If you've been anywhere on the internet lately you have probably heard about or seen pictures of people making a lot of food and dividing it up in containers to store in the fridge.
This is commonly called meal prepping and it's gotten very popular with programs out there like 21 day fix. There are even businesses popping up that will come to your house and do it all for you!
But before you think this is just a dieting scheme - let me tell you how and why we meal prep.
We've been doing this on and off for years - make a big batch of something like soup and then put it in a bunch of tupperware to have for lunches later on in the week. Crockpots are great for this - soak some beans, add them and a bunch of veggies and let it cook all day or all night - and yay soup!
The magic of prepping food ahead wasn't made really clear to our family until my five year old started school last fall. In Cleveland. My husband already works up that way. No big deal right? Oh boy were we wrong.
Our day starts at 5 am. That includes the kids. And it doesn't matter how early you go to bed - 5:00 comes FAST.
Who wants to make a hot breakfast and then wait for it to cool at 5:30 in the morning? You've never seen a kid tantrum like one who has had his bowl of steaming oatmeal stuck in the freezer. We also don't give our kids prepackaged junk foods like Poptarts or breakfast cereal - so that helpful hand is not open to us.
And then lunches! My kids will eat "toast" which is peanut butter and jelly for lunch, but require 11 million snacks throughout the day.
My husband and son MUST leave on time at 6:30 or I will not hear the end of all the complaints about traffic and school drop off lines.
If you think 5:00 comes fast - 6:30 barrels towards us at hyper-speed as we scramble around the house - dressing kids, throwing food all over the kitchen, yelling about teeth and shoes and vitamins.
After driving home from Cleveland and Pennsylvania, respectively - my husband and I think about dinner and throw up our hands. At 7 pm - anything more elaborate than hummus eaten standing over the sink is enough to make my head explode. And my husband can cook pasta. Just pasta. So that is dinner more often than not. At least for the kids. I will not lie - Domino's pizza is on a first name basis with us.
So how does meal prepping help the craziness that our life has become?
We have a deal on Sunday - I cook and my husband helps wash things, cut things, do the dishes and clean up. It takes several hours and involves the use of two instant pots, the stove and a double oven. It's also exhausting - BUT at the end I know I have a weeks worth of healthy, already made food for my family.
Last Sunday I made pizza, bread sticks, lasagna, pancakes, egg bites, chicken breasts, hard boiled eggs, lentil soup, mashed potatoes, brownies, salads, and "toast" with veggies and apples. The key is to work on multiple things at one time and be sure to keep redirecting your helper (ie spouse) to what really needs done. (Back to the sink, dishwasher!)
So how does this look once the week starts?
Breakfast is simple - pancake on a plate. Cut and add syrup. For the grownups egg bites and whole grain toast prevent the disastrous drive-thru detour before we begin the work day.
Lunches - take out various brightly lidded plastic containers and toss them into our well loved lunch bags along with fruit, cheese sticks and applesauce packets.
And when we get home from our super long day? No cooking required. Throw already made pizza or lasagna at the kids, get bath and bed time done, then collapse until it's time to get up and do it all again.
So what did we gain from four hours of cooking on Sunday? My son has been to school on time every day this week. We have had no tears or tantrums in the morning (at least none involving food - I don't count my toddler protesting the color of his sippy cup, or asking for his Thomas the Train book to be read for the millionth time since we woke up.) I have had time to sweep my kitchen floor and go through that giant stack of random art projects, bills and greeting cards that was slowly eating the counter.
Our laundry is caught up and we are at kitchen sink zero. I also had time to write this blog. In other words, it freed up a bunch of time. And gave us back some sanity.
And lets not even examine the abandonment the local Domino's Pizza must be feeling.
You can do this too!
Start slow. Ease into it with some yummy soups. Make a couple salads ahead. You will be amazed at the money and time that suddenly appears in your life like magic!
In no way do I recommend ramping up your life to our level of crazy, just so you can experience the beauty of extreme meal prepping. It's not for the faint of heart and we've spent the last five years working up to it. Don't jump in without proper training. (Like raising toddlers...)
However, if you are already there... all I can say is go for it.