POMP Rating: 🌵🌴🌴🌴🌴
FACTORS Influencing Rating: If your family loves fast food, this could be a prickly idea until they get used to it. ☹ If meal-prepper isn’t complimented for efforts, this could be a problem. ☹ The whole family will have more quality time to spend together during the week. 😊 You will save money. 😊 Meal-prepper will have more personal time during the week. 😊 You will have little to no “food hangover” because your meals are healthy. 😊
Meal Prep for Busy Families
Eating healthy starts with eating meals freshly prepared at home. This is healthy for the body as well as healthy for the budget. If you eat out a lot, try adding up what you spend per week at restaurants and you will most likely be picking your jaw up off the floor when you see the total. The problem for most people is, they already know that eating out often during the week is expensive and not so healthy, but they are so busy that they don’t see how they can possibly have home cooked meals every night of the week. Believe me, I’ve been there, and I get it. However, there is a way to do it, and once it becomes habit you’ll save money, have more time with your family each evening, and you’ll all be eating healthier.
Start With Making a List
On a day that is most convenient for you, make a quick list of the upcoming weekdays. Next to each day, write down a good meal to have for that night. If you know you’ll be at a soccer game on Thursday night, be mindful of that and write something down that would be ready to eat when you got home, such as a crock pot meal. Make sure and not over-complicate the meals. The reason you don’t want to do this is because you don’t want to spend an entire weekend day meal-prepping. Trust me, keep it simple.
Now Make Another List
Ok, now that you have your meal ideas down for the week, make a quick list of what you’ll need from the store to prepare those meals. I find that a real time saver is to use an online grocery service where you order your groceries online, pay, and pick up at a time that is convenient for you. I spend less money this way because I’m not grabbing things off the shelf in the store that I don’t really need, and I save at least two hours of precious time that it would take me if I were actually in the store.
Time to Meal Prep!
Now that you have your list and you’ve picked your items up, choose a time during the weekend to prep those meals. I keep 3 crockpots (yes, 3) so that I can put my ingredients for different meals for up to 3 nights if I’ve got a super busy schedule for the week. Most weeks I only use one crockpot, but there have been times where I needed 3. Once the ingredients are in the crock pots, they go in the fridge until the morning of that meal. If we will be home really late, I put the crockpot on the low setting so nothing gets over-cooked.
Being Realistic and Do a Nosh Night
When I’m meal planning for the week, I always look at what we’ve got going on and try to be realistic about having time to eat at home that night, and take into account any prep that may still need to be done the evening of. I usually choose one complicated meal (lots of prep), two really simple and fast meals, and one crockpot meal. For my family, Friday nights are “nosh nights” where we are noshing on whatever we find, or possibly we go out to eat on that evening. Basically, I don’t want to cook on Friday night because I’m ready to wind down my work week, so it’s a good nosh night for us.
One night is usually reserved for grilled cheese and tomato soup, super easy and quick and everyone loves it in the Winter months. I also love cauliflower soup with roast beef sliders, so I will alternate weeks of that soup/sandwich combo with the classic grilled cheese/tomato soup combo so we don’t get bored.
For crock pot meals, I also alternate so we aren’t eating the same thing every week. For example, one week we will have chili and the next week we may have fajitas (a crock pot is a great way to have fajita meat ready when you get home in the evening). The one complicated meal just means that on Sunday afternoon I’m going to be in the kitchen chopping and grating and slicing ingredients so that those time consuming tasks are done on the night I prepare that meal. I also choose the night of that week that we are least busy and I’m least exhausted to prepare that meal. For us, that’s usually at the beginning of the week.
What About Breakfast?
For myself, I prepare breakfast in advance and place in small plastic containers or even zip-lock bags. For my husband, I do the same if he is watching his weight and concerned about eating healthy. He goes through cycles, and usually slacks off eating healthy in the Winter months, but I love him anyway. I try to avoid eating anything pre-packaged like protein bars or muffins, so I’ll meal prep my breakfasts in advance on Sunday for the week. For kids, cereal could be a good option, or not – depending on your situation.
Changing It Up
Our meals look different in the warmer months than the colder months, because our tastes change. For Winter, it is typical for us to eat home-made spaghetti with sauce usually cooked with ground bison or lamb, sandwich and soup night, chili night, and maybe cabbage and sausage skillet. As you can see, one night is left open for nosh night.
In the warm months, typically we will eat sandwich and salad night (either a pasta salad, bean salad, or green salad), fajita or fish taco night, hamburger and sweet potato fries, and another grill-out meal such as salmon and steamed vegetables. Again, one night is open for the nosh night.
If you have never meal prepped, try it for two weeks. See how your family reacts to it and ask yourself how you feel after. Compare it to how you usually eat and decide if it is worth it to you. I find that I have more time, way less stress, and am overall much happier when I meal prep for the week. It takes the pressure off as far as making decisions daily for meals, and my family is accustomed to helping out on Sunday afternoons with suggestions about the meals for the upcoming week. Because I make time to work out almost every single evening, meal prepping is the only way that I would have time to exercise as much as I do after working all day. The time I spend exercising is just for me. I value that time, and I need it to unwind.
Having the meals already prepped gives me the luxury of an hour or more to myself each evening, while still giving me precious time with my family around the dinner table.