I have been a healthy lifestyle advocate for a few years now. I love everything about eating whole foods, limiting my ingredients to things I can pronounce, and making sure that myself and my husband are fueled properly to live out God's plan for each day. With that being said, I completely understand how tedious meal prep can be, especially going into it without direction.
I didn't always live this lifestyle - up until a few years ago, my meal prep included a short drive to a local fast food eatery (that's a way of making Mcdonalds sound fancy!), so I know what the transition is like from made-for-you to making everything at home. It used to take me hours and hours to meal prep, and even then, I didn't really understand what it meant to properly prep for the week. I was left feeling unorganized, underprepared, and often times opened up a random tupperware container during my very short lunch break only to find salsa instead of soup.
Over time, I finally found a method of prepping that worked for me - and then I perfected it until I was able to fit all of my prep for the week in a 1 hour span. I prep in a very specific order - these tips and methods won't work for everyone, and eventually you'll find your own rhythm too, but in the mean time, they'll provide you with an outline and general direction to make your Sunday prep the most efficient and effective use of your time!
#1 - Start with a plan. I know you've probably heard me say this before, but I am begging you not to go into your kitchen and pull out the whole fridge/pantry without a plan. You'll end up with a mess and probably a very unbalanced diet for the week. Create a plan a few days before you need to prep. Use a nutrition program, check out your schedule to see what works for what days, look through your leftovers and what's going to go bad in the fridge, and then sit down and write/type it all out. This sets the tone for a smooth prep and week of on-track eats. This is the plan I use, and it's a serious life-saver. If you want to chat more about it, head over to The Challenge tab and get in touch!
#2 - Start with a clean kitchen and supplies. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of prepping and having to stop to do the dishes because your cutting board is dirty, or having to navigate around clutter. Clear a workspace for yourself before you start! Be sure that you have plenty of tupperware to pack up your prepped meals. My favorites are the Ziploc brand lunchbox organizers. They save us! And they're affordable enough to have a bunch of extras, that way you don't have to do a mid-week prep to re-use them.
#3 - Start with the foods that have the longest cook time. We bake sweet potatoes every week, and they take around 45 minutes. If I start with them, they'll be done by the time I'm done. If you wait until the end to make the things that need time in the oven, you'll have to remember to check back for it (hello, smoke alarm.. been there!)
Bonus; perfect roasted sweet potatoes - stab several holes in the potatoes, lay on cookie sheet covered with foil and bake on 450 degrees for 45 minutes. Cut potatoes in half to make sure they're soft throughout. If they aren't, place them back in the over for 5 minutes once cut open.
#4 - Wash all fruit that you're going to eat throughout the week. I know this sounds so basic, but it's such a huge timesaver to have all of your fruit washed when you're ready to grab and go. If it's berries, you can also slice them and portion them!
#5 - Slice all veggies that you'll be using for the week. This is something I never used to do because it sounds so quick and easy, but I found myself having to cut veggies in the morning to go in eggs, then rush to cut any veggies for my salads at lunch, and then come home from work and have to cut veggies before putting dinner together, which sucks when you're already starving. Slice those veggies and toss them in some tupperware, that way you only need to combine ingredients to create meals quickly.
#6 - Store the things that don't stay fresh in water. Sliced carrots and celery specifically get a little soft once they're cut. If you store them in water and simply drain them right before using, they'll stay fresh!
#7 - Make anything that you're going to use daily in bulk! We make our own salad dressing because there's so many additives and chemicals in store bought dressings. I was making this several times a week - why?! What a waste of time and dirty dishes! Figure out the total amount of what you need and make a batch large enough to cover the whole week. Plus, there's creative ways to store this stuff that look adorable. Isn't everything better in a mason jar? Other examples of this are brown rice, quinoa, and pasta sauce.
#8 - Roast your side dishes. Another "large batch" concept here - when you're cutting up all those veggies, toss a bunch in olive oil or coconut oil, seasoning, and throw it in the oven alongside the sweet potatoes. They will take less time than the potatoes, so as long as you have them in there by the halfway point, they should be good to go in your 1 hour prep time span.
#9 - Portion your pantry. Everything that isn't perishable can be portioned and packaged up for the week. Almond butter, nuts and seeds, popcorn, raisins, etc. DONE and out of the way!
#10 - Stack your days. I'll preface this with: if you have the room. I know it can be a tight squeeze in a full fridge, but if you're able to put all of the things you'll need for each day in a stack, you can literally grab and go. If not, it's not necessary, it just makes it a tinnnny bit quicker.
There you have it. 60 minutes of constructive, productive, healthy meal prepping! Do you have any meal prep secrets that make your days easier?! I'd love to hear them!