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A Beginner’s Guide To Meal Prep

Written by Written By Anna Jacobs

Photography by Carolyn Murphy, Photographed By Kisha Bari

There’s a reason why everyone’s talking about meal prepping these days: it’s a sure-fire way to end those weeknight headaches and frequent runs to the grocery store, saving you both time and energy. Plus, planning ahead often means cutting down on takeout and wasting less food, which is great for both the environment and your wallet. Take a look at our ten tips below—they’ll set you up for easy nights and faster mornings, and help make healthy eating a breeze.

1. Get Organized
Buy a white board to stick on your fridge where you can write out the menu for the week. For a more discrete option, try menu-planning writing pads that you can keep on your desk and easily slip into your purse before your next trip to the grocery store. Writing down your plan for the week not only gets your kiddos excited about food, it will also give you more headspace as you go about your week.

2. Keep it Simple
Choose recipes that use simple, versatile ingredients. While it can be fun to experiment with new ingredients, opt out of recipes that require you to go out of your way to get obscure add-ins. Odds are you won’t regularly use them, and they’ll collect dust in your kitchen cabinet.

3. Do Your Research
On that note, why not try planning ahead by searching for recipes that share common ingredients. That stir-fry you made last night? Use the leftover broccoli and carrots in a quiche the evening after. Try using vegetable scraps as well. Beet greens and broccoli stems are delicious additions to salads or enjoyed on their own sautéed with a bit of olive oil.

4. Prep on Sundays
Really, whatever day of the week you’ve got in mind. Chopping veggies you use often (we’re looking at you, onions and garlic) will save you time during the week. Then, come dinner time, all you’ve got to do is throw the ingredients in the skillet and voilà! You’re chef mom, and everyone’s impressed.

5. Pick Veggies That’ll Last Longer
Hardy vegetables are your friend, your best friend, in fact. During your next trip to the grocery store, try selecting ingredients that will stay fresh in the fridge and in your leftovers. Not sure where to start? Carrots, kale, beets, and brussels sprouts can’t be beat.

6. Plan a Night Off
Whether that means inviting friends over for a potluck, getting takeout, or picking up a frozen pizza at your local Trader Joe’s, plan for a night or two to cut mama some slack. Meal prep is supposed to make your life easier (and your family’s, too!) It isn’t meant to hold you captive in your kitchen.

7. Use Your Freezer
Double the portions of what you’re cooking one night and toss it into the freezer for those nights you feel more inclined to kicking your feet up than sweating over the stove. You’ll be thanking yourself for thinking ahead, trust us. Likewise, if you have leftover spinach that’s starting to slime, whir it in the blender and stick in the freezer in an ice cube tray. Plop a block or two into your next stew for a healthy dose of greens.

8. Buy in Bulk
Is your family crazy over lentils? Rice? Couscous? Dried goods are easy to buy bulk, and doing so saves you money and adds more precious free time to your weekends and less time roaming grocery store aisles. Win-win.

9. Think Seasonally
Those blueberries that are flooding the farmer’s market these days? Toss a handful into your morning cereal, on top of your bowl of ice cream, and make a jar of jam that’ll last you all season long. Pack a few bags full of these blue gems and stuff them in the freezer to use in morning smoothies in months to come.

10. Think Out of the Box
Certain recipes seem better suited to certain times of year. Usually, soup says winter, but we recommend thinking beyond your winter soup routine and testing your hand at the chilled variety. Consider adapting your favorite seasonal recipes throughout the year with what’s fresh at the farmer’s market. The familiarity of these recipes will save you time, and your family will thank you for adding some variety into the routine.

Want even more quick tips to make your time in the kitchen easier? Be sure to read 10 Delivery Meal Services For Busy Mamas, A Week Of Family Meals, and Meals In A Bowl.

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