I have always been envious of those people who are organized enough to do all their cooking for the week in one afternoon. My sister-in-law is one of those amazing people. I asked her if I could join her one day and learn how she does it. And of course, being the incredible person she is, she said yes. After learning from a pro, I tried it a few times. While I enjoyed it, I wasn’t very consistent. However, our daily schedule is getting a little more predictable as of late, so I have been motivated to do it again. And it has been amazing!!! I am now a HUGE fan of the prep once and eat all week philosophy.
After meal planning and grocery shopping, I spent four hours in the kitchen on Sunday, and I had healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks ready for the week. (I am not the most natural or adept in the kitchen, so many of you will be able to do this faster than me. But even if you are slow like me, there is hope!) Then, each evening during the week, I had dinner on the table in under 15 minutes!
Let me share with you in a little more detail what I did, since you’re not all lucky enough to live near my sister-in-law. Then you can download my Prep Once & Eat All Week Planner to help you organize your own afternoon of meal prep.
Here’s what I did.
When I sat down to plan my meals for the week, I decided on a veggie-packed tuna casserole that bakes in the microwave, burrito bowl salads, a vegetable frittata, and spaghetti sauce with zucchini noodles. (I realize that is only four dinner ideas, but we almost always eat leftovers one or two nights, sometimes use a crock pot freezer meal which I’ll share in another post, or occasionally we go out to eat.) For lunch, I planned to eat superfood salad (leftovers for my husband), and for breakfast, either green smoothies or steel cut oats.
LIST PREP STEPS FOR EACH MEAL
In order to make the week go as smoothly as possible, I made a list of everything I could prep for my meals ahead of time.
• Tuna casserole: chop veggies, boil pasta, assemble in a casserole dish
• Burrito bowl salads: chop veggies, saute chicken and sweet potatoes, make quinoa, assemble
• Frittata: chop veggies (save assembly and actual cooking for the evening we eat it)
• Spaghetti with zucchini noodles: make the spaghetti sauce (make noodles the night of)
• Superfood salad: food process the veggies, mix with extra quinoa from burrito bowl salads, pack in single-serving containers
• Steel cut oats: boil oats, chop nuts, place in single-serving containers
ORGANIZE AND ORDER THE PREP STEPS
I then combined all the tasks and decided in which order I should complete them to be the most efficient.
For example, I started the oats and quinoa first because they take the longest. Then I cut the chicken and sweet potatoes, so I could get those cooking.
As the oats and quinoa finished, I refilled those hot plates (while they were still hot) with the spaghetti sauce and pasta for the tuna casserole.
While all of those items cooked and cooled, I chopped everything else.
I also stirred up chocolate peanut butter protein balls to freeze for snacks.
Lastly, I assembled all the meals and put them in the fridge. I also had a sink full of dishes to deal with, but it wasn’t so bad knowing I wouldn’t have to do those dishes on busy weeknights.
FINAL WEEKNIGHT PREP
Then each evening after work, I completed the final step for each meal.
Tuna casserole: microwave for 10 minutes.
Burrito bowl salads: pour on plates.
Frittata: saute vegetables, add eggs, and broil.
Spaghetti with zucchini noodles: spiralize zucchini to make noodles, top with sauce, microwave for 2 minutes.
A FEW LAST MINUTE TIPS
Clean your kitchen beforehand, so you have ample space to work.
Run your dishwasher and empty it before your start. That way, at the end of your prep session when you’re starting to get tired, you can stick as many dishes as possible into the dishwasher. You’ll thank yourself later; believe me.
When planning your meals, be thoughtful about your meat choices. Consider how long you are normally comfortable leaving meat in your fridge (raw or cooked), and stick to those guidelines. Prepping a chicken meal on Sunday and not planning to eat it until Friday is probably not the best decision.
If you’re nervous how prepping ahead for the week will work for you, start small. Maybe prep just one or two meals for nights you know are going to be busy. See how it goes, and you can always adjust your plan the next week to prep more meals.
Download my Prep Once & Eat All Week Planner to help you become a pro.
I was nervous at first to give up a few hours of my weekend, but the time it saves me throughout the week more than makes up for it. I love being ready for the week as opposed to being exhausted and unmotivated each night. Here’s to another strong beginning!