There is no question that meal planning and meal prepping help you be more productive! They save you time, money, and help you eat healthier at home. As a busy homeschool mom and blogger, who works full-time from home, I’ve learned to create and stick to systems that make my life easier and more organized.
Although meal planning and meal prepping are often confused, they are actually two entirely different processes. With meal planning, you are simply deciding what the future meals will be. When you meal prep, you actually buy those ingredients, then start getting certain aspects of the meal prepared, so that very little needs to be done each day when cooking time arrives.
Types of Meal Prepping
There are two basic elements to meal prepping: chopping vegetables and putting ingredients for meals into containers, and actually cooking some aspects of the meal and freezing them. You can do one or both of these options depending on how much time you think you will have.
Some people simply do the prep work, such as getting all their veggies chopped up, rice measured, and snacks into portion baggies to be used during the week. Others actually cook the casseroles and chicken and then freeze them so that dinner just involves popping them in the oven. I call those freezer meals and I love doing them in batch to save me even more time in the kitchen. Having freezer meals ready, help you be more productive during the week.
Containers for Storing Food After Meal Prepping
When you are planning on prepping meals, you need to be careful with the types of containers you use. These containers are not just storing the ingredients and cooked food items but meant to keep them fresh in the refrigerator or freezer for an extended period of time. You need to be careful what you choose to store items in and how they are stored. Here are some recommendations for food storage containers:
1. Choose containers with airtight lids.
Make sure that your containers keep the food fresh with airtight lids. If you intend to use Tupperware-type containers, try filling them with water, then turn them upside down and make sure no water leaks out. This is a good way to tell how fresh your food will be in the containers.
2. Try storing items in mason jars.
Mason jars are perfect for storing certain items and meals. For example, if you like to take salads to work, try putting each day’s salad in a separate container. Choose the wide-mouth containers and add the denser items at the bottom. The greens should always be at the top so they don’t get wilted or weighed down. Keep your salad dressing in a separate container.
3. Be careful with plastic storage items.
Plastic is fine to use, but you should know what type of plastic you are using. Make sure it is refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and dishwasher-safe first of all. Also check that the plastic containers don’t have any BPA, which can be dangerous when adding or cooking food in these containers.
4. Consider casserole dishes that work for baking and storage.
When you are actually cooking bigger meals ahead of time to just be reheated each evening, you want to use multi-purpose casserole dishes. Use glass dishes that you use for baking, but that can also be used for storing them in the freezer. Just make sure you leave them out in room temperature after cooking to cool down before freezing them, or they might crack.
My Top 5 Easy Meal Prepping Tips
As you get started with meal prepping, there are some other things you need to keep in mind. Follow these simple tips for prepping your meals after you are done with meal planning:
Cook all your meat at once.
Label every container so you know when to use it by.
Note what prepping is being done for leftovers.
Use ingredients that can be prepped for multiple meals.
Get freezer bags together with ingredients that will go in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
Easy Meal Ideas For Prepping Ahead of Time
I do most of my planning and meal prepping on Sundays. Making anything ahead of time helps me way be more productive during the week.
Here are some different meal ideas that work perfectly with meal planning and meal prepping.
1 – Put together different overnight oatmeal jars.
To get some healthy breakfasts prepared, add overnight oats to multiple jars, one for each day of the week. In addition to the oats, you can add different toppings for each day. Some toppings to consider include cinnamon, sugar, slivered almonds or other nuts, dried fruit, berries or fresh fruit, raisins, and granola.
2 – Roast your vegetables beforehand.
To get vegetables ready for lunches and dinners throughout the week, spend one day roasting all the vegetables at one time. Choose vegetables with about the same cooking time, roast them together, then place in containers and freeze them.
4 – Use a vegetable spiralizer instead of pasta.
To make healthy, low-carb meals and meal prep at the same time, consider using a vegetable spiralizer. This takes vegetables like zucchini and squash and creates pasta out of them. Spiralize your veggies on a Sunday, then save them for the week’s ‘pasta’ meals. My kids absolutely love these!!!
5 – Cook all of your meat, then freeze portions for each meal.
Decide what meat you want to use for multiple meals, then bake or cook it all at the same time. Do this in the oven or your slow cooker. Meat like chicken breasts, fish filets, and strips of steak work great for this.
6 – Keep salad veggies and toppings in one container.
For your salads, you can make it faster to put them together by having all of the greens and vegetables together in containers. Keep all your greens in one big container, and all the chopped veggies, cheese, and other toppings in another container.
Are you ready to give these super easy meal prepping tips a try?
With these super easy meal prepping tips, you will be on your way to both meal planning and prepping like a pro. This is going to make you so much more productive in the kitchen because it saves you a lot of time, not to mention help you make healthier meals for your family.