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Meal Prepping is the WORST. There, I’ve said it. I feel much better now.
Meal “prepping” is all the rage these days. Everywhere you turn there’s a very enthusiastic and annoyingly organized person posting about it on Facebook. Or there’s a lovely photo of an afternoon’s worth of work on Instagram. Not to mention another online article about how to meal “prep” right or more efficiently.
Can I let you in on a little secret? I hate meal prepping. I hate even typing out the word meal “prepping.”
Here’s what always happens to me:
Hello world! It’s a new day, it’s a new me! I’m taking charge and I’m going to be organized and prepared for next week! First, I sit down and create my menu (for the next 3 hours…). Next, I make a shopping list and go to the grocery store. Then, I come home, unload and begin the huge cooking project that will feed my family for a week. I’m together, I’m organized, I’m efficient – In addition, I’m congratulating myself on winning at life all around!!!
And in this splendor of meal prepping state – let’s just say I make fajitas, spaghetti, and pot pie. Yay me! Delicious! Nutritious! Outstanding work as a wife and mother!
There’s a small detail here to mention… there’s absolutely no chance in the world that I’ll be remotely interested in eating any of those meals for dinner this week. In spite of the fact that they are prepared and ready to go! I don’t want them once, much less the several times I had planned on eating them. I don’t like leftovers. Also, I despise re-heating food. And now here I am with a refrigerator full of it!
My husband and kids don’t mind the leftovers. They will certainly be happy to eat whatever I make for dinner. This problem is totally me.
So, even though it helps me get ahead and it’s very convenient, I’m just not successful with meal prepping. I end up wasting food, time and money. That’s like a sacred mommy trinity – we don’t waste these things! And although this feels beyond foolish and wasteful, it’s the way I feel.
So, meal prepping? It just doesn’t work for me.
However, guess what else doesn’t work? Hitting the kitchen at 6 pm with a kitchen full of hungry beasts and no game plan on what’s for dinner. Therefore, I put my Supermom Shuffling powers to work and came up with a compromise. This is my solution to meet myself in the middle on this obstacle:
Meal Component Prepping
Yes! Component Prepping! Instead of planning out meals, I like to make pieces and parts of meals to have on hand. This way, it’s still a new and fresh dinner each night, but with a much shorter cooking time. Because most, if not all, of the components of the meal are cooked or prepared and are ready to be thrown together.
To keep from wasting a bunch of food, I also make sure that most, if not the entirety, of my ingredients can all be frozen. That way if the week gets away from me and I don’t use up all the ingredients, I can simply freeze them.
Another side bonus of this method is it truly saves some money in the grocery budget as well. It allows you to buy the produce and meats that are on sale and make those work for your week, thus, saving you a lot of money. That’s way better than needing certain ingredients, no matter the sale, for your very specific menu.
Here’s the five things I do each week to prepare my meal compenents:
1. Salad Bar
This means I have a container of washed and chopped lettuce ready to go. I also make sure to have some chopped veggies too. I like onions, peppers, celery, carrots, and tomatoes. It makes an instant salad for lunch, a side dish for a meal or even a handy snack. It really takes very little time to prepare. And if you are short on that time – at my grocery store you can even get bagged salad and all those veggies already chopped up in the produce section.
So now you have a ready-made salad bar! I like to store all the salad fixings on a big baking sheet in the fridge, so I can just pull everything I want out at once. And now that you have your salad bar prepared, it also means you’ve got all those veggies ready to use as ingredients in any meals you want to make too. I like to keep my lettuce in these individual containers, all ready to go for a quick meal.
2. Ground Beef
Ground Beef (or ground turkey or chicken) – So delicious, so versatile! (Catch it on sale and it’s a steal for protein for your dinners too! Stock up!). I like to brown up a few pounds for the week. It can turn into spaghetti sauce, tacos or soup meat.
And if you don’t use it, freeze it! It will just be sitting there waiting to be added to a quick meal later on. I also like to make raw hamburger patties and freeze them. That way you are never far from being able to throw a quick burger on the grill. And, spoiler alert, you can also just use those for crumbled ground beef too…
3. Chicken Breast
Bake or grill several chicken breasts for the week. You can easily cut it up for salads, make fajitas, stir fry, soups or even toss it in a quick pot pie. You can even use some of your salad bar veggies and toss it into some chicken salad.
I like to make hard-boiled eggs. I almost always have these on hand. My husband loves them for breakfast, they make a great snack and go on salads deliciously. If you have leftovers, make a quick egg salad sandwich for lunch!
I don’t go insane on the fruit. I’ll grab some apples and a few bananas. Maybe some berries. I’ll wash the berries and dry them well and put them in a glass container to help them last a little longer. But that’s it for my fruit prep.
