If you’ve been following my Monday Meal Planning series for long, you’ll know that this whole meal planning process doesn’t come easy for me. I’m constantly learning how to do things to make getting healthy dinners on the table easier.
One of the things I struggle with most (besides breakfast) is having certain foods prepared ahead of time.
It never fails that the chicken isn’t thawed for dinner or that the beans are still sitting in the pantry dry or there’s no homemade yogurt in the house. Ugh! So what can I do but run to the store for canned beans, dethaw the chicken in the microwave (Yikes! I know, I know!), or use store-bought yogurt? I mean, it’s that or we go out to eat which would cost more money and be less healthy. Right? Right.
So, one of the things I’ve been trying to do more of is having a weekly prep day where I prepare some of the food I’ll be needing for the week in advance. Not only does this cut down on the time I spend trying to come up with something else to eat when I don’t have an ingredient I need on hand (or driving to the store to get it), but it saves me a ton of money by not going out to eat as often.
Below, I’d like to share a bit about how I make “prep days” work for me. If you’re trying to cut time in the kitchen while keeping your meals on the healthier side, hopefully, this will help you in some way like it has me.
My “Ideal” Time Frame For Dinner Is…
I don’t know how your weekly schedule works in your family, but in my family, our week is filled with work, school, chores, and other activities.
With four boys who are growing fast, my days are busier and busier. Thankfully, I’m the busy type, and I love having lots of stuff to do. However, our busy schedule doesn’t leave a ton of time for me to head to the kitchen and spend an hour to an hour and a half making dinner every night.
Oh, no! My goal would be to get a healthy meal on the table in 30-45 minutes.
Do I always meet that goal? No. But, I am getting there.
Having meals planned out, recipes within reach, if needed, and ingredients on hand definite help me to meet that goal. However, when I head to the fridge to pull out some chicken stock for tonight’s soup, and it’s nowhere to be seen… that really slows me down. It also puts a kink in my “healthy” homemade soup plans. Yes, I keep boxed chicken stock in my pantry for emergencies, but it’s not as healthy (or tasty) as homemade stock.
Saturday Is “Prep Day”
After the 10,000th time of not having what I need or forgetting to prep the beans the night before, I decided I need to do a bunch of the prep work at one time rather than the day before. Hence, Saturday “Prep Day” was born in our home.
Now, a lot of foodie bloggers have a prep day and everyone seems to do things differently. I’m a firm believer in that there’s no one “right way,” but that we need to all find our own “right way.” Does that make sense? For me, I try what others are doing, and then I tweak it to fit my needs.
Below, is how I prep things in my home. I hope this gives you some ideas that you can try to see how they work for you.
Every Saturday I try to prep at least three different things.
- Prep 1-2 monthly food staples.
- Pull frozen foods to the fridge for the next 2-3 days.
- Chop/shred vegetables for the coming week.
Prepping Food Staples
Prepping food staples are definitely the thing that takes the longest. Below is a list of common “food staples” that I prep ahead of time in our home.
- cooking 2 whole chickens – 2 times a month
- making chicken stock – 2 times a month
- cooking a variety of dry beans – 1 time a month
- making homemade yogurt – 1-2 times a month
- making soaked homemade bread – 1 time a month
- making homemade salad dressings – 1 time a month
- stocking the spice cabinet and making spice blends – 1 time a month
At this point, I don’t sprout grains and grind my own flour or make homemade condiments. Those are two things that could be added to the list, of course, but they aren’t on my list, yet.
In the past, I’ve tried making my own tortillas, freezing muffin batter, making homemade almond and coconut milk, etc.. However, personally, I did not find those things worth the time and effort it took to make them so I mostly purchase them from the store or make them when I need them.
Pulling Frozen Foods
While the whole chickens or the beans are cooking in the InstaPot, I glance at the list of meals on my fridge and pull frozen meats, veggies, beans, and bread from the freezer if need be.
Normally, I can pull everything I need for the coming week all at once. The only exception would be meats. I try to keep them frozen as long as possible and only pull then a couple days before I need them. I’ve ruined too many free-range chicken breasts pulling them too soon!
Another thing I try to do on Saturday “Prep Day” is to prep my veggies for the coming week. This normally takes a while because I use A LOT of veggies in my meals either as part of the main dish or as side dishes. Thankfully, there’s time to do this while the bread is rising in the oven.
Prepping veggies isn’t as big of a deal now that I have the food processor attachment for my kitchen aid. I simply pull my recipes for the week, glance at the veggies that are needed, and slice, dice, and julienne the ones that I can do ahead of time. I package them up into individual containers and put them in the fridge.
And that’s it. For the most part, that’s how I prep my meals for the week! Now, when it’s time to make that healthy homemade chicken fiesta soup for dinner, my chicken is cooked, the stock is ready, and my veggies are pre-chopped in the fridge. I toss it all in the InstaPot, and dinner is ready in 30 minutes or less!