Healthy, homemade meals don’t just happen, especially when you’ve got a busy, dynamic household with several mouths to feed, but spending hours in the kitchen isn’t an option for many of us. Although meal prep can be helpful and productive, it can also feel challenging to find the time—and overwhelming to organize all the tasks to make it happen. Try one or more of the tips below to bring more ease to preparing your family’s meals.
1. Write it in your calendar
Pick a standing day and time to meal plan, another to grocery shop and one more to meal prep. Put it in your calendar and stick to it. Once it’s in your schedule, you’ve given yourself one less thing to think about or plan—and you’ve made meals simpler by setting up all the tasks to get them made.
2. Plan to eat
Review your schedule for the week and determine what to cook from scratch (those nights you have more time to cook) and what to fill in with your batch-cooked food (those nights when you have little or no time or energy to meal prep). Then, plot out meal solutions and options that you know you can prepare with the time you have available in your schedule. Synching what you eat to how much time you have to prepare meals makes you more efficient in the kitchen and helps you when you need it the most.
3. Make a grocery list when you create your meal plan
While you’re planning out your weekly menu and have all of your recipes and meal ideas in front of you, make your grocery list. By completing all of your shopping for the week at one time, you’ll not only save time and money, but you’ll also create more ease in your daily routine.
4. Wash and store your produce when you get home from the store
Cut vegetables and store them in water-filled mason jars, shred lettuce for salads and spiralize vegetables. Meal prep will be quicker and easier because all of your ingredients will be ready to go when you need them.
5. Focus on 4-6 recipes that will speed up dinner during the week
After you’ve created your weekly menu, identify parts of the meals or recipes that can be made in advance and stored until ready to use, such as sauces, soups and casseroles. Marinated proteins and roasted vegetables can also be prepped ahead of time and then transformed into meals quickly with just a couple other ingredients later in the week. Meal prep will be faster and simpler with a few things ready in advance.
6. Set up “stations” when you prep
During your batch cooking session for the week, organize your cooking so that your time in the kitchen is always active. Prep foods that need to marinate, bake or roast first. While those foods are in the oven, complete any stovetop cooking. While those foods roast and cook, blend and mix sauces and dressings. Set out the tools and ingredients for each recipe together.
Stephanie Dreyer is a plant-based meal planning expert, an award-winning children’s book author, and the founder of Batch Cooking Club, a weekly meal prep membership that makes meal time easier.