Learn our tips for simple meal prep that will limit your time in the kitchen and get you back to what matters most, your family.
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Why meal prep?
Let’s set the scene. You’ve just gotten home from work, the kids are (always) starving and they can’t wait to eat. There isn’t anything pre-made, so the kids will have to hold on until you figure out what to make. You’re under pressure, and you can’t decide what to cook. Half way through the recipe you realize you don’t have all the ingredients …
Does this sound familiar, or it is just me? Friends, I hate meal prepping. That’s the absolute truth. Maybe it’s my sagittarian nature, but the thought of organizing one week’s worth of meals is totally overwhelming to me. Which is how I came up with this simple meal prepping plan, that keeps me out of the kitchen most days of the week.
Get Into a Simple Meal Prep Schedule
When life gets busy, it seems impossible and overwhelming to get into a meal-prep routine. If the truth be told … I really don’t love cooking. Well, I love experimenting in the kitchen with sourdough or skincare recipes but when it comes to actual dinner … it’s stressful!
This is why we’ve come up with a meal prepping schedule where I only actually need to cook two days per week. Any additional time spent in the kitchen is because I want to be there, for an experimental recipe (usually sourdough something).
I am very fortunate to work four days per week, so I have Wednesdays off! This leaves Sunday and Wednesday as my “cooking” days, unless of course I freeze foods ahead of time. By breaking the week in half, I only ever need to worry about maybe two days worth of meals at a time instead of 7.
The Simple Meal Prep Breakdown
On cooking days three dishes need to be made. One for dinner that night, and two for the next two days. This can look like a dinner in the crock pot, and two quick meals on the stove (or on the grill).
Meals don’t have to be wildly fancy, nor do they all need to be hard to make.
Meal prep changes throughout the year as the seasons change. During the colder months, most of my meal prep is done indoors in the crock pot or the stove. When the days are longer and the weather is warm, I may grill up a huge bowl of veggies and assorted meats to last a couple of days.
The Freezer is your Friend!
The single most important part of meal prep is to use your freezer! If you’re like me, and you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen, double or TRIPLE the recipe that you are making. Keep a portion out for now, and freeze everything else in small (meal sized portions) for later.
During the summer months, when the garden is going strong and the days are long and beautiful, I will often double or triple recipes and freeze as much as possible. Doing this enables me to have maybe only one big cooking day per week for about 2-3 weeks until the cycle repeats itself again.
“One For Now, Two For Later”
This quote is directly from Jordan Paige from Fun Cheap or Free. Jordan always talks about grocery shopping and purchasing one for now and two for later so you never run out of anything (and to keep the cost of grocery shopping down). It’s genius, AND it works for meal prep. Make one serving for now, and one to two more for later. We keep a stockpile of extra Tupperware containers just for this purpose.
There is nothing better and simpler than pulling a home cooked meal straight out of the freezer!
Home Cooked Meals: Healthy & Frugal
Without a doubt, making scratch meals from your own kitchen is healthier and more frugal than pre-made and take-out options.
It’s important to remember to start small, maybe you’ll only prep out two meals this week, etc. But, it’s still a start! One year ago if you told me I would be baking my kids sourdough pancakes in bulk to freeze them for breakfasts I would have told you that it was insane.
But here I am, every Sunday whipping up double batches of fresh sourdough pancakes (and loving it).
Simple Meals for Simple Prep
It’s important to identify a handful of meals that you don’t mind cooking, and that your family loves eating. Our meals do vary with the seasons, and we have our meals on some sort of a rotation.
Having an idea of your “frequently made meals” allows you to keep common ingredients on hand, and eliminates the frenzy of trying to decide what to eat. At one point when we first started this journey, my husband typed up all of the dishes that we commonly make, and we left the list on the fridge as a reminder of the simple meals we enjoy as a family.
Then just start cooking! Here is an example of a typical Sunday meal prep day at Simply Rooted Farmhouse: This past weekend, I threw a meatloaf in the oven. Meatloaf takes 1 hour to cook, so while it was cooking I made stuffed peppers. Well, stuffed peppers call for rice (and we always have plenty of beans) so I decided to also make black beans and rice. Earlier that morning, I had made a big batch of pancakes as well.
With the exception of the sourdough pancakes, in just over one hour I had made 3 meals for my family. Plus we had leftovers in the fridge from the weekend.
“Do you ever sleep?”
This is my most frequently asked question, and it makes me laugh. Oh yes, I sleep. I love sleeping, but I also love being productive! This is how I get things done…
Our kids still have nap/quiet time in the afternoons. This is roughly from 12pm-3pm. During this time block, I am typically able to make three meals for the family as well as clean up the kitchen and still have about an hour leftover to work on something else.
Recipes for Simple Meal Prep
If you’re looking for some recipe inspiration, you may like some of our simple recipes like these:
- Oven Roasted Sausage and Potatoes: This dish uses just one pan, and bakes in the oven for about an hour. Meaning, your stovetop and grill are free to make another meal while this one is roasting to perfection, and clean up is a breeze.
- Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven, microwave or grill while the spicy bean filling is warming on the stove top. This simple meal can be made quickly, and the bean filling is freezer friendly.
- Make Ahead Breakfast Egg Cups: When we aren’t having homemade sourdough pancakes for breakfast, there are egg cups! This is a great way to get a healthy breakfast into your loved ones while using up a bunch of fresh chicken eggs.
- Three Bean Vegetarian Chili: This one’s for the slow cooker. Crock pot meals like this are by far my favorite, and save so much time. When we make chili, I always double the recipe and freeze some for later.
- Black Beans and Rice: A one pan meal that can be made in 30 minutes or less. This dish is freezer friendly, and always in our rotation of simple meals.
- Healthy Vegetarian Protein Bowl: Once again, only one pan needed for this recipe! A savory, soup like meal that will warm our body on the coldest winter nights!
For more of our recipes, be sure to check HERE.
Let’s Recap Our Simple Meal Prep Tips
- Create a list of meals you enjoy making, and your family enjoys eating.
- Designate what days of the week you will do your cooking.
- Keep frequently used ingredients on hand in bulk.
- Have productive cooking days, doubling recipes and freezing food in small portions for later.