Scarface and the hyenas had it right in “The Lion King” as they sang “Be Prepared.” Planning is the key to survival especially in the summer!
Many moms agree meal preparation is cumbersome, and with 3 meals and 2 snacks to prep and cook every day it can be a blessing if done right. And with lunch boxes and brown bags and kids underfoot, there isn’t always enough patience to go around.
With two kids of different ages and interests, I need a plan to tackle the holidays and the back to school rush. Realistic meal prep ideas are top of my list and can make the week go by that mush easier and faster.
15 Healthy Meal Prep Shortcuts
- Wash and prep all fruit and vegetables. This is a big time suck I know but with the biggest rewards. Start with washing and drying the greens. Dry produce will last longer in the refrigerator. Prep lettuce for salad, grape tomatoes for snacking and trim the snap peas. Chop vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, and celery. Also prep onions and garlic and ginger for cooking.
- Soak legumes that your family is fond of, and pressure cook or boil them ready for the week. My kids prefer red kidney beans, chickpeas and black-eyed peas. Plant-based proteins are always a great option!
- Make croutons with left-over garlic bread. Rub garlic on old bread, butter generously, chop into pieces and dry-toast in a pan. Let them cool and store on the counter because they will get soggy in the fridge.
- Chop and fry small pieces of paneer and tofu. Store in the fridge.
- Make at least two types of salad dressing and store in jars in the refrigerator. Lemon vinaigrette and ranch work well. Shake well before you pour it on your greens.
- Oven baked bacon is better than in the pan. Strips of bacon at 400 degrees for 20-30 mins till the oil drains out and you’re left with crispy strips. Cool and box.
- Shred a rotisserie chicken.
- Wash and marinate chicken pieces in your favourite marinade. Store in freezer-safe boxes or zip lock bags and pop them in the freezer.
- Make one pot of rice and another of quinoa.
- Boil 8 eggs. Don’t shell till you’re ready to eat them.
- Buy or make your favourite granola, grate and slice cheese.
- Kids love dips – homemade hummus or sour cream along with condiments that your family likes mayonnaise, ketchup
- Breads like whole wheat pitas, naan work really well with tons of options.
- Buy packaged snacks like pretzels, baked chips, vegetable chips.
- Store all packaged junk food far back in the pantry or the fridge.
Come mealtime, let your kids’ creativity loose. Give them the freedom to make their own combinations and inspire them to be more independent in the kitchen.
Kid-friendly Meal Ideas
Breakfast could be apples, granola, peanut butter or perhaps a peanut butter and jelly wrap, even tomatoes and cucumber with toast. Lunch (packed or otherwise) could be a wrap with lettuce and tuna or egg salad sandwich with the shredded cheese or a chicken and bacon club sandwiches. Dinner time can also be seamless with the prep work already done. Fried rice and salad, authentic Mexican tacos or a quick black-eyed pea sabzi with the ready-chopped onions, garlic, ginger and grape tomatoes. Or an Indian-inspired paneer and peas combination, even the best BBQ chicken in the world is possible on a weeknight because the meal prep was already done.
This list will last a family of 4 at least 3-4 days and once you’ve exhausted it then and only then can the kids reach into the back shelves for that store-bought pudding or that bag of Doritos. And it’s time for meal preparation all over again!