Readers, let’s talk meal prep and meal planning! What sorts of things do you guys meal prep? Are you getting into it more as you work at home more? Are you doing it for health reasons, diet reasons, monetary reasons, or others?
For my $.02, the big thing that I try to prepare in advance is fruits and vegetables. I tend to be one of those people who either eats 10 servings a day or 0 servings, so I’m trying to raise the bar on my lower days. Stuff I’ve been doing to meal prep veggies:
- pre-portioning frozen berries — For some reason it’s too hard to remember to do this every day, so I have two little glass ramekins that I use to portion some frozen berries, and a third serving goes directly into the bowl I’ll use for that day’s yogurt + berries mix. If I were to be fancier about it I’d use a few different types of frozen berries (or if I were planning for a smoothie I’d throw in a handful of spinach or kale), but for some reason it’s a ton easier to grab a tiny ramekin and set it on the counter to defrost than have to open the bag, find a container, etc. (I just stick the ramekin back in the freezer when I’m done instead of having to keep washing/finding new ones for my rotation.)
- chopping celery or other veggies — For some reason, if I allow a bunch of celery to go into the crisper without being chopped, I forget about it entirely and find it a week later. Yet I’ve realized if I chop it immediately after it enters the house, we eat it all. So… go figure. I may try it this summer when I’m in the mood for more traditional crudités too.
- roasting a big batch of carrots or Brussels sprouts — I’ll eat these cold or hot over several days. If you feel like you can never finish that bag of baby carrots, this is a great option for them.
- preparing TWO bowls of veggies with spices and dressings at a time — Eat one, put the second in the fridge for a day or two in the future. I do this with frozen broccoli / olive oil / lemon / red pepper / garlic, as well as with French-cut green beans / sesame oil / sesame seeds / umami seasoning / garlic / onion. Easy peasy, and it’s a good way to get a healthy oil in.
I also plan a week’s worth of meals at a time (basically by having broad categories like Meatless/Soup or Salad/Chicken or Seafood/Very Light), and sometimes there are things I can do ahead of time to help prepare the meals: defrosting ingredients, measuring spices, even pre-cooking certain ingredients like dry beans or quinoa.
As the weather gets warmer I may try some Mason jar salads, also!
Some of my favorite products for meal prep are pictured below… We especially have a ton of glass Snapware that we use all the time (Costco also has them), and we just got these little covered Anchor Hocking bowls that I use for my frozen fruit.
I’ve also bought some of these plastic meal prep containers (I can’t find the exact link to the ones I bought, dangit). I’m not a big fan of them for the kids’ lunches or anything requiring transport, but the cheap ones do stack nicely, and I’ll freeze portions of steel-cut oats in them and use them to portion things out like crackers if I’m on a “eat crackers in the morning” kick. (We’ve been a fan of these sturdier plastic Bentos for the kids’ lunches.)
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Readers, how much do you do meal prep or meal planning (and how has it changed over, say, the last year or so)? What are your favorite things to meal prep — and what are your favorite shortcuts, storage products, and more?
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My pain point is processing meat when I get it home from the store. It’s too daunting to deal with an entire tray of chicken that needs skinning and deveining, so I toss it in the freezer where it languishes until it gets freezer burn. I have to force myself to immediately do it at the end of the grocery trip, so I categorize whether I’m doing an “odds and ends” shop or a “meal prep” shop. Meal prep shops only happen on planned early evenings or weekend mornings, leaving me plenty of time to attend to the processing and packaging.
I’ve realized I’m just not going to process meat to this extent, so buy it more ready to go. Its a bit more expensive, but far less so than wasting it entirely! Even at my chain grocery store, the butcher will do it fresh daily.
Picks your food battle, especially when they are with yourself.
Just buy skinless. Also what is deceiving? I’ve never done this.
A lot of people love it, but I specifically don’t meal prep because I found that it was taking up valuable time on the weekend that I’d rather be spending on hobbies and trips (I was also a bit scarred from talking with a friend who spent 5+ hours every single Sunday prepping food – it just isn’t the life for me). I opt instead for easy, quick, basic meals on weeknights that can use pantry staples paired with whatever we have fresh and in the freezer.
+1. I’ve done both, and for me, I want to REST and play on the weekends. I’m OK with steaming frozen veggies or buying pre-seasoned meals for easy dinners.
I also found meal prepping to be daunting and take up valuable weekend time. I make 2-3 extra servings of most meals when I cook instead. I use some for my lunch and some I throw in the freezer. After enough time of doing this, at any given time I have a wide variety of single-serve meals in the freezer I can use for lunches and/or dinner.
