Over Christmas break I had a few requests from some readers for some specific blog topics. Meal prepping and daily exercise were the two most asked about. Today I am touching on meal prep since, for me, it’s takes very little thought and is priceless.
Many of you are parents and are very busy but still want to prepare healthy meals for your family. I too am a parent but my son is much older now, although, I am a childcare provider and care for very small children 10+ hours per day 5 days a week which is exhausting some days.
However, I still manage to prepare meals nightly for my family which I share with you weekly (like here, and here) to inspire you all to get in the kitchen and cook. Today I am touching on meal prepping and why it is such a time saver for me.
First, let me give you a bit of insight into my life. Monday- Friday I religiously work on routine….a tight routine. Wake up at 4a.m., pack two lunches and make two breakfasts, eat breakfast with my husband, and leave the house to workout by 4:50a.m. every single morning. Trust me this takes planning. I then return home by 6:15a.m., shower, and begin to prepare for my daycare children to arrive from 6:30a.m. on for breakfast and the day. We have a normal day, they all get picked up at 4:30 or there about and I immediately go into dinner mode and begin preparing dinner for my family. Dinner is served at 5:30 when our son arrives home from work and dinner is then cleaned up and either I do yoga or go back to the gym for a second time with my husband depending on what day it is. We then return home at 7:30p.m, I shower again, and I am usually in bed by 8/8:15p.m.. Yes, routine for me is crucial!!!
OK, with that being said, this is why meal prepping can pay off for everyone. Spending an hour…maybe a bit more can allow you to pre chop any veggies for weekly meals.
It can allow you to prepare healthier lunches for yourself, children or spouse instead of some processed wrapper covered convenience food, and can allow you a bit of breathing time if your day is thrown into a tailspin and you have to readjust on the fly.
Now, don’t think that even with this tight routine things still dont go wrong because they do. And sometimes they do often. Especially being a parent…if kids are involved things can go wrong very quickly. However, having options like pre cut veggies and easy to grab healthy options that are ready to go makes it much easier to pick up the pieces of a failed plan and not call the takeout restaurant for delivery. Dinners for us during the week are far from gourmet…but they are healthy and fresh.
And believe me, having a major food allergy in our home as of the last few months makes calling for takeout almost impossible, so I do know how hard it is to think fast and come up with something instead of takeout.
The easiest way for me to meal prep is to plan a weekly menu and stick to it. Do this on the weekend, then grocery shop, then prep anything you can on Sunday before the beginning of the week. For me, Sunday works best, first thing in the morning so nothing else becomes more important. I usually will also make some go to foods for me for during the week also. Boiled eggs are a favorite….you can grab and go, smash them in seconds and make egg salad or stuff them with hummus and avocado with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and have a healthy fast lunch. I am never without hard boiled eggs in the frig.
Also if you have a sweet tooth make sure you plan for this. Having something sweet but healthy in sight is always better than grabbing that bag of candy and forgetting to stop eating them until you find the bag is empty. I keep a well stocked fruit bowl in sight at all times.
I also was amazed when our son started his new job a few months ago to hear him ask me how he could make a healthier lunch but not buy expensive processed lunch meat. I suggested cooking up some chicken and making sandwiches or wraps with this instead. So he has been taking my idea and making this ever since starting his job. It easy, filling, and does not need heating up since he does not have this option like his dad does who takes leftovers every day. Plus, he can easily change it up with different meats or add ins.
Another great help when it comes to spicing life up a bit in the kitchen or adding flavor to dishes is to utilize your freezer. I will blend sundried tomatoes in olive oil and freeze in small containers. When you are ready to use in a dish simply take it out and toss it in. It unthaws in seconds and adds so much flavor.
You can also do this with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Simply toss the entire can into a food processor and blend until smooth. Spoon tablespoons onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and toss it in the freezer. Wait until its frozen (2 hrs or so) and easily remove them and put them into baggies, containers or wrap each in plastic wrap. Place them back in the freezer and take one out when you need to add a bit of spice and get a deep smokey flavor in any dish. We love this in chili at our house.
For upcoming weekly meals posts I will also include what I prep for the upcoming week according to the menu I have in place. Some things will be for meals and some things will be for work lunches. Maybe this will help and maybe it will not. Although, I do believe if you all give it a try and a bit of dedication you can really make your life a bit easier and find that making a meal after a long day is not always as hard as it seems. It’s kinda like going to the gym…..getting there is often times the hardest part. Just like starting meal preparation after a long day…once you start you might as well finish.