One way to ensure your success is to prepare some of your food ahead of time. Setting aside an hour a couple of times a week to prep some of your food goes a long way towards alleviating the stress that can accompany the dinner hour in a busy household. Imagine not only knowing what’s for dinner but also having some of it already made!
So how do you do it? First off, there’s no right or wrong way to do meal planning or weekly food prep. If you downloaded my free meal planning tool you saw that I do this twice a week. I personally think it’s a little easier to plan, shop, and prep for 3-4 days at a time versus a full week. If you’re new to the concept of weekly food prep I believe starting small is always the best way to go. So look ahead at your weekly meal plan and pick several items you can prepare ahead of time. Here are five go-to ideas that might help you get your wheels turning with the whole prep-ahead concept:
Raw Vegetables: We try to eat raw veggies with most meals and having them washed, cut, and ready to eat definitely makes this more likely to happen! I try to vary our veggies, but we almost always have red bell peppers, seedless cucumbers, celery, and carrots on hand because these are some of my kid’s favorites.
Roasted Root Vegetables: Speaking of veggies, roasting up some sweet root vegetables is a great way to help you and your family eat more veggies throughout the week. These are great on their own, with eggs, or on top of a salad.
Hard-Boiled Eggs: Hard-Boiled Eggs are the perfect grab-and-go protein. They’re delicious on their own with just a touch of salt and pepper, chopped on top of a salad, or you can use them to make egg salad. Here’s my recipe for hard-boiled eggs:
- 12 eggs preferably pasture-raised
- Cold water
- Place 12 eggs in a saucepan and fill with enough cold water to just cover the eggs.
- Bring the eggs and water to a boil.
- Remove from heat, cover and let sit 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the eggs from the pan and rinse under cold water. You may want to peel and slice one egg to make sure it is done to your liking before rinsing the whole dozen.
- Store unpeeled in the refrigerator.
Real Whole Grains: Also called intact whole grains, these are the kind of grains that look pretty much like they do in nature with all three parts of the grain intact. Oftentimes found in the bulk-bin area of your grocery store, these types of grains not only contain the most nutrients, but they also carry the least glycemic load compared to refined grains (think white bread) or even processed whole grains (think 100% whole-wheat bread). The downside to real whole grains is that they can take a little bit longer to cook, so batch cooking can help make them a more convenient option. For example, brown rice is a very versatile real whole grain, making it a great one to have on hand and ready to serve. Here’s my recipe for basic brown rice:
Basic Brown Basmati Rice
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- 2 cups water
- Optional: For easier digestion you can soak your rice for 1 hour, or as long as overnight.
- In a fine mesh strainer, rinse rice under running water.
- Combine 1 cup rice and 2 cups water in saucepan.
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Bring the rice, water and salt to a boil.
- Turn the heat down to low and simmer, covered for 35 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
- Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes before fluffing with fork.
Soup: I think the cold weather is finally fading away here in Minnesota, but soup is always a great food to batch cook and freeze. Give one of Bruce’s delicious soup recipes a try, like his Hearty Homemade Vegetable, Rich and Savory Lentil Soup, or Creamy Potato Leek Soup.
Hopefully, these simple ideas can help ease your transition into real food meal planning. And if you’re already well on your way and have some tips you’d like to share, please add them to the comments below. After all … we can all learn from each other’s meal planning and prep tricks!
Kelly Harjes is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and founder of Appetite for Healthy Change™. Her mission is to inspire others to look and feel their best, feed their families well, and help improve our food system. Learn more about Kelly on Our Team Page.
Kitchen Tips and Resources from Bruce:
- Glass containers with lids like these from Pyrex are super for storing prepped foods so we can easily see what we have on hand.
- A high-quality set of cutting knives can make a huge difference, especially when you’re cooking REAL food. My local knife shop advised me to invest in the higher quality Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature brand (much higher quality than the J.A. Henckels International brand) and time has proven them right. To make sure you know which Henckels knives are better, here’s a tip—look for the “twins” on the knives vs. the single guy sporting the trident. While you can buy these knives online, if you’ve got a local knife/cutlery store, support them instead. I love my local cutlery store and bring my knives in every six months or so to get them maintained with a nice, sharp edge!
- A great, non-slip cutting board is an invaluable kitchen asset when cutting up the vegetables. I upgraded to these Epicurean non-slip boards this past summer, and I’ve been really pleased with them.