Preparing food ahead of time goes against my grain, I just can’t seem to commit to 4 days in a row of the same salad – or whatever it might be! I love winging it day by day, and just going with whatever I’m craving – sounds good right? Well… in theory anyways – what actually happens is more like this: coffee and water until 7:00 pm at night when I eat a huge dinner (and I mean huge). The problem is, our bodies don’t really work that way – the ‘stock up approach’ or as I call it ‘the camel approach’ leaves you with unstable energy levels and it has been proven to lead to health problems.
So… I took the plunge and I did some food prep for the week – salad jars and the whole nine yards! And you know what? It was so awesome having yummy food available in the fridge. First thing in the morning, you grab both breakfast and lunch and off you go – so simple! I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to get my act together!
As it turns out if you prepare a few different things, it’s not as boring as I thought it would be, and a million times better than no food at all (duh what was I thinking)! I’m still working on a schedule that works best for us, and I’ve found it works well to do some food prep 2x per week. Fresh food and especially pre-made salads don’t really keep past 4-5 days. We like to hike quite a bit on the weekends, so it’s nice to have your lunches already made which equals more time playing and less time in the kitchen!
So what does a week of food prep look like?
Salad jars – I make 8 quart jars for lunches through Thursday, and we take leftovers for lunch on Friday. I don’t always assemble my salads in jars, sometimes I prep all kinds of veggies, along with some grilled meats or hard boiled eggs, and a couple of homemade salad dressings. Then, each day I customize my salad using different combos of what I have available.
Chia pudding jars – I put these in pint jars – I fill 1/2 the jar with chia pudding and the other half with fresh fruit or fruit sauce.
1-2 smoothies for the beginning of the week – Mango Madness Smoothie (in the above picture) is my current favorite because it keeps 2 days.
Raw energy bars – I individually wrap them and place them in the freezer for any kind of snack or quick breakfast later in the week after the chia jars have run out.
Pudding cups – Nutella Pudding, fruit crisps, Greek yogurt, and baked or fresh fruit are all great options for the small jam sized jars
Pre-washed fruits and veggies – I like to have cut up pineapple or washed grapes, carrots sticks or cucumber slices (these only keep a couple days) on hand for late afternoon snacking.
1-2 freezer meal options – it’s always nice to have a a package of Salsa Beef or Bolognese Sauce on hand for those nights when you’re too tired to cook. Ironically, this always happens when I grocery shop. By the time I get everything home and crammed into the fridge, I’m super tired and want nothing more than to go out for the most unhealthy thing imaginable! Having most of your meal already made really helps when you’re exhausted. But… lest you think I’m really on top of it, I’ll let you in on a secret – I almost never have freezer meals on hand (it’s my main goal to have a few things in the freezer more regularly). As soon as I make them, I tend to use them!
How much time does this take?
I spend anywhere from 1-3 hours per week preparing foods ahead of time. It only takes me about 1 hour to prepare food for breakfasts and lunches during the week, but if I’m preparing for the weekend it can be longer.
Do I actually make all of this every week – well ummm… not quite (although I have managed it twice now)! I figure whatever I get prepped is better than nothing. The first time I tried this, the week was such a breeze with all my jars lined up in a row, and I was feeling like Martha (i.e. wow have I ever got it together this week)! Well… pride goes before a fall they say – the next week I fell off the wagon and it was total chaos – but live and learn. So, this has become by accident, one of my Maybe on Monday projects where I’m challenging myself to tackle some of my bad habits!
I hope this food prepping idea helps you as much as it’s helped me! I’m usually lucky if I make 2 things on the list, but it’s totally transformed the way we eat every week! Leave me a comment and let me know if you’d like any follow up posts about food prepping!