Meal Planning Step 3: Prepare As Much As Possible

As we have already covered the Why, What and the How-To, of our four-part series, it is time to bring this meal plan into fruition. It’s time to get prepping!

What does it mean to meal prep?

First of all, grocery shop. That’s a biggie. You are going to need the actual food to be in your kitchen in order to accomplish anything at all.

Second, organize your ingredients. If you have space on your counter or in your refrigerator, group the ingredients within each recipe together so that you can ensure you have everything you need and that you will actually be able to find them when you’re ready.

Third, prep the food itself. Wash your produce, dice your onions, peel your carrots, form your burger patties, cook your chicken breasts, or simply organize your ingredients by recipe. Meal prep can mean different things for different cooks and truly for each week. Depending on the time you will have each day, you may need to do most all of the prep before the work week (or school week) begins, while other weeks may allow for a bit more freedom to prepare just before the dinner hour itself.

Prepping Through the Food Groups

Let’s walk through a few mealtime basics to get the idea:

  • Fruits and Veggies.
    • Wash fresh produce
    • Peel, chop, and cut the veggies you will need for your recipes and for snacks.
    • Package up leftover produce into snack baggies or small containers for easy to grab snacks.
    • Whip some into a large smoothie, portion it into individual jars, and freeze for easy breakfasts on busy mornings.
  • Meat.
    • Pound it, grill it, roast it, shred it, or dice it.
    • Mold ground meat into burger patties or meatballs and freeze them for later.
  • Eggs.
    • Hard boil enough to fulfill the need for a protein rich snack or egg salad sandwiches.
  • Whole Grains.
    • Cook a large batch of brown rice, barley, or quinoa.
    • Fill a few jars with the ingredients for your favorite overnight oats.
    • Make extra slices of French Toast or a few extra pancakes on Sunday, freeze them, and pop them into the toaster when a busy morning (or evening) strikes.
  • Dairy.
    • Buy plain and vanilla yogurt in bulk, allowing you to save money (and sugar) by re-portioning them into small 1 cup containers comprised of a 50/50 blend.
    • Dice or slice a large block of cheddar cheese to create sandwich friendly or snackable options.

Why prep ahead?

Doing a bit of chopping or cooking ahead of time is warranted for the very reason a meal plan is advised, to preserve your sanity! By having your ingredients pre-portioned out for your stir fry, your chicken breast already cooked for your BBQ sandwiches, or even your enchiladas already stuffed and rolled, you will be able to spend that precious hour before dinner PLAYING with your kids rather than tripping over them as you attempt to get a meal on the table.

Meal prep inspiration.

For fresh ideas on how you can make the most of your preparation, I have created a blogger roundup of fellow foodies who are quick to plan ahead and offer preparatory inspiration for the rest of us. Take a look!

What do you do to set the stage for an organized week ahead? Let us know. As a mom, I am always looking for fresh and simple ways to streamline my kitchen!

Thanks for reading!

Jessica Corwin, MPH, RDN

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