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Meal Prep & Planning 101: How I Meal Prep

Last week I shared my meal planning process with you. This week I want to share how I meal prep. I split my meal prep into two different days. I do all my produce and fruit prep on Friday mornings after I grocery shop on Thursdays. I do everything else that requires cooking on Sunday mornings. I used to do it all on Sunday’s but it’s football season now and I’m going to be parked on my couch watching football at 1pm on Sundays. It’s tradition. 

First, let’s talk about the produce and fruit prep. I try to buy the vegetables and fruit that are in season to keep the costs down and I almost always buy the weekly specials at ALDI. The kids take at least one fruit every day for lunch and they also like to eat them as snacks so I do buy a wide variety of fruits. This past week I bought strawberries, blueberries, pears, clementines, plums, red and green apples, and red grapes. For our dinner prep, I bought brussel sprouts, squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and green beans. 

 

I bought these amazing containers to help extend the freshness of our produce. I got tired of throwing away fruit and vegetables that went bad after a few days because the kids didn’t eat it fast enough. I found some on sale at ALDI for $5.99 and I bought the rest on Amazon. I bought the small size to hold berries, baby carrots, cucumbers, etc. and I bought the large size to hold dinner vegetables and larger quantities of fruits. I can’t believe how much longer our fruits and vegetables last now! Every Friday morning I wash the fruits and vegetables that need washing, slice the ones that need slicing, and put them into containers. I have a drawer dedicated to fruit in my fridge for the stuff that doesn’t need a container such as pears, apples, clementines, plums, peaches, etc. It only takes me half an hour at most. 

On Sunday mornings I get up early to get my weekly prep done. I tend to make similar things every week so it doesn’t take as long now that I have a routine. This week I prepped a large container of spaghetti, a large container of macaroni & cheese with turkey dogs cut up, a large container of white cheddar shells, a large container of Big Mac Sloppy Joe meat, a large container of Italian pasta salad, a large container of tossed salad, 24 mini egg quiche muffins, and 36 Bacon cheeseburger puffs.

Pro Tip: Use one pot to make all the pastas to save on dishes. I make all my pasta dishes back to back with the exception of the spaghetti because it gets made in the Instant Pot. First I boil the noodles for the pasta salad. While the noodles are boiling I cut the vegetables so when the noodles are done I can drain them and pour them immediately into a container where I mix all the other ingredients. I start more water boiling in the same pot for the macaroni and cheese. When the macaroni noodles are done boiling I drain them and pour them into a container where I’ll add the butter, milk, and cheeses to mix so the main pot doesn’t get dirty. Then I can go ahead and start the water boiling for the white cheddar shells and I repeat the same process. After the pasta dishes are done I use the same pot to cook the ground beef. I normally cook 3lbs of ground beef every week. One pound goes into the spaghetti and the other 2 pounds get turned into taco meat or Big Mac Sloppy Joe meat.

The kids eat on the dishes I prep all week long for lunches and for snacks after school or our Find Your Own/Fridge Clean Out dinner nights. I’ve found that this is a really cost effective way to feed my kids. First, having ready made foods they like in the fridge makes them less likely to try and eat the lunch snacks. Second, making everything instead of buying pre-made convenience items is way cheaper. It costs me approximately $4.80 to make a very large container of spaghetti that lasts 4-5 days. And I sneak more vegetables into the spaghetti so it’s healthier than frozen hot pockets and pizza rolls. 

It makes me happy to see my fridge stocked with healthy and easy options for the kids to eat during the week. A little bit of effort on my part has made such a difference in our household. The kids are in much better moods in the early evenings because they can eat a substantial snack when they get home that holds them over until dinner. We typically don’t eat dinner until 6:30-7 so a good snack is vital to the mood stability in my house. Hungry tweens and teens are a bad bad idea.

I don’t place restrictions on the prepped food. If one of my kids is hungry at 9pm then they know it’s perfectly fine for them to come get a bowl of spaghetti or macaroni and cheese. One of mine doesn’t eat breakfast because it hurts her stomach. So she takes an extra snack to school and will eat a large bowl of one of the pasta dishes as soon as she gets home from school. We don’t participate in the clean plate club at our house. I don’t believe anyone should be forced to eat. I require the kids to take at least 2 decent sized bites of whatever vegetable I serve that night but I never force them to clean their plates. Teaching healthy eating habits is important to me because I’ve always had a very complicated relationship with food and I don’t want my kids to follow down that path.

Come back next week to read the first post in my Lunch Prep and Planning series! You can find all the posts in my Meal Planning & Prep and Lunch Planning & Prep series HERE

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