Fast-Track Family Dinners with Simple Meal Prep
As a mom managing a family with a typical modern lifestyle, you have many things on your plate. Not least of these is the responsibility of regularly getting something on everyone else’s plate: dinner! In the race to get through all of your daily obligations, you can sometimes feel as if you’ve run out of fuel when it’s time to choose and prepare a wholesome meal. Carefully planned and well-executed meal prep could be the tool to get your family’s healthy eating back on track.
Embrace Realistic Meal Planning
The single best thing you can do when you start meal prepping is to be realistic. This means getting real about your family as well as yourself. Successful meal prep takes commitment, and nothing sabotages your commitment faster than not being able to meet unrealistic expectations. Think clearly about your family’s needs and preferences; there’s no point prepping for meals your kids won’t eat. Also take a hard look at your schedule so that you don’t create meal plans that just aren’t doable in the time you have. Plan ahead for how you’ll deal with the imperfect circumstances of real family life. A high-quality meal replacement protein powder can help you fill in some nutritional gaps when you can’t get everyone on board for a well-balanced dinner. Be flexible and forgiving enough towards yourself that you can sometimes say, “Good enough is good enough!”
The Right Types of Food
The basic component of meal prep is the food. Your family’s likes and dislikes will have already given you an idea of what types of foods will and won’t be on the menu. Now it’s time to dive in more deeply, thinking about the types of foods that work best for pre-planning. The right foods are those that are both popular with your family members and good for stocking up. A well-planned grocery list and well-stocked pantry are cornerstones of meal prep. Foods that are easy to buy in quantity and store for a long time will feature prominently. However, don’t forget to factor in nutrition as well as ease and affordability. The USDA’s MyPlate website is a great resource for planning healthy meals and even offers more than a thousand recipes.
Better Living Through Batches
Batch cooking is a secret weapon of meal prep, but it does require some preparation of its own. If you’re going to cook large amounts of anything, you need to have the tools and equipment for both the cooking and the storage. That may mean investing in a slow cooker, Dutch oven or a variety of larger cooking pots and baking pans to accommodate big batches of food. It will definitely entail gathering enough good storage containers to keep your pre-cooked meals fresh and ready for re-heating on a moment’s notice. Once you have your kitchen equipped for batch cooking, you’ll want to put some thought into the types of foods that lend themselves to freezing and reheating. Don’t forget to consider whether your family will actually want to eat them!
Same Ingredients, Different Results
One of the tricky parts of meal prep is injecting variety into the same old foods. Developing a repertoire of recipes that use the same ingredients in different ways will help prevent you and your family from becoming bored. The same basic meat and veggies can form the basis of either a stew, stir-fry or casserole; all it takes is an extra ingredient or two and a change in seasonings. Sometimes you can’t rely on only your own creativity for new combinations of old favorites. That’s when it’s time to check out one of the thousands of recipe websites and blogs for inspiration!
The basics of meal prep are not complicated, but mastering each step does take careful thought and a consistent routine. The rewards of making that commitment can include healthier eating, time saved, and less stress. Once you get in the habit of meal prepping, your dinner routine can zip along like a well-oiled machine.