Meal prepping…simplified!

Do you ever get really ambitious when meal planning for the week and not stop to think about how much time each of those meals will take you in really life? I’ve always thought recipes should include total time to make along with real life time to make. Because who starts cooking without remembering they need to switch the laundry right after getting the ingredients out? Then decides if they are really going to chop that many veggies they are going to need the right music streaming to get motivated? Or who doesn’t have a kid who uses their supersonic hearing and comes running to the kitchen the second you open the pantry doors? Hence, total time to make a recipe is 30 minutes but real life time is at least 50 minutes because who are we kidding, right? As a multi tasking mom who is constantly behind on laundry (may as well be honest, behind on anything cleaning related), I have figured out some tips to simplify meal prepping. I would love to share with all you out there who understood what I meant by needing the real life recipe time 😉 Ready to dive in and learn how you can use meal prepping to save your time and sanity each week? Here we go!

Common sense advice: be realistic!!!

That’s right, I just said that in my mom voice so you know I meant it! We all know Pinterest has some BOMB looking recipes that have “total cooking times” that aren’t realistic for those of us without sous chefs, precision knife skills, and approximately 500 square feet of countertop prepping space. When looking at those recipes and planning your meals for the week, consider your skill and comfort levels with cooking along with your real life time constraints before adding them to your meal plan.

Ok, let’s focus first on the more realistic kind of week that most people (if you are anything like me) can expect to have more often than not. Yes, the ever present and dreaded busy weeks when you aren’t sure how you are going to carve out time to eat let alone cook. Have no fear! You’ve got this! Make your meal plan realistic and choose recipes that won’t overwhelm you when it’s time to meal prep. Let me break that down a bit more..choose recipes with minimal ingredients and/or get multiple recipes for the week that utilize some of the same ingredients. Say you know you will have time to meal prep on Sunday because you will have your groceries by then but won’t have to be rushing after work or before the kid’s lessons that night.

What if you planned bacon, hash browns, omelettes and fruit for brunch that morning. Sounds simple and delicious and nothing too crazy time consuming right? Why not take that time you have and cook up extra ingredients (sauté extra veggies from the omelettes, bake extra bacon, and cook up more hash browns)? You are already washing, dicing, and cooking that stuff anyway and now you will have the makings already prepped for multiple meals later that week if you play your meal planning cards right.

I think I’m following here but maybe I need some details…

With that example let’s say you have leftover fruit. Throw it in your lunchbox with some granola and a container of yogurt and you have a breakfast parfait for when you get to work then next morning. Or if you’re more of a smoothie gal make it up right after brunch and pop it in the freezer than get it out when you wake up and it will be thawed enough to drink on your way to work. One night after work that week you could just cook up some chicken and use the leftover sautĂ©ed veggies for a quick stir fry over rice. Easy peasy! Hint: you could cook a little extra chicken at the same time and have the makings for a chicken wrap or some chicken to top an easy salad for a work lunch. Chicken is super crockpot friendly for those of you thinking that cooking chicken on a weeknight might be pushing it. And again, think about the end goal here..setting aside a little time to cook chicken once so you can use it in multiple ways and save yourself time on other nights! Still very basic meal plans for a hectic week but soooo much better than hitting up the drive through or grabbing a pizza on the way home from work (for the third week in a row).

But I digress, let’s get back to our simple example. Now what about the other brunch leftovers/early meal preps…extra hashbrowns, sautĂ©ed onion, and bacon – sounds like fixings for a loaded baked potato soup! Or maybe make up and freeze some breakfast burritos for an easy breakfast meal later on. Do you see where I’m going with this example? Besides us all now being hungry and craving brunch of course..double duty meal prep is lifesaving! You are making one meal and halfway done making the next by planning ahead and using your groceries and your time as smart as possible.

On the flip side of the pillow let’s say you have extra time this upcoming week. Those types of weeks are like unicorns in my world because it’s rare I have extra time but they are also my favorite and I usually try to do something new on the meal plan (whether it’s a method of cooking I haven’t tried or an ingredient I’ve never used or one of those never ending ingredient list recipes). Make sure you not only have the extra time that week but also that you pick something to make that you’re excited about so the extra time involved won’t deter you from wanting to cook and conquer that time consuming meal! I still recommend applying the same techniques explained about by using some of that special meal’s ingredient list for other meals that week. Perhaps just as important though, take advantage of the unicorn weeks and make an extra batch of whatever you have planned so you can freeze meals. You will thank yourself later, I promise you!

Holy moly guacamole mac & cheese, I think I’ve got it!

Now that you understand the thought process it’s time to put it into action. Seems daunting to actually follow this through in your real life but training your brain to think ahead is really and truly worth it. I can assure you it will get easier and easier to think this way regularly and you will be a meal prepping extraordinaire before you know it! Please feel free to share any tips you have with meal prepping, there are so many great ideas out there and I would love to hear yours!!!

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