How to Get Organized for Dinner: Part 2 – Meal Prep

We’re on a mission to simplify family dinner and today’s post is all about setting yourself up for success by meal prepping.

If you thought a meal plan was the same thing as meal prep, don’t worry, most people confuse the two life hacks, and truthfully, you need one to do the other. Your meal plan outlines meals and helps organize your grocery haul for the week, but your meal prep is the pre-processing of those groceries into ready-to-go elements for dishes throughout the week.

If you are able to put in an hour or two of meal prep after you bring the groceries in, your life will change. You’ll be two steps closer to getting a wholesome meal on the table on a busy weeknight, because you will a) already have decided what to make, and b) have prepared a portion of the meal in advance.

Read on for a clearer explanation about this gift to your future self, as well as a list of some of my favourite meal prep foods and recipes.

Here’s an example of how meal prep can ease your week:

On the same day that you shop for groceries, set aside an hour or two for kitchen work. Instead of shelving everything in the pantry and fridge, you work on a bit of advance preparation for those recipes in your week’s meal plan.

Perhaps you wash and dry lettuce, whisk up a salad dressing and make croutons for a Caesar salad. You cook off quinoa for a salad, and chop vegetables for a stir fry.  Next you make a batch of pesto for Friday night pizza, and grate the cheese while you’re at it. You get a batch of cookie dough in the fridge, wash grapes for lunches and toast a big tray of nuts for snacking. If you’re feeling like you want to keep going, make Bircher Muesli or chia pudding for breakfasts.

Before you know it, you’ve got the building blocks for a handful of meals later in the week – not just dinner, but breakfast and school lunches, too.

(Side Note: Yes, meal prep is similar to batch cooking. In this series, we’re going to classify batch cooking as preparing whole meals – like trays of enchiladas and lasagna – but we will cover batch cooking in the next post!)

How to Get Organized for Dinner: Part 2 – Meal Prep

1. Start by cleaning out the fridge. Actually, this can happen at the same time as you are making your weekly meal plan, for those multitasking over-achievers.

2. Make your prep list. Turn on the oven, if you’re going to need it for roasting vegetables, then write up a quick list of what you need to do while it is pre heating.

3. Get down to work. Shoo everyone out of the kitchen, plug in a podcast and get busy. Give it an hour, and if you are in a groove, go for two.

4. Stash everything away in jars and clear plastic or glass containers. You want to be able to open the fridge and see at a glance what you have on hand.

Here’s an idea of what can be prepped in advance for an average week.

Condiments – Salad dressing, marinades, pancake syrup, nut/seed butters, hummus, tzatziki, spice blends & rubs.

Grains, Pasta and Legumes – cooked quinoa + farro, rice pilaf, cooked red lentils, cooked beans and chickpeas.

Vegetables – roasted vegetables, fresh crudité, grated carrots, spiralized sweet potato or zucchini, slow-roasted tomatoes, pumpkin puree, washed salad greens.

Fruits – Washed grapes, cubed honeydew melon, sliced cantaloupe, apple chips.

Baking – Muffins, granola bars, cookies, power bites, ricotta pound cake, sweet breads.

Misc – Cold brew iced tea, boiled eggs, crostini/croutons, cooked bacon, peach lemonade concentrate, trail mix.

I haven’t been just writing about meal prep this week, I’ve also been in the kitchen getting things in order before I take a little trip. The folks at the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival have kindly invited me to come feast and frolic with them, as well as judge a junior chefs cooking challenge.

So I leave today for PEI, and in preparation, I have filled the fridge with all sorts of food to help Danny and the kids get their school lunches and hot dinners. Meal prep comes to the rescue in the form of spaghetti sauce, banana bread, chopped fruits and veggies and a batch of butter chicken. There’s also chia pudding, boiled eggs, salad dressing and washed lettuce. I think they will be okay.

Meal Prep Recipes

Here are a handful of my tried and true favourite recipes that are meal prep building blocks. Each and every one makes me feel like a rockstar in the kitchen.

Condiments

Mains

Snack/Lunches

Breakfast

The photo above was my meal prep shot for the week of Christmas last year. I was hosting Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, as well as attending various pot-luck dinners. Everything got done in the end, thanks to specific food prep, plenty of organization and many, many lists.

I didn’t start out with such extensive spreads, of course, but by incorporating a little meal prep into my week here and there, I’ve worked up to be able to take on major holidays with ease. Goals!

Do you meal prep? A lot or a little?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. I’m a prep gal for sure! Your family will be so appreciative of your Momma-love. (And, boy, I love your fridge photos. It’s just so calming to look into a well-organized fridge… but how will it look when you get home, tee, hee?!]

  2. Your brown rice pilaf is the center of my meal prep most weeks! I add 1t garlic powder, tumeric, generally add a diced bell pepper and sub some chicken or veggie stock for the water, and its the dream base of proteins for the week. I’ve committed your recipe to memory I’ve made it so many times. Thank you!

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