Everyone knows that you should meal prep, right? We know that it saves money, it’s healthier, and can save a ton of time. But the reality is that sometimes, it’s absolutely…. boring. Some people can’t stand the thought of eating the same thing over and over again. Others love the ease of meal prep but just don’t have the time. Or if you’re like me, you have 3 jobs, homeschool, homestead and run a blog. I absolutely LOVE left overs, but I just don’t have a lot of time to make 2-3 different meals a day for 4 people for 5-7 days. I just can’t do it. But I am going to start this series why I meal prep, how I save money, and the ease of doing it. So let’s get started with my easy meal prep ideas.
Why Should You Meal Prep
The better question is, why don’t you meal prep? Is it because of time constraints or money concerns? The thought of making a week’s worth of veggies sound like a terrible idea? Maybe you don’t know how?
But I’ve got you covered! The meals that I will be dropping over the next couple of weeks will not take any additional time and will save you money. Well, unless you use a more expensive ingredient. The recipes are easy to follow, make and reheat. I feed 3 growing boys (yes, the husband is included there) on these meals and I’m not stranger to a good meal either.
At the end of the day, you should meal prep because it’s easier than constantly try to make various meals every night for dinner. Or figure out what you are going to do for lunch for the next week. The dreaded question of what’s for dinner is finally answered!
My Meal Prep
Well, first let me disclose my definition of meal prep…. it’s left overs. That’s it. But there is a lot more to it than that. First, when I make my meal plan (which you can see in our members only area), I look at the entire family’s schedule. For example, in July I worked about 100 hours a week between my three jobs. August wasn’t much better. Jared was working on my greenhouse and I didn’t want him to have to try to figure out what to do for dinner. So when I made my meal plans, I made sure that when I worked a 48 hour shift, I had plenty of left overs. Or when it was Jared’s turn to cook dinner, he had plenty of left overs to choose from. Or the random days that the boys were home alone for a few hours, they had virtually whatever they wanted.
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How I Meal Prep
Above I said I make a meal plan after looking at the schedules. But the easy part is that I double or triple the recipe. Yup, when I make tacos, I double the recipe so I can have tacos, nachos, or burritos. When I need to use up some eggs? I make a huge batch of my breakfast scramble. Then I end up with breakfast burritos or breakfast bowls.
Tools For Meal Prep
You can use whatever containers you want. Really, there is no wrong container to use. Well, if you use paper, they aren’t going to last long. But glass or plastic are good choices. I personally use these, these and these. When I meal prep, I am putting up anywhere from 2-20 meals. So glass isn’t an affordable option for me. However, one really good option is mason jars with plastic lids.
When you are meal prepping you want to know when you cooked something and what it is. Sometimes, it’s just not easy to tell what something is in a container. Or when you cooked that batch of rice. I like these labels because they have been pretty easy to use and remove. These are dissolvable which I like.
Also, grab an instapot. I have used it to cook a frozen chuck roast that are fall of the bone tender in just a couple hours. I’ve also made huge batches of beans, rice, etc. It’s a very handy little gadget.
Easy Meal Prep Ideas
I am currently working on the recipes for you guys. But like most of us that are looking to start meal prepping, I am insanely busy. I am working on the spaghetti first and will keep them coming as the weeks progress. But I wanted to give you ideas to get you started with your own meals that you already cook at home.
Also, I highly recommend getting a kitchen journal. The reason is because you will find that something you make doesn’t freeze well. Or you find that you don’t like the taste of second day pasta. Or a certain recipe is fantastic when it is tripled. It’s better to write it down than forget it. Your journal doesn’t have to be anything crazy, I use these bullet journals for everything.
Make A List
I know you are probably hoping for some recipes. But before I start dropping those recipes, I want you to think about your own meals that you make. Do any of them taste good reheated? Write those down. Then I want you to think about your standard sides that you make every week. Write those down too. Things like pasta, rice, mixed veggies, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, etc. How many of those can you make ahead? Then I want you to think about any combinations that you can put together. Once you have made your list, we are going to start brainstorming various ways to use it.
