Meal prep lives up to the hype! It saves time and money without sacrificing eating healthy meals. Chefs, nutritionists, and busy moms and dads have all stepped up to share their wisdom. You can draw on this wisdom and work out a meal prep plan that fits your lifestyle and family.
And because we are all about family and caring for aging parents, we want to share some recommendations on how you can use meal prep to foster connections with your aging parents, intergenerational connections between your kids and your parents, and save time and money!
- Make a meal plan for the week.
- This is a must do first step. Set out exactly how many meals and snacks (of course, snacks!) need to be prepared. You can combine your weekly meal plan with a shopping list with a meal planning template. It is most time efficient to have your meals planned because you can then do only one trip to the grocery store. Many of the grocery chains now offer online grocery ordering that you can either pick up or have delivered.
- Delish suggests making a theme day for your meals, like Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday. For those disappointed that there is no day of the week that starts with P for pasta day, you many need to get creative, like Fettucine Friday or something like that.
- Plan new meals using leftovers. Did someone say chicken?
- Schedule meal preparation time.
Like many things, if it isn’t scheduled, it may or may not happen. To be sure it does, schedule 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time. As you get into the swing of meal prep, you will know exactly how much time you need to protect.
- Double, triple or even quadruple the recipe for freezable meals.
This batch cooking takes virtually no extra time. Consider having a batch cooking time with your parents. If your parents live near you, why not involve them and split the spoils, as it were? If they don’t live close, you can ‘assign’ a task to one of your kids to get the recipe for their favourite meal their grandparents’ make and then make this one of your freezable meals.
4. Set up a regular meal or snack swap with a few people.
A cookie swap is common for many at Christmas time, especially at workplaces. You make ½ dozen or so of cookies and 5 other people do the same and voila, you have incredible variety. Chances are that many of the other people in your life are struggling with the same time crunch issues with eating well. It may be easiest to do a snack swap. This is great for kids before or after different activities and for adults who need a quick energy fix. Consider including your parents in this swap. This is an opportunity for practical help as well as a connection with your parents.
- Use high quality storage containers.
This may strike you as trivial BUT you will eliminate a whole lot of frustration and time and mediocre food by having high quality containers that are airtight, leak-proof and freezer friendly, and particularly important for me, stackable.
- Stock(pile) your kitchen with staples.
This will streamline and simply your meal creation. You may want to save some cash and repeat shopping by buying in bulk and taking your own containers to the store. Create categories, such as:
- canned goods (eg., broth, tuna, salmon, tomatoes);
- whole grains (eg., brown rice, quinoa)
- Legumes (eg., beans, lentils)
- Other proteins: (eg., almond and/or peanut butter
- Regularly used dried herbs and spices
- Create a space for best loved recipes.
You don’t want to be searching the net looking for recipes when everyone is already hungry and you want to get something on the table relatively fast! Have your ‘go to’ recipes easily on hand.
- For online recipes, bookmark one or at most 2 recipe sites.
Otherwise, you may find yourself going down the online recipe rabbit hole. You may know more about how to make an amazing crème brule, but also end up ordering fast food for dinner because this search sucked out precious hours of your day! Here are a few of elizz’s favourite sites:
- Consider investing in time saving cooking items.
This could be a crock pot/slow cooker, a pressure cooker, a convection oven or the latest gadget I have fallen in love with: a sous vide cooker.
- Make meal prep fun.
Yup, it’s possible. Either make it a family affair, with your kids as sous chefs or dishwashers, or enjoy your time alone with your favourite podcast or playlist (unless of course you get so absorbed with the podcast, that you miss recipe ingredients or steps!)
What are your favourite ways to meal prep? Have you brought your parents into the meal prep process? We would love to hear from you.