Whether or not "back-to-school" time really applies to you, maybe you've been out of school for quite some time, or have kids that either aren't school age or don't attend tradition school, it is still a good idea to seize this time, this transition from summer to fall, to take control of your kitchen!
There are so many benefits to bringing organization to this area from saving you cash to saving you time! Who doesn't love more time and money?
First of all, get rid of unrealistic expectations or any past failure you've had with "meal prepping." Throw that out the window and just think of it as "food planning" for yourself and your family to make your lives easier and healthier!
5 Tips to Streamline Your Family's Meals:
1.) Plan (at least) your entire weeks' worth of food prior to the beginning of the week and take your schedule into account.
Every single week I make a plan for what we're going to eat for each dinner and roughly, each breakfast and lunch. I actually sat down in January and planned out the entire year with flexibility for the inevitable parties, dinner dates, etc. I would recommend doing this monthly. Yearly was a bit ambitious and has undergone a lot of tweaking; weekly is better than nothing, but monthly seems to be the sweet spot of being able to plan your grocery shopping and gives you breathing room for the rest of the month once it's all figured out. Take your schedule into account when you do this! If you plan to make a fancy steak dinner on a night you are running around dropping kids off and have a packed schedule, you'll probably end up just picking up something unhealthy or declaring it cereal night for all. Instead, figure out which day is your busiest and plan a crockpot meal, or one that requires little-to-no prep, or one that you can prep beforehand and pop in the oven when you get home.
2.) Have one or more recurring dinners each week.
If your family enjoys a meal so much that they love having it as often as once a week, make it a staple! For example, we have Taco Tuesday every single week because my husband and I both LOVE Mexican, and Josh's favorite food in the world is guacamole. Poll your family and see what dinner they'd love to have weekly, and it simplifies your life by knowing 1/7 dinners is always predetermined and you will already be accustomed to buying ingredients for it.
3.) Make double and freeze a meal.
On a night you are making something you KNOW freezes well, plan to double it and freeze one. Granted, not everything freezes well but with dishes that do: lasagna, meatballs, casseroles, grilled chicken breasts, etc. pop one in the freezer so you get a break next time that meal comes around. Example: I make meatballs about once a month and I triple the batch, freeze two of them, and enjoy one right away. We only eat a pasta and meatball dish about every two weeks' so having two ready to pull out makes my life MUCH easier!
4.) Cut, wash, and make single serving bags of produce and snacks at the beginning of the week.
Sometimes I find myself buying pineapple or watermelon and then completely wasting it because I wait five days to even cut it up! Solve this problem by taking a few minutes either right after grocery shopping, or before the week starts and wash, chop, and portion out food you and your family will be taking for lunches or snacks such as: carrots, celery, berries, watermelon, pineapple, etc. Although you don't have to wash it, do the same for dried goods such as nuts, roasted chickpeas, etc. A few minutes before the week starts saves you time each day.
5.) Stop trying to prep 9,000 foods each weekend; instead, pick one or two foods to prep as breakfasts or snacks.
Many people assume I spend hours each weekend prepping all my family's breakfasts, lunches, and dinners... In reality, I usually pick ONE item to make for breakfasts and/or snack such as: energy balls (a combo of oats, flaxseed, etc.), protein pancakes, protein bars, or a healthy muffin or doughnut recipe.
Then, I pick one protein to grill up or bake for lunches or easy dinners throughout the week. That's it. Done! Some weekends, I don't even make anything because I have muffins or protein bars stashed in the freezer or I grill up all the extra chicken while making Monday's dinner. Make it easy on yourself so that you DO it. What I often see are overly ambitious moms deciding to throw themselves into meal prep by making muffins, overnight oats, chicken, vegetables, and egg bakes and then never doing it again because they find it time-consuming and exhausting. Keep it simple and stay consistent! Switching up the recipes is great, but keep it to one or two a week so that it's sustainable for the long term.
Please let me know if you try any of these and how they work for you! I'd also love to hear any meal prep tips you have for your family!