super easy and fast.
3. We meal prep breakfast, lunches, and desserts too. When we need muffins for breakfast (we eat muffins daily), I make 4-5 dozen at a time and freeze them all. Again, it’s very little extra time to make 4-5 times a recipe. I do this with pancakes and waffles as well. Our freezer (we have two) is FULL of frozen meals. It makes meals quick, easy, and nutritious. When I make sandwich bread or sub rolls, I make several loaves at a time. Then cut them and freeze them. This makes for quick toast or sandwiches. When I make any type of dessert, I make a lot and freeze the rest. In this season, we have a lot of guests over and so having ready desserts is so nice. I can serve a delicious dessert for our guests and not have to spend a lot of extra time doing so.
We realize the way we meal prep requires freezer space. If you are single, a normal size freezer should have plenty of room for extra meals. You can meal prep smaller amounts since it’s just you. We are a family of 5 so we require a lot more freezer space. Many years ago, we invested in a stand up full freezer. We bought it used and it has been great for our family. For us, meal planning and prepping has saved us so much time and money in the long run. We can live busy and full lives because we always have meals ready to go. Whether our methods work for you or not, hopefully you learned that you don’t have to live in someone else’s box. We do hope you found something that we do that is helpful for you. Feel free to take what we do and make it work for you. We would love to hear what works for you. If you have any questions, let us know. We are here to help.