Prep, Prep, Prep
If you have all these components prepared, and keep a few staple ingredients on hand – you are never far from a delicious home cooked meal of your choosing. Prepare as much or as little as you want, depending on your tolerance for leftovers. For example, if chicken was a good buy that week, it’s just as easy to grill 8 chicken breasts as it is 2! Likewise, if the larger pack of ground beef on sale? Get it and put some in the freezer for a future day. So, you are saving time and saving money? Indeed, this is a win for sure in the Supermom column!
Here’s a small freezer, fridge and pantry staple list I try to keep on hand – you don’t have to go overboard at all. With just a few inexpensive, staple items you are ready to go. In fact, I’d be so bold as to say you are downright prepared!
- Puff Pastry or Frozen Pie Dough (for pot pies, hot pockets, puffs, desserts, etc.)
- Mixed Veggies (for soups, pot pies, stir fries)
- Potatoes/Hash Browns (Soups, Breakfasts, Side Dish, Casseroles)
- Biscuits/Breads (Breakfast for dinner, rolls/bread sticks for side items, overall general deliciousness… etc.)
- Pizza (there’s always going to be nights you are exhausted. Save some money and stock the freezer so you don’t order more expensive take out pizzas)
- Cheese Ravioli/Tortellini – This is the world’s fastest dinner. Boil them up, throw on sauce, put a salad on the side and DINNER! Also, these are a great addition to bulk up a soup!
- Sour Cream (Tacos, soup garnish, baked potato bar, sauce addition)
- Shredded Cheese/Block Cheese (whatever your preference! Use for scrambled eggs, salad topper, dinner components, garnishes).
- Heavy Cream (we have this for coffee – but consequently, milk will almost always work if you don’t want to stock cream)
- Canned Biscuits/Crescent Rolls/Pizza Dough (for casserole toppers, side dishes, pizzas!)
- Canned Beans (Black, Kidney, Great Northern – toss them in soups, casseroles, use as side dishes!)
- Spice Packs (spaghetti sauce, tacos, chili, gravy, etc)
- Plain Rice and Seasoned Rice (I like having plain rice for stir-fries or kebabs, and I love having some seasoned rice kits like Rice-A-Roni for side dishes too)
- Dry Pasta – Pasta works with so many things. And it’s just plain cheap. Therefore, I keep it in my rotation every week!
- Pasta Sauce – a few good jars of marinara can go a long way. It makes excellent quick pasta, a base for your own sauce, dipping sauce, pizza sauce
- Crackers – Use for snacks, crush up for bread crumbs, quick lunch addition
- Tortillas – Make tacos, tortilla chips, soup dipper or pizza crust
- Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and Onions – Keep a few in the pantry. They can be a soup filler, a side dish or even main course for “Spud Night” with chili or leftover fajitas on top.
Kitchen Supplies Needed:
- Glass Containers for Storage
- Mason Jars for Fruit Storage
- Disposable Containers for Easy Transport
- Aluminum Foil containers for easy cooking and clean up
- Multiple Cutting Boards
- Knife – A good knife makes a ton of difference!
- Freezer Bags
- Lunch Containers to go
Now You’re Ready!
To sum up, I felt like a total failure for the longest time because I couldn’t get on the meal prepping bandwagon with much success. Now, I’m so much happier with my meal component prepping routine. I think this idea of meal component prepping is a good example of “Supermom Shuffling” at its finest. You find an idea to make mom life a little easier, modify it to fit your family and their needs and — BOOM – you mark a stressful item off your to-do list each day! Above all, I hope this helps my fellow mommies out there that were not feeling the meal prepping love. Meal component prepping works great for me. I encourage you to keep “shuffling” through ideas until you find what works for you, because in the end, making ideas work for your family is what Supermom Shuffle is all about.
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What a great read! I absolutely love this (and your whole site.) It is so refreshing to read something realistic and helpful when it comes to meal prepping. Never have I ever been able to understand the food prep fad. There are so many joyful-joyful “this is the best thing everrrrr” rants and raves on blogs everywhere about how great it is but I just can’t fathom spending hours (probably a whole day) cooking food just to stick it in my freezer. I like it hot and FRESH.
Anyway, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m pinning this for others to enjoy. Keep up the great content!
Thanks so much, Laurien! I’m so glad I’m not alone! I loved your site as well! I’m definitely going to go get hangers for my laundry baskets! GENIUS!!!! Thanks again! ~Sarah
Love this post! I’ve never been able to get into full on meal prepping and I love this as an alternative!
Thanks Heather! I’ve not been successful either! I love, love, love the name of your website. I just went over to check it out and now I need cookies. Everything looks SO good! I signed up for your updates, because I don’t want to miss those recipes! Thanks again for stopping by on my site! ~Sarah