Preparing ingredients and meals in advance can be a massive time-saver for busy families. By dedicating a few hours on the weekend to planning and prepping, your weeknights are made easier and meals can take less than half the time to get onto the table.
As you will see from my meal prep, I emphasize ingredient preparation over full on meals. I like to have ingredients ready so that I have some freedom to create and whip meals together on the fly. This is what works for me, but do what is best for you. I have included meals in this blog for those of you who prefer that.
Before we dive in to the meal prepping, a few notes on minimizing your time in the kitchen doing the prep. My strategy with meal prep is do as much as possible, when in the kitchen for more freedom during the week. Here’s how I achieve that:
1. Buy a second (or 3rd) slow cooker. I have 2 because they’re inexpensive (Costco always has them) and extremely hands off. I like to take advantage of pulling one out and using it by also pulling out the second one at the same time. It makes clean-up less intimidating too since you’re already slicing and dicing for 1 slow cooker. Why not double it up?!
2. Wash all of your produce in advance, even if you’re not using it right now. You can’t possibly meal prep every item you’ll need for the week ahead but if you have all of your produce washed, you’re saving a ton of time when you need it.
3. Do a little bit of dinner planning. Try to think of things that you’d like to make so that you can meal prep complimentary items. For example, I meal prepped both rice and beef stew so that I can have a hearty meal of beef stew with rice. I can also have the rice with my pulled chicken and roasted veggies. Down below you’ll find a guide for how to use all of the items in various ways for inspiration.
4. Start with the items that take the longest. I always start my meal prep with root veggies because they take the longest to cook, requiring about 45-60 minutes of oven time. While these cook I have time to prep other items for the oven and items that don’t require cooking like chopping up fresh lettuce for salads.
5. Prioritize your items. Vegetables are always top of my list when it comes to preparing healthy meals for my family. I want to ensure that I have those ready because most of our meals revolve around plenty of veggies. I get those things done first.
6. Store your items in glass containers that you can see through. This helps your items stay fresher, longer, stacks nicely in the fridge or pantry and reduces your reliance on plastic bags and containers.
15 Things to Meal Prep for Busy Families
1. Root Veggies– sweet potatoes, beets, squash. Slice veggies in half, place them face down on a parchment lined baking tray and bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes.
2. Hearty Veggies– avoid watery vegetables like zucchini as they don’t last long or taste great re-heated. Rely on things like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots which do well after a few days in the fridge.To prepare: Toss them in some avocado oil, sea salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake at 375 on a parchment lined baking tray for 20-25 minutes. Chop any additional veggies you would like to have on hand for other recipes or to enjoy raw. I reserved a few carrots and cut them into coins for a beef stew recipe (below). 3.
3. Pumpkin Seeds- Use raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds. Toss desired amount in a little bit of olive oil, add some salt and bake at 375 for 4-6 minutes, keeping an eye on them to prevent burning.
4. Basmati Rice– cook desired amount according to package instructions. To remove excess starch and to prevent clumping rinse the rice in cold water before cooking. Add cardamom pods, star anise, salt and pepper to flavour the rice during the cooking process.
5. Hemp Milk- to a blender add, 8 cups filtered water, 3/4 cup of hemp seeds 1 tbsp of maple syrup, 1 tsp of vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt. Blend on high for 30 seconds. No need to strain.
6. Chia Pudding- use 4 cups of hemp milk and whisk in 1 cup of chia seeds. Whisk 1/2 cup at a time to prevent clumping. Add 2 tbsp of maple syrup, 2 tsp vanilla extra and a pinch of sea salt. Place it in the fridge for 1 hour, take it out, stir well and place it in the fridge to set overnight.
7. Romaine Hearts, 2 ways:
- Tear the leaves off and store them in a container with paper towel.
- Cut your romaine hearts into bite-sized pieces for salads. Store with a piece of paper towel to assist with keeping the lettuce crunchy and fresh.
8. Sliced Onion- slice your onion any way you like. I prefer thin slices so that I can easily use them in most recipes, they’re easy to dice if I need diced onions and they work well on salads, burgers and in wraps.
9. Fresh Herbs, 2 ways:
1. Roughly chopped to be used in recipes
2. Left whole to be used as garnish
10. Bacon- spread your bacon out on a parchment lined baking tray, you can use a wire rack too if you like. Bake at 400, halfway to your desired doneness. Leave a few strips of bacon to cook for additional time, until nice and crispy. Let cool and crumble for instant bacon bits.
11. Easy Beef Stew– this is a ‘no recipe, recipe’: place the following ingredients into a slow cooker: 1.5lbs of stewing beef, browned in a cast iron skillet with ghee, 3 minutes on each side; 6 cups of bone broth, 1 cup of chopped carrots, 1/4 cup of tomato paste, a large handful of dried mushrooms (if using fresh, add during the last hour of cooking time), 2 tsp of thyme, 2 tsp of garlic powder, 2 tsp of onion powder, 2 tsp of sea salt, black pepper and 2 bay leaves. During the last hour of cooking you can also add peas with your mushrooms, if desired. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
12. Slow Simmering Pulled Chicken– another ‘no recipe, recipe’: add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the bottom of your slow cooker. Add a layer of onions followed by 4-6 free range chicken breasts, patted dry and seasoned with sea salt. add another layer of onions and seasoning if desired. Add a good quality BBQ or simmering sauce and cover the chicken with the sauce. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Once the chicken is done, pull it apart with a fork to create pulled chicken.
13. Salad Dressing: you can find a full recipe here: http://bit.ly/2DtJdRb Or simply do 2 parts (example, 2 cups) olive oil to 1 part acid (example, 1 cup) or citrus (apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar etc), add 1-2 tsp of honey, 1 tbsp of grainy mustard or dijon, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper. Whisk together.
14. Grated Cheddar– use a high-quality cheese from grass-fed goats or cows and simply grate it.
15. Overnight Oats: 2 1/2 cups of gluten-free rolled oats, 2 1/4 cups of hemp milk, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/4 cup collagen powder, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tsp vanilla extract, cinnamon to taste and a pinch of sea salt. Stir well and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, if desired, add more liquid, warm on the stove top for a minutes, top with sautéed bananas or stewed berries or apples. Add your favourite toppings.
How to Use Your Meal Prepped Items
Chia Pudding– top with sliced apples, peanut or almond butter and pumpkin seeds
Overnight Oats– top with sliced banana, berries, pumpkin seeds and anything else you enjoy on your oats
Bacon & Eggs– reheat some bacon in a pan or in the oven, mash the eggs with a fork and serve with fresh avocado
Simple Salad– using a bed of romaine lettuce, top with; bacon bits, grated cheddar, sliced onions, pumpkin seeds, fresh olives and your homemade salad dressing.
Pulled Chicken Wraps– using your romaine leaves, fill with pulled chicken and fresh herbs serve with a side of mashed sweet potatoes.
Lazy Devilled Eggs– cut your eggs in half, add a dollop of mayonnaise and top with fresh and dried herbs of choice.
Beef Stew– top with fresh herbs, add rice or cooked squash if desired
Pulled Chicken with Veggies– using a sweet potato, top it with some chicken and serve with a side of roasted veggies
Bacon-Cheddar Omelet– make a large-, family-family-size omelet with bacon and cheese, top with fresh herbs and serve with a side of roasted beets and a simple romaine salad.
Macro Bowl: in a large bowl, add warmed rice, vegetables, a boiled egg, pulled chicken and top with fresh herbs and sliced onions. Add your favourite seasonings such as ginger, coconut aminos and sesame seed oil.
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