Ok, so I’ve discussed Meal Planning here, and I try to post our weekly meal plans on Mondays, but I’m sure you’ve wondered if/how I actually do it.
One of my secrets is that I try and do meal prep and batch cooking once every few weeks. For us that means:
- Setting aside an hour or so after grocery shopping to clean the produce, and prep it in single serving containers (they are reusable, don’t worry) if they are for lunches or snacks. Little bags of carrots, or grapes are both popular in our house.
- I make my own smoothie kits too- cut up over ripe bananas and other fruits and put them into single servings ziploc bags.
- Make frozen veggie bags too: I cut up onions, carrots, and celery for mire poix bags. They are the perfect base for most dishes, especially soups. I also cut up fresh brocolli, cauliflower, bell pepper strips. Whatever I bought that we’ll be using in recipes.
- Depending on what is on the menu for the next week or two, I’ll prep some of the proteins. I try to buy large packages of proteins, and re-package them with herbs and seasonings perfect for meals. Mostly chicken, because we don’t really eat all that much meat. Sometimes I’ll even prep ground beef into hamburger patties. This afternoon, I made chicken meatballs. I’ve included the recipe below.
- Once the veggies are prepped and bagged, and the proteins are prepped and bagged, I get a bigger zip top bag and place everything needed for one meal into it, write on a sticky what it is, put the sticky on the bag and pop it into the freezer. Then we are all set to get cooking!
- I try and prep a few crockpot meals as well. Salsa Chicken, Moosie’s Pot Roast are two great options. Crockpot freezer meals are perfect for those mornings when you know you’ll want a hot meal after work, but won’t be in the mood to cook.
- I also like to break up large packages of cheese, like I did here. Less waste, and we’re less likely to eat all of the cheese quickly.
- Making baked goods. I prefer to make muffins, brownies, and cookies at home, that way I can control the amount of sugar that the family consumes. I also add little healthy things: milled flax seeds, pumpkin, bananas. I try to do healthy swaps that aren’t really noticeable. This is a favorite cake in our house. It’s also great as muffins too. This time of year I also like to make Pumpkin Donuts too. YUM.
All of these things make meal planning a lot easier. Having ingredients already chopped, proteins mixed with seasoning, even snacks pre-packaged and set in a specific area of the kitchen.
I use a plastic Sterilite Basket to pack most of our shelf stable snacks that go into our lunches. I frequently skip buying large containers of pre-packaged snacks unless they are a better deal. If you notice, the goldfish are in Ziploc bags. The kids bring them home and I reuse them. But I only reuse them for more snacks.
I have a second shelf that stores all of our crackers (saltine, Ritz, graham, etc.) and puffed rice rolls, we eat those at other times besides lunch, but I grab them and pack them into individual containers or plastic bags for lunch as well.
Not shown are the lunch drinks which I have to keep hidden from the kids so they don’t drink them all after school/on weekends. I have a cache of goodies in the fridge and free to have in our lunches: fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese sticks, milk boxes, and bottles of water to choose from.
This “hack” aka pantry shortcut keeps my time making lunches a lot shorter, and I can spend more time with my kids!
Recipe: Ground Chicken Meatballs
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 of a white onion, minced
- 1 /2 Teaspoon of each: Salt, garlic powder, pepper
- 2 T
- Mix all ingredients (except oil) in a large bowl until well combined.
- Divide mixture into 12-20 balls and roll between your palms until uniform in size.
- Place meatballs on a cookie sheet or plate and stash in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
- Heat oil in large pan, fry meatballs in batches, and drain on a paper towel to blot out any excess oil.
- Once meatballs are cool to the touch, place them in a freezer safe container with a lid or zipper top bag. Store in the freezer.
I like to make several bags of meatballs, and I put as many in a bag as we need for one meal. For us, that 6-8 large meatballs- about the size of a cutie tangerine.
These meatballs are great because they work with a variety of sauces and cuisines.
Talk Back: I’d love to hear about some of the ways that you use batch cooking and food prep to make your life easier! What is your favorite time saving kitchen “Hack”.