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A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prepping: The Final Stretch

Now that we’ve covered why you should meal prep for your family and how to gear up for the big day, it’s time to cover the culmination of all your hard work so far. It’s finally prepping day! It’s the day where you fill your kitchen with the smells of all the yummy food you won’t have to prepare for your family on a day that was terrible. You have my permission to put your enchiladas in the oven and hide in the pantry sipping on a glass of wine. It’ll be our little secret.

Make a Schedule

This might seem weird, but the goal is to maximize your efficiency. You should have a rough estimate on how much each prep time is needed per dish or item and how long it needs to cook. This is where the schedule comes in. I also suggest you have a few timers going at once, if you need help juggling that as well. Have everything situated on the page, outlined by 15-minute increments and have all prep times and cook times are written on the page. Follow your schedule as best as you can, but feel free to wing it if you need.

 

Have your storage containers ready

I prefer to get some of the disposable containers if I’m going to be putting something up for more than 5 days. Set up your dining table as a storage station, complete with hot pads, plastic wrap, storage baggies, and if you’re paranoid like me, some sanitizing wipes. (Some meat dishes are prepped and stored raw so that the marinade can help to tenderize the meat as it’s being thawed and it doesn’t overcook in the heating process. This is where the sanitizing wipes come into play.) There’s no need to get too fancy with it, just whatever works for you.

 

Multitasking at it’s finest

For me, I usually have between 2 and 3 things going at once, and I start with breakfast. While my omelet cups and banana bread is going in the oven, I can finish my overnight oats jars and pop them in the fridge. I might even have some mini waffles working on my mini waffle iron by the stove. There’s no reason for you to have as many things going as I do, but I’ve been meal prepping two times a month for almost 4 years, so I’ve practiced. Some meals need only to be prepped and put in the freezer, which cuts down on a lot of time and stolen fridge space. Know what needs to be done and get to work.

Store everything properly

You can also cut down on time when you know how everything needs to be stored and how to do so properly. For my omelet cups and waffles, those are cooled and either wrapped or bagged and tossed in the freezer. The overnight oats and banana bread get stored in the fridge. Sliced veggies and fruit can go either in the refrigerator, for raw snacks or in the freezer, based on how long you want them to last. Dried goods can be stored in an airtight container and put in the pantry or other dark, dry location. Each item will have it’s own storing directions and storing something improperly can cause illness and waste. Make sure you know before you start.

 

Bringing your food back to life

Now that you’ve done all the meal prep for the day (congrats!), you want to know how to bring your meals back to life. At least enough that your family will eat it. Sometimes you’ll forget what you made, or two different dishes will look so similar frozen that you can’t be sure if it’s enchiladas in that pan or some lasagna. While it can be fun to play dinner roulette, you can label everything with an index card, or just a permanent marker. Write down that the meal is and any relevant information, like oven temp and cook time. Things like your fully cooked breakfast burritos only need to be labeled, as you can just put them in the microwave and nuke until the desired temperature.

 

What about batch cooking?

Sometimes you don’t want to or even can’t spend a full day standing over the stove cooking. What about if there’s only one of you in your tiny apartment and recipes only seem to come in “family of six” sizes? This is where batch cooking comes in. It mainly just means that you make enough food for 2 or even 3 times the amount you’ll need for a single meal when you’re already cooking that meal for dinner. You separate out the extra portions at the time when you’d need to store it, continue will the single batch and save the rest for later! No weekend day was taken up for your cooking.

 

While this isn’t an in-depth look at how to meal prep, it does cover all the bases if you didn’t know where to look before. Start slow and work your way up to create a menu and a system that you prefer. It can seem pretty tedious, but when you realize all the time (and yes, money) that you’ll save by doing so, you might not want to let this meal prepping thing go.

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