It's finally here! Our Meal Prepping blog series has been in the works for nearly two years… because, #momlife, #entrepreneurlife. But we’re so excited to share this with you! To keep things simple (for us and for you), we’ve split it into three parts:
Part 1 of this guide will be centered around how we plan one week worth of meals. Our family of four (hubby, two toddlers, and myself) are vegan, and we also eat organic and mostly gluten-free. When beginning your meal prepping journey, don’t feel like it needs to be all or nothing. Start with just planning your meals ahead of time and creating an organized grocery list. Once that becomes routine, then begin prepping 2-3 meals per week and work up from there. Or just stay there, if that feels right. Every little bit you do will save you time (and money). So make adjustments to meet your family’s lifestyle as needed.
Plan, Plan, Plan:
During breakfast on Saturdays, we get on Pinterest and choose our meals for the week together as a family. **Be sure to follow us for all our fave vegan/gf recipes** We meal plan/prep a little differently than you may have seen - instead of prepping one large recipe ahead of time and eating the same thing every day, we actually plan 7 dinners (from which leftovers become lunch the next day) and one large breakfast. I take inventory of what we already have and make a grocery list (organized by department/aisle). Then on Sunday mornings I wake up before the rest of my family and arrive at the store as soon as it opens. Pro-tip: This saves time because I don’t have to bring the kids, and the store is pretty empty, thus easy to maneuver quickly in and out. My typical shopping trip is 30 minutes long and I spend an average of $150 - that’s buying seven days worth of vegan and organic food for four people. Because our meals are planned out and the list is organized, I only have to go to the store once a week. By sticking to a list, I save time, money, and it keeps me from throwing junk in my cart. Pro-tip: Eat before you go to the store - if you shop on an empty stomach, you‘re more likely to give into your cravings.
Prior to intentional meal planning, I would go to the store aimlessly, buy whatever looked good, then try to figure out what was for dinner each night with whatever we had in the house. Which meant I’d typically have to run back to the store 2-3 times in a week to get a extra ingredients. We were spending an average of $300 a week on groceries and a lot of it would end up spoiled and tossed into the trash. We also never ate our leftovers, so those would sit in the fridge until they were eventually tossed. One key change we made to our eating habits is portioning out our dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. This saves us additional time and money since we are not having to figure out what to eat for lunches or resorting to eating out after long days.
When searching for recipes and planning your shopping list, keep in mind the number of servings you will need. We do one serving per adult and one-half serving per child. This equals six servings of one meal so that there is enough for dinner, then lunch the next day. Also, we pick 1-2 new recipes per week, and 5-6 family favorites so we can branch out without having to commit to too many new recipes.
Our kids eat a slightly modified version of what we’re eating. We used to prepare totally different meals, but now we just simplify and leave out certain veggies and spicy ingredients. For example:
Rice bowls: brown rice, black beans, avocado, sauce only
Tacos: soy curls with mole sauce, black beans, avocado only
Quesadillas: vegan “cheese”, sweet potatoes, black beans only
Pizza: vegan “cheese” only (occasionally they’ll let us sneak a few veggies on)
Time to Prep:
Sometimes the prepping can be the hardest part. You now have a refrigerator and pantry full of fresh groceries and almost no time to prep everything. Meal prepping all at once can seem very daunting at first. Once you get into a routine, it will get better, promise! If you have younger children, get your significant other to keep them entertained, or prep during their normal play time or nap time. If they are old enough, have them help you prep! Kids are more interested in trying new foods when they’re involved in the process.
I still cook all our meals fresh each night, so all I do ahead of time is prep and sort ingredients, and occasionally pre-cook portions of the meal (bean from scratch, rice, sauces, etc.) Pro-tip: If you know you’re going to have a long day at work, plan a “quick” meal for that evening. My prep method only requires preparing the ingredients (washing, chopping, portioning, and labeling). If you know a certain ingredient isn’t going to last all week, then eat that meal earlier in the week to prevent spoilage. Part 2 of our Meal Prep blog series will go much more in-depth on the supplies I use for prep (containers, labels, etc.)
We plan and prep all our meals with the idea of having leftovers for lunch the next day. If you happen to have extra on top of that, there are a lot of things you can do with those instead of tossing. Of course, you can enjoy an extra portion for yourself, freeze it for a busy week, substitute for dog food (depending on the ingredients); the possibilities are endless! We have also given extra leftovers to family and friends; elderly neighbors or new mamas.
Remember, meal prepping doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you only prep for two to three days starting out, that is better than nothing. I always always keep 1-2 store bought or homemade meals in the freezer just in case. Some days will be so busy you just don’t feel like cooking, even if the ingredients are all ready for you!
If you already follow us @urbanoreganics on Instagram, you can watch our stories every Sunday to check out what we’re eating that week. And be sure to sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when the next step publishes. Feel free to ask questions along the way so we can answer those on future posts.