Growing up, my family ate dinner together at the table every night. My mom scoured cookbooks and magazines for the perfect meal -- rosemary rack of lamb with garlic mashed potatoes, pork tenderloin with some kind of chutney, or homemade fried chicken with alllll the sides. She’d cut out recipes from Southern Living or pull out cards from her recipe box at the beginning of the week, create a master grocery list, and then stick to it. She’d hit the grocery store with a gaggle of kids and then effortlessly throw together a dinner that would make Julia Child want to pull up a chair, just as her mother did. Yes, organization and cooking are gifts passed down to the women of my family.
...Except for me. These gifts were not passed down to me.
Sure, I love Pinterest as much as the next chick. I have boards for “Quick Weeknight Meals,” “Dinner Party Menus” and “Cute Lunchbox Spreads,”, but let’s be honest: my kids eat the same thing for lunch and dinner almost every day. Is it their choice? Sure. Is it healthy? For the most part. Am I slaving over a hot stove to feed my brood every evening? Hell to the Absolutely Not.
WHO HAS TIME!?
If I’m honest, the phrase “Meal Prep” generally evokes an immediate eye roll from me. Because again, I ask: WHO HAS THE TIME?
Recently, though, I decided to give it a go. Nothing fancy - just one hour on a Sunday to see what I could knock out before the week ahead. The results? Surprisingly great. I spend minimal time with maximum benefit. If I can squeeze an hour of meal prep in (or, rarely - two) I’m always amazed at how easy some of the most frustrating times of the day can be.
Though it varies week-to-week, I have 5 items I like to prep every time:
1.) Hard Boiled Eggs
Hard boiled eggs are a hit around here - they’re a quick snack (packed with protein) for the boys, the beginnings of egg salad for me, and a quick addition to a salad for Mike. The time-saving trick? BAKE THEM! That’s right. I learned this trick from Rachel Hollis and I am now a believer.
Time: 1 minute (really), total time: 50 min
How-to: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, put an egg in each slot of a muffin tin, and let them bake for 28 minutes. When you take them out, put them directly into a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes. Dry them off and stick them back in their original carton. Boom.
Note: I don’t shell them ahead of time because it’s stinky work and after learning a new hack (thanks, youtube!) I can get the shells off quickly when I need to. The trick? Tap one end of the egg firmly onto a pot lid. Then, turn the egg and roll it (firmly) along the inside of the lid. The shell will peel off easily.
2.) Overnight Oats
When I first heard about overnight oats, it all sounded a little bizarre and unnecessary to me. But then, I had kids. And then those kids got older and expected… breakfast!? Every day!? This had to be a joke. Anyway, this requires zero effort day-of and can be packed with a variety of healthy and protein-packed ingredients. They also keep in the fridge for about 5 days - even better!
Total Time: 4 minutes
Ingredients (per jar):
1 small mason jar (I love these wide-mouthed ones, because they’re easy to eat out of)
½ cup of rolled oats
¾ cup milk of your choice, or a mixture of milk and yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup fruit of your choice
any variety of additions (peanut butter, chia seed, flax, etc.)
Add oats, milk, honey, fruit, and additions to your jar
Let them sit overnight
Let your kids get it themselves out of the refrigerator when they tell you they’re hungry
Bask in the glory of an easier morning routine
3.) Cut fruit
I know what you’re thinking… “cut fruit isn’t a recipe, Eliza.” BUT IT IS, YOU GUYS. IT IS. I’ve found that fruit never goes bad in our house if I’ll simply cut it up and put it in a bowl ahead of time. If I take the grapes off the vine, they are, like, 92% more likely to be eaten in this house. It’s science.
But really, It’s a quick snack that I can easily spoon out in a bowl for my kids when they’re hungry - or add to overnight oats, smoothie bags, etc. I do my best to cut up a few packages of strawberries, a melon or two, and mix them in with grapes and berries for a gigantic fruit salad.
Total Time: 7 minutes(ish)
Soak your fruit to get the grime off
Cut it up, yo.
4.) Smoothie bags
I’m guilty of spending $6 on a smoothie that I could easily make myself at home for 70 cents. Since we’re doing our best to cut back on superfluous purchases (and I could stand to eat a little healthier these days) making smoothie bags seemed like an obvious choice.
Total time: 7 minutes
Divvy up either frozen or fresh fruit + veggies and put them in single-serving Ziploc bags (also: reuse them!). Some of my favorite combos include: mango, peach, and strawberry; pineapple and mango; tangerine, mango, and strawberry (THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS)
Wait until your children are napping and whip out the blender (just kidding)
Grab a bag. Add a banana, maybe some spinach, and either juice, yogurt, or almond milk.
If we need extra greens or protein, I’ll add either this green superfood powder (includes a metric crap-ton of greens) or this protein powder - we use these because they are dairy and soy-free (my kiddos are allergic), but you can add any type of powder that you’d like.
Throw that all in the Ninja and HI-YAH (sorry, I can’t help myself), you’ve got yourself a smoothie.
This is kind of a two-for-one deal, which makes it even better. I love freezing burritos to pop in the toaster oven for a quick lunch, and who can deny a tray of enchiladas?!
Total time: 25 minutes
Small, round tortillas
Can of refried beans– we use vegetarian
Can of diced green chilies
One chipotle in adobo sauce (optional)
1/3 cup greek yogurt – you can also use sour cream
1 cup of shredded cheese
A lil’ bit (or a lotta bit) of hot sauce
If you’re planning on making enchiladas, too:
Double the list above
Add enchilada sauce + shredded cheese
Mix all of the ingredients together, scoop into tortillas, and roll ‘em up.
Wrap them in tin foil and stick them in the freezer.
When you’re ready to eat them, put them in the oven on 350 until they’re cooked through.
…if you’re making enchiladas:
Repeat step one above.
Lightly cover the bottom of a glass baking dish with enchilada sauce.
Line the stuffed + rolled tortillas along the sheet, and cover with more enchilada sauce + cheese.
Bake at 325 until bubbling.
We usually serve with more greek yogurt and salsa, and then eat the whole tray. #noregrets
Have any meal prep tricks or meals you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below!