As someone else noted, I also have a rotation of 20ish easy meals I can throw together with my CSA box and pantry staples. It’s a big enough variety that we don’t get bored.
I used to do most of my meal prep over the weekend–but since I’ve been WFH the last year, I now do it throughout the week. I have a big container filled with mixed greens, and I’ll keep chopped veggies in a separate container and some protein in another container. The proteins and dressings I mix up for variety. These usually lasts 3-4 days. And then I probably make dinner every 2-3 days with enough for leftovers. I definitely stress much less about meal prep now that I’m home all the time.
We meal plan each weekend before a grocery order, but do zero meal prep once we buy the groceries, until the actual meal time. We also don’t eat meat every night, so maybe that’s part of it?
For meal planning, we do Taco Tuesday with pre-bought shredded pork, Friday Pizza, one night of chicken, one night of beef, and the rest are veggie or fish. We have 4 or 5 main meals for each meat and a couple more for pescatarian nights, so we just rotate through those based on what sounds good or what activities we had on the calendar (in the Before Times).
(If interested: beef is burgers, slow cooker roast, Marlboro Man sandwich from Pioneer Woman, chili, and beef bulgogi. Chicken is orange chicken, shredded chicken quesadillas, chicken cordon bleu, and chicken piccata. Seafood is salmon, tilapia, popcorn shrimp, or shrimp rolls. Veggie is much more extensive but includes minestrone soup, quinoa stuffed peppers, spaghetti, zucchini “pizza” boats, etc.) We always include two sides with each meal, almost always some combo of veggies or bread/grain. Everything is limited to about 30 minutes start to finish each night – which means we’re say, buying orange chicken from Trader Joes and cooking it in the air fryer.
Lunches are just for us adults working at home (the kids are in a school where every kid qualifies for free lunch) so we have avocado toast with salmon or caprese salad almost every weekday, and then grilled cheese/tomato soup and mac and cheese for weekends.
I plan the week ahead and meal prep every weekend. it takes about 3 hours and I do it sunday afternoon when i’m also making sunday dinner (which is usually one of the meals I prep) so the time isn’t too much and it makes my weeknights SO MUCH easier. I make a big batch of protein (say put 5# of chicken breast in the instant pot) and then plan ~3 meals to use with that (i.e. chicken chili, tacos, buffalo chicken stuffed potatos) and then make the accompaniments so all i have to do the day of is really quick reheat/saute/assembly. I have to credit this strategy from a cookbook i use a lot called Cook Once, Eat All Week. it’s great.
I don’t prep very much (especially a year into WFH) but do have staples we generally keep topped up and ready in the fridge: steel cut oatmeal and boiled eggs. I frequently make double batches of beans and freeze one.
I do plan extensively but I reverse plan. I am extremely budget conscious and picky about quality so I shop first and then come home and plan six night meals. I have blank templates I mount in a hard plastic sleeve on the door of my pantry. There is a column for night before prep and one for last minute fresh “must-buys”.
DH and I redistributed all cooking and prep tasks this year when we went pescatarian (mostly vegan with fish 1-2x per week) in December. My husband is a celiac and has a dairy allergy so eating out is next to impossible. This is our standard formula.
– We have a shared google sheet that has a tab with our weekly meal plan and another tab for groceries we both add to as needed throughout the week.
-My Tasks: I meal plan, grocery shop, AM Smoothies, lunches, Sunday Dinner, Salad Dinner nights 2x a week
-His Tasks: Cooks scratch dinner 2x per week, Easy Friday dinner (normally pizza or veggie burgers wrapped in lettuce) any weekly prep that involves chopping (I hate chopping and it’s relaxing for him)
My Sunday Meal Prep Tasks: portion out smoothie kits, make a pot of soup Sundays for easy lunches 2-3x week, and feed/drain our continuous brew kombucha. I also prep beverages before bed each night-coffee set-up for him, loose tea baskets for me, cold steep tea, and fill the glass water bottles we keep in the fridge.
His Monday Meal Prep: Chop purple cabbage, shred some carrots, remove radish greens and store in jar with water, chop romaine, chop purple onion. Then he makes a big batch of pico de gallo every other week and does sacking veggies on the weeks he doesn’t do pico
With the veggies he preps I can make a ton of different things: toss them in salads, pad thai, loaded avocado toast, stuff in sandwiches or wraps, toss into stir-fried rice, bean & veggie quesadillas
On weekends, cook quinoa to eat during the week. Hard boil some eggs. Roast veggies. Roasted beets are great to throw on a salad w/ goat cheese and pecans mid-week. Roasted beets also are great for smoothies. Double a special recipe on weekends. Freeze half and save the remainder we don’t eat on weekend as leftovers for the week.