Combining For Easy Meal Prep Ideas
To give you some examples, my meal plan will look something like this:
S: Sausage, bacon, eggs, biscuits
M: Breakfast Bowl
T: Breakfast Burrito
W: Breakfast Bowl
Th: Breakfast Burrito
F: Breakfast Bowl
S: Slow Cooker French toast
S: Pasta Salad
M: Steak with noodles
T: Steak sandwiches
W: Shredded chicken with rice and mixed veggies
Th: Steak Nachos
S: mac n cheese with shredded chicken
S: Steak with rice and mixed vegies
M: Spaghetti with garlic bread
T: Whole Chicken with noodles and mixed veggies
W: Tacos with Spanish rice and beans
Th: Pork chops with rice and mac n cheese
F: Homemade Pizza
S: Chicken Veggie Soup
Now before you get overwhelmed, because I KNOW it’s a lot, start with your dinners first. What are you going to have for the week? Once that is figured out, you can try to figure out what you want to do with your left overs. Or you can purposefully make extras so you can have them later.
Explaining My Easy Meal Prep Ideas
For example, on Sunday pasta salad is for lunch. Look at all the times you have pasta for the week. The answer is 8 times. While that may seem like a lot, and it kind of is, you are looking at 21 meals for the week. If you make rotini noodles like these, you can make all of your pasta at once. This is where that kitchen journal will come in handy. I know that one box of pasta is enough for lunch for our family. Also, I know that one box of pasta is enough for a side for my family. So by the time everything is all said and done, I only need 4 boxes of pasta for 7 meals and I need 2 or 3 for spaghetti night.
But you’re not going to add any sauce or seasoning to this pasta. Instead, you are going to make all of your boxes (except for the spaghetti night) and then toss the pasta with oil, and separate into containers. So if you used 5 boxes of pasta, you’ll use 5 bowls. Same with your rice.
Let’s check out meats next. I have steak 4 times on the menu. I talked about cow sharing here, and that’s the only reason I can afford to have steak as often as we do. But if you don’t cow share, this one may be a little more difficult. When I cook steak for the family, I usually do the “good” steak; ribeye, sirloin, etc. But when you are cooking in batches, a flank steak or round is just as good for steak nachos, or steak sandwiches.
Finally, Saturday night we are having chicken veggie soup. But the more accurate term would be a Brunswick stew. You know, the stew that puts everything but the kitchen sink in it? This soup is the end of the week, left overs are going to the pigs meal. Any unseasoned rice, no sauced pasta, meats, veggies, etc is getting added into this pot. And it is freaking amazing….90% of the time. Sometimes, it’s not very good and we just plan for a hodge podge meal of whatever is left over. The meal plan above would be a good hodge podge or stew. The combinations we have come up with over the years is unusual. Steak nachos with mac n cheese for example.
But What About Breakfast
Really, any meal that you can put in a crock pot is a winner at this house. For breakfast, I will usually start them in the evening before bed so it’s hot and ready in the morning. I have a tiny crock pot I reserve for this. I’ve done breakfast scrambles, french toast, oatmeal, etc and the all time favorite tends to be the scramble.
But usually what I do is pick a time where I am going to be off for at least 6 hours. Then I make 5# of bacon, 5doz scrambled eggs, 5# of southern style hashbrowns, 3# of sausage, and 3# of diced/ chunked ham. I cut the bacon to bite sized bits and cook everything separately. Then I get these bowls and assemble. It’s a ton of work. But it will literally feed us for months.
These bowls do great in the freezer and I pull out enough for Jared and I to take to work, as well as a couple extra for the boys. It’s a lot of work on the front end, but man does it save time in the mornings.
The Easy Part Of Easy Meal Prep Ideas
You don’t have to have entire boards on Pinterest to have easy meal prep ideas. Instead, look at what you are already making and see if you can make a little extra for lunch for a couple days. It doesn’t have to be Insta-worthy. It just has to feed you, save some money and be healthy.
I will keep posting recipes under this tag and category as well as on my other social media, which you can find below.