So, meal prep is tough. If you’re like me & struggling just to be organized even in what goes into your bag, then it gets a little tougher.
This week (Sunday) my mom came and we did meal prep together. It was great, because it’s nice to have somebody else to shop & chop veggies with, and also my mom is a ninja at trimming and cutting chicken, & then she washes the whole kitchen with bleach after like a BAMF. It was a little challenging for me because my mom & I have different organizational styles – we’re wired differently – and so I had a little bit of anxiety because I like to do things my way (go figure) but in the end the meals were prepped and the kitchen was cleaned and we all had a great dinner.
Here are some bits of wisdom I’d like to share from my own trial & error in meal prepping:
- Start with an empty dishwasher & clear counters. For the love of God, do this. If you’re the kind of cowboy who can roll with the punches and get past this then more power to you. I, personally, need to know I can put everything we’re using in the dishwasher as soon as we are done, thereby making the final cleanup that much simpler. Also, as you’ll see, I have raw meat germ anxiety, so this helps.
- Do some pre-food setup. I like to have the casserole dishes, crock pot liners, oven bags, whatever already set up & open on the counter before I start anything else. That way the time between finishing a task (chopping an onion) and having a clear space to start the next thing (opening a can of tomato sauce) is as short as possible.
- Chop veggies first. For me, cutting vegetables is the kind of chore that takes about the same amount of time whether I’m cutting one onion or seven. Do them all at once and then separate them into the containers/bags/bowls for each meal & you’ll save effort later (also if you’re anything like me you’ll save the “Wait, did the raw hamburger touch this cutting board? Because these peppers will be raw in a salad, so . . .” anxiety that plagues me). Need onions in every meal? Good, dice them all at once and split them into piles. Life just got easier.
- Prep meat last, eggs second to last. This is how I have to do it. So, for example, I’ll put the onion, bread crumbs, cheese, seasoning, sauce, etc into the bag (or bowl) where I’m mixing up meatloaf first. Then I’ll crack an egg into a bowl, then I put in the ground meat (turkey if my mom’s eating it) in, dispose of all the packaging for the ground meat, mix the meatloaf, wash hands thoroughly, put everything in the dishwasher, wash my hands again, then move to the next thing. Too many times I’ve realized AFTER grabbing the jar of oregano that my hands are covered in the possibly salmonella-y stickiness of raw meat.
- Label & put instructions on things. An example: if I’m making meatloaf, I always make two. Same effort, twice the output. Then I’ll label the second meatloaf clearly, because that’s my ace in the hole freezer meal for a week when I’m maxed out & behind. Another example: I work until 3:20, drive 15 mins to pick the kids up, then drive 45 minutes home. Husband usually works later, but maybe today he finished up early & is home before me. Clear instructions scrawled in sharpie on the aluminum foil covering the casserole dish means that dinner is already cooking before I get home. Yeah, invaluable, amirite?
So there you go, that’s what I’ve got as far as a prep post this week. Now you tell me – what secrets have you learned? What hacks have you invented? What ridiculous anxieties do you have in the kitchen? I want to hear it, dish it out (haha, get it) in the combox!