When I began this meal prepping process, it seemed like each week I would find something new that helped me stay on track. There are so many articles and tips online regarding food prepping that sometimes I felt overwhelmed. I found that instead of trying to do everything at once, adding one or two tips a week was much more helpful. With that in mind, I will share with you some of the tricks that I have found helpful, nonetheless, remember to take your time and use only what works for you.
Index Card Recipes
One of the most helpful tools when meal prepping, is having recipe cards for familiar “go-to” meals. I started with five recipe cards, which I wrote on some index cards left over from one of my kid’s school project. I didn’t realize how handy these would be! In the following weeks I added one or two new recipes to my index cards now I have about fifteen “go-to” recipes. These are not complicated or unknown meals, these are family favorites that have become “go-to recipes like; pasta with ground meat, chicken/steak tacos, turkey burgers, chicken white chili, and baked potatoes with broccoli and pork loin. Each index card has the ingredients for a family of six, so I have leftovers for lunch.
Bins and Labels
I love having a pantry, but just like in the refrigerator, too often things get misplaced or forgotten. I decided to re-organize my pantry to make meal prepping easier. I labeled the shelves on my pantry and made a space for daily dinner container bins. It takes a little time, but I promise once it’s done it makes life so much simpler. Labeling the shelves ensures me that my husband and children will also place things where they belong. Knowing that bread will always be on the top shelf, and peanut butter will always be next to the jelly, makes “grocery list inventory check” a breeze! I also have a space saved for five plastic bins labeled Monday-Friday, one for each workday. In each bin I place an index card with the recipe for that day, and all the pantry ingredients that will be used for that particular recipe. For example, if Monday we are having pasta with ground turkey, then I add the pasta box & pasta sauce in the bin container; the ground turkey will obviously be stored in the fridge, but I know Sunday night I place the frozen meat in the refrigerator so that it is thawed and ready to cook for Monday’s dinner. (Pic included)
Pre-measure Containers & Freezer Bags
Now that you know how to keep your pantry ready for food prepping, let’s make sure you have your freezer and refrigerator items ready and prepped as well. Pre-measuring your ingredients will save you so much time and money. If you are having fajitas on Tuesday and it calls for one onion, one red and one green pepper, then you will save time by slicing all the ingredients and placing them in a plastic storage bag. When preparing meat, if you are using it in two days or so, it may be ok to leave it in the refrigerator, but if you plan to use it on Friday, then freezing works best. Pre-slicing the chicken before freezing will also save you time. Although, not necessary, I find it’s a big time saver, and less messy.
Left Overs & Bento Lunch Boxes
Bento lunch boxes are the best trend of the decade! These Japanese meal-packing containers are not only adorable, but also extremely practical. Depending on the meal that I’m preparing for dinner, sometimes I will make extra in order to pack for lunch. Bento boxes are perfect because they are compartmentalized and compact, perfect to stack on top of each other, saving space in the refrigerator. After dinner I make sure to quickly prep lunch for my kids and us adults too for the next morning. Bentos help you pack a balanced meal. You are able to place the main course, a fruit and snack all in the same small container, and it’s extremely easy to store.
Again, when making changes to your routine go at your pace. These strategies helped me because I made small steady changes. Every family is different, there are no unbendable rules. Use the tips that work, toss those that don’t, add your own, and tweak away to accommodate your family’s needs. Happy planning!