Meal Prep: Surviving a Week

For years I struggled with what to make for dinner, and having dinner served at a reasonable hour. Many of us have very busy lives whether it is going from work, extra curricular activities, or just everyday life. I've found that if I plan out my meals, it's one less thing to worry about. It's this one little thing that makes a world of difference and saves on time and my sanity. Here you will find my guideline on how we make up our meal planners:

Breakfast - We don't really plan out Breakfast meals at our house. Unless there is a large breakfast planned for Mother's or Father's Day, we kind of fly by the seat of our pants. I'll admit I'm terrible for eating breakfast in the morning. I know it's supposed to be one of the most important meals of the day, but I can't bring myself to eat until I've been up for a few hours. I don't even drink coffee in the morning (I know GASP). My little guy will eat some cereal and fruit, really anything you put in front of him (he loves food). My oldest on the other hand is very picky and has many other contributing factors (Food allergies, ADHD and Autism), so recently, he's been starting off his day with a Protein shake and his bribe to drink it (a piece of dark chocolate). I like to keep home made baked goods on hand for quick breakfast on the go, it could be anything from banana bread to blueberry muffins. We've also been known to have pop tarts, cereal and other not so healthy choices too. (Insert Mom Guilt here) Pinterest has a ton of great Recipes for on the go breakfast or muffin tin meals.

Lunch - Lunches are another meal we don't exactly plan for per say, but prep. Sunday evening I will prep the lunches for work and school.  My hubby hates leftovers and will not eat a sandwich in his lunch (if he does it has to be deconstructed and he will build it himself). He likes snacking foods or things he can eat on the go. So I will prepare veggies, fruits, crackers, and other snacks. I keep all things that need to be refrigerated in Tupperware containers and dry snacks will either go in reusable snack bags (or disposable depending on the day and what's clean). My oldest doesn't take a traditional lunch either. He loves his fruits and vegetables, but due to his medication, his hunger depends on his activity level for the day. I consider it a win if he has eaten one thing from his lunch the entire day. On days where he has eaten most of his lunch we do a happy dance. Lunches for myself and the little guy depend what leftovers we have on hand, we also like to nibble on cut up veggies and fruits. We tend to graze on smaller snacks than larger meals.

Dinner - I like to plan the meals out for dinner for the week. It helps keep things a little more organized in this chaotic thing we call life. Let me tell you the weeks I forget to do this, it's a much different environment here compared to when we do. I'll be found scrambling trying to figure out  what I'm going to feed my family.

In truth, my little secret is I practically plan out a months worth of dinners to avoid too much repetition. I literally chicken scratch on a lined piece of paper before I finish my final draft for the week. The final weeks are never set in stone until just before that week. Even then if changes need to be made for whatever reason, I can always swap something out. Planning this way helps significantly reduce the amount of food waste in our household . It helps in creating my grocery list too. I do a major shop every 2 weeks and on the weeks in between I usually only have to grab produce or something I may have run out of. The last few weeks can be moved around and planned as needed.

Once I have a general idea of what I might be making for the week, I go over our pantry to see what I may or may not need for that week. If I already have it on hand that's a bonus for us. I also like to look at the calendar and compare what I have drafted to what is going on in our lives. Sometimes a little bit of tweaking is required. If I know I'm going to be out all day at appointments and what not, I'll make sure I have something quick planned for that evening or I'll make something in the slow cooker. Mine has been a life saver, and with the colder weather approaching it will get used a lot.

Pantry Staples: Flour, Sugar, Olive Oil, an innocuous oil (such as canola), Beef or Chicken Stock, Dried or Canned Beans, Canned Tomatoes, Jarred Olives, BBQ Sauce and other Family Favourite Condiments, Active Yeast, and a well stocked spice cabinet to name a few.

We make a lot of things from scratch around here. I can't remember the last time I bought buns, french, or specialty breads. So keeping baking supplies on hand for us is a must. But not everyone has the time or patience for baking like that, so each family's staples may look different. 

By roughly planning out the month I can use leftovers from larger meals on a different night. Example, when I make lasagna, I make a very large pan and freeze the other half. I literally only have to pull it out of the freezer and right into the oven and voila, a home cooked meal. The same goes for soups, chili and pasta sauce. I freeze those things in freezer bags, thaw when needed and heat. 

We also have quick cheat meal nights, that may be a night for take out, or just something easy like a box of KD. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to always prepare the best meals or home cooked meals. Meals vary from family to family. Again, every household is different. 

I like to also have as much prep as possible done ahead of time. If time allows I will spend and entire day baking goods, or mixing dough for later use. I may also precook some meats and freeze to allow for something on those quick nights. An example would be chicken for fajitas, tacos, salads, wraps etc. I'll make extra either on a specific night from a meal and freeze it, or I'll plan out and dedicate a specific day to precooking some meat. At the beginning of the week I tend to cut up a large amount of produce. Both my boys love their veggies so I like to have some ready to go at all times. It also helps to have some prepped that will be used in the meals for the week. If it's already cut up and prepared it's likely to be used completely before it spoils.

 It may seem like a lot of work, and sometimes it is, but really it's all worth it. It takes the stress out of cooking for a family and allows me a little extra time during a week night to either get something done or spend time with my kids. It also makes a great family activity to do together (well not so much my hubby) but my kids both enjoy helping. The youngest makes it a little harder, but my oldest will now help cut up produce or roll out dough, either way, we're cooking together and making memories. 

Hope you found some of this helpful. Happy Planning

~ Mommy Dearest


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