I get asked A LOT about what I meal prep. I wish I could say I have a fool proof system that is easy to replicate each week. But I don’t. I cook a lot of variety based on sales, seasons & to support my kitchen curiosity. I’m pretty sure I have a massive case of CADD (culinary attention deficit disorder) and despite my experience, interest and organization skills still manage to sit down to meal plan each week with a giant cartoon “WTF” thought bubble hanging over my head.
With that being said, there ARE certain things I do and have on hand each week that I’ve found either help me make planned dishes, or help me whip something together quickly if I’ve fallen off the meal plan wagon. Here’s a list of my “must dos” and “must haves” that make each week healthier & easier.
- I write it down. I love this grocery list and meal planner from Anthropologie. It’s straight forward enough, and the grocery list tears off; so it’s easy to jot down stuff you’re out of during the week and run to the store with it when doing your start-of-week grocery shopping. After I fill it out, I keep it taped to the fridge.
- Make a Sunday chicken. This is a Sunday staple in our house…and sometimes I even make two because as the kids have grown, the leftovers are less and less. Sure, you can also buy a rotisserie chicken, but you’d miss out on the best chicken ever. Leftovers can be chopped for easy finger foods or re-imagined as chicken tacos, added into soup or as chicken salad. Oh, and save the bones and add into the slow cooker for an overnight stock or bone broth that you can keep in the freezer.
- I keep snacks simple & consistent. I don’t normally snack, but when I do I grab an apple or handful of almonds. For the kids, I try to alternate between a veggie and a fruit. Our current favorites are cucumbers & hummus or multi-grain cereal w/ a clementine. Both are easy to take on the road and quick enough to get on the table to cure those post-nap blues. You already have enough on your plate with meals, keep snacks brainless.
- I make a big batch of whole grains. I usually make a big batch of brown rice or quinoa (or both) and then just use it to round out a quick dinner (like a roasted fish w/ sauteed spinach or adding black beans w/ grilled chicken). Having this pre-made makes other dishes like stuffed peppers, stir-fried quinoa/rice or even mix quinoa into meatballs, oatmeal or yogurt. Store in an airtight container and these pre-made grains will reheat nicely and there’s no need to make grains multiple times through the week.
- I make overnight oats 1-2x a week. If you aren’t already making overnight oats, you need to reconsider your life. Not an exaggeration. Eat cold or reheat, here’s a great basic recipe. Pinterest is full of loads of other ideas (blueberry vanilla, carrot cake!) — but make a simple version at the start of the week and you can easily get two or more breakfasts out of it for you and your tot-sized brood. Eat it cold, eat it hot, or <gasp!> form into patties and lightly sear on a griddle for new take on deliciousness.
- I wash, chop & store a lot of kale. A good friend of mine turned me onto this prep trick. Buy lacinato (dinosaur) kale instead of curly kale. It’s mild and WAY easier to prep. Simply cut out the core, then slice into thin strips. Wash well in a salad spinner. I recommend this OXO spinner — because not only can you wash in it, but it stores the kale for an entire week in your fridge and keeps it TOTALLY fresh. Having kale on hand this way makes sure I am always incorporating dark leafy greens into everything. I love mixing with garlic & whipped cream cheese to spread on an english muffin with lox. Or, sautee with pre-made quinoa and top with a fried egg. Or, stir into pasta. Or, toss a handful into smoothies. The possibilities are endless. Plus, when you eat kale a little bit all day long, you don’t have to sit down to an entire kale salad to make up for it.
- I buy pre-washed spinach. Some people don’t trust the “washed 3x” baby spinach. I take my listeria risk and deal with it, because it is SO easy and I’ve just picked my meal prep battles. Pre-washed baby spinach cooks SO quickly and you can, like the prepped kale, toss in so much stuff. My favorite is eggs, rice and smoothies.
- I keep whole fruit on hand. I’m not sure why, but I find cutting fruit so tedious. And buying pre-cut fruit is like throwing money away. So, my house is usually full of apples, clementines, bananas and blueberries. Not that we discriminate against fruit you need to cut…but I sort of do.
- I embrace jarred lemon/lime juice. I remember seeing those plastic yellow and green containers of lemon and lime juice in a friends’ refrigerator as a kid, and thinking they were so cool. But one taste, and I spent the rest of my life trying to squeeze lime juice out of dry limes and hoarding lemons. But, a pal turned me onto a jarred version that has literally converted me to a jarred juice enthusiast. My faves are: Santa Cruz 100% organic juices. As a lemon lover, I’m always using in dishes (especially marinades), and just keep a couple lemons and limes on hand for presenting or zesting, or those (strangely few) recipes that really do need the real deal.