With a family of 6 and busy schedules all around, Janae Cox has mastered the art of meal preparation, to save time and keep her and her family eating healthier. And now she’s teaching others to do the same. Here are her 5 keys to successful meal prep.
Healthy eating for busy families doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. For my family of six, I have found that having a plan in place for our meals helps the weeks go a lot smoother. I notice such a massive difference in my overall well-being on the weeks that I do meal plan and meal prep vs. the weeks that I don't. It's a game-changer for our family. Here are some simple tips to help you be successful with meal prep.
1. Keep it Simple
If you are new to prepping I always suggest you first start by prepping for the meals you struggle with most. Is that breakfast, lunch, snacks, or dinners? Once you've identified which meal annoys you most during the week, start with that one. I recommend you choose simple recipes with items you typically have in your home.
2. Schedule Time and Make it Happen
Meal prep takes planning, you can’t just "wing it". Schedule it into your week and force yourself to make it happen. My weekly schedule looks like this:
- Thursday - I plan to take about an hour to come up with the next week's menu and shopping list.
- Friday or Saturdays - I’ll spend one of these days to grocery shop. I am flexible with my grocery shopping days because of weekend activities.
- Monday - I meal prep. My Mondays are sacred, and my family knows I always prep this day and that they need to plan accordingly.
The schedule is going to be different for everyone, and you will need to figure out what works best for your schedule, but the most important thing is that you make it happen. Yes, it takes time and planning, but I have learned that for me, with my Celiac Disease, the time and discipline is better than the pain of no meals on hand.
3. Create Your Shopping List
If you are like me and dislike wasting food or money, you will want to do this step before creating your shopping list. The first thing I do before creating my weekly meal plan is to check my fridge and pantry for any ingredients that I already have and want to use up. Often I also get ideas for meals from those ingredients. Do yourself a favor and dig through the back of your freezer and remind yourself of everything you have. Sometimes it's fun coming up with a new recipe to use a specific cut of meat. Food is meant to be fun, so have fun and try new things.
4. Go Grocery Shopping
If going to the grocery store is your weekly escape; good for you. Make sure you go in with your list and stay focused. I do not enjoy walking around the grocery store and swear by Walmart Delivery services [angels singing in the background]. Meal prep for me is all about saving time and simplifying. My favorite time-saving grocery shopping tip is to do your grocery shopping from your couch! Yes, you heard me right. Lots of stores have delivery services, so if you don’t enjoy grocery shopping, use one of them. Many stores have fantastic apps where you can store all of your favorite products and quickly reorder with the click of a button. If you haven't tried it yet, you're missing out, in my opinion.
5. Prep Day Tips
Pull out all your ingredients so they'll be easy to locate. As you lay out your ingredients, organize them in the recipe. Begin with the recipes that will take the longest. If you have just one oven, but you also have an instant pot, leverage them both. Cook your proteins at the same time. While your proteins are cooking, begin cutting your veggies. I try to save as much time as I can by also picking meals that use similar ingredients, so I am doubling up on chopping or baking ingredients for separate meals. For example, two of your recipes have chicken or rice. Cook all your chicken or rice at once and then divide them per recipe.
I know it seems like a lot of work, but you’ll save so much time in the long run. Having healthy meals and snacks on hand and ready to go will reduce the number of times everyone reaches for fast, less healthy meals. Start small if you need to and build on your successes each week. Once you have food on hand, I promise you won’t want to go back to an empty fridge and hungry bellies.
You’ve got this!
Janae Cox is known as @cleanmondaymeals. She’s much more than just a master meal prepper, Janae is also the mother to four children with a fifth on the way. She has figured out how to thrive while battling Celiac disease and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) through healthy and delicious gluten and dairy-free recipes. Janae uses her social media platforms to give away all her best recipes, tips and tricks to improve the lives of all who follow along.