How to Prep for the Week in One Afternoon

Want to know how I prep for the week in one afternoon? This is how I do it.

how to meal prep for the week in one afternoonIt is no secret that I am not a fan of the bewitching hours (5 pm to 7:30 pm) at my house. With three young kids, homework to be finished, a house that needs to be picked up, mouths that need to be fed, and dinner that needs to be made—oh.you.know—motherhood/life! By the way, the containers above are EasyLunchboxes

I can’t stress enough that the ONLY reason I am still sane by the end of the night is because I have a good plan for the week and the promise of a bed waiting for me hours later.

This weekend, I took pictures of nearly everything so you could see how I food prep for the week. I hope this illustrates how I manage to feed my family homemade food 7 days a week. Here it goes!—pictures and everything!! I know it’s long, but grab a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or a yummy cookie, and enjoy. 

1. I plan around lunch.

I am about 6 weeks ahead of my subscribers when it comes to the “active plan,” but this way I can see how everything works out for the week and which “make-ahead tips” I insert in our meal plan in addition to those favorite family-size recipes (some are slow cooker too!).

Why plan around lunch? This is the one meal where we are away from each other, so packing nutrition and variety is important. I pack five lunches every day: that’s three kids and two adults. We all eat the same thing in different portions, and I make adjustments for our gluten and dairy allergies.

2. Set aside time.

Sunday is our “family day.” We have a fun family breakfast (like my easy overnight cinnamon rolls), head to church, and come home. While everyone is eating lunch and the baby is napping, I head to the grocery store (um, groceries), come home, and get started. Just so you know, while I am doing all of this, the kids are playing, bugging me, jumping on the trampoline, and bugging mom some more—they are kids, after all.

3. Wash and prep all fruits and vegetables.   

I get the kids to do most of the washing and putting away. They play grocery store. Apples, pears, etc. get washed and stashed in the fridge or fruit bowl. Berries get washed and the ripe pineapple gets cut up and stored in a container. Any leftover fruit from last week that was very ripe gets minimally cooked and pureed then packed in a re-usable pouch for an after-school snack.

 

4. Get your oven busy! 

Once I turn on the oven, that’s it. Everything gets baked. This week, we are having a breakfast quiche (from leftover deli meats or just a few slices of turkey and ham) plus cheese. I also prepped zucchinis to be roasted the next night (in olive oil and seasoning) and store them directly in an oven-ready dish. The quiche recipe is in one of our menus. I also bake any cookies or baked goods while the oven is on.

5. Prep your grains. 

There is nothing wrong with cooking rice and pasta a few days ahead of time (like three). My rice cooker cooked the rice, and I boiled pasta. That same night (Sunday night) I made our easy fried rice and made ahead a dairy-free mac and cheese sauce. It was amazing, and my non-vegan/dairy-free kids devoured it. Leftover fried rice is Tuesday’s warm lunch :). Click here to learn how long food keeps hot in a thermos.

6. Make sauces ahead of time. 

I made tomato basil sauce and walnut pesto (or try our broccoli pesto recipe). I simply store sauces in a jar and refrigerate. I made a few DIY frozen pizzas while I was at it and sent those to the freezer. By the way, this is one thing my kids love helping out with. They play “pizzeria!”

7. Take care of your proteins.

Some weeks, we have bean salads, hummus etc., so I cook my beans in the slow cooker the night before, and they are ready for me for my meal prep-a-thon. This week, I made tuna salad for lunch (mostly for my husband), grilled 1 pound of chicken, and I’m using our birthday party’s leftover slow-cooked BBQ pork. The other protein we are eating this week is grilled fish so that everything gets made that same night. Oh yeah, the celery gets washed and prepped to fit in our lunch boxes.

8. Pack, label, and refrigerate. 

What you see here is my fridge. It’s FULL of prepped-ahead items and lunches for Monday to Wednesday. As I take items out Monday morning, there is room for more. Wednesday night, I make Thursday’s and Friday’s. By labeling, I mean I take a dry erase pen and mark anything that needs to be warmed or grilled in the morning. That is a picture of my lunch for tomorrow in an EasyLunchboxes container.

By now, you are either thinking:

  • “NO WAY I can do that”—yes, you can. All you need is a little planning and a plan.
  • “I’m not that organized“—I’m not either. Just ask my husband. I use a plan, sit for 10 minutes to add the rest of the meals, and go to the stores.
  • “You’ve got hired help”—yes, if by hired help, you are referring to the MOMables meal plan. You can hire help for $6 or less per month.
  • “I don’t have that much time”—I spend about 4 hours every Sunday getting organized for the week. If I don’t, it’s chaos, we eat the same routine foods, and I feel like I just don’t have it together by mid-week.
  • “This is overwhelming”—I’m sure it is, but not so much if you have a plan you can implement. 5 pm to 7:30 pm every night is overwhelming enough for me.
  • “I don’t have the right containers“—Check out all the containers I have here.
  • “I just sorta wing it”—I used to, too. Now, I can feed all five of us for $150 per week for 7 days/3+ meals per day (we may eat out once a month—if that). You can check out how I feed my family on a budget here. Winging it means wasting a lot more than $6 per month on food—guaranteed.

I know this was a “long one,” but at least you get to see exactly how I do it. It’s work, but the feeling I get when I finally close my fridge and my kitchen is cleaned is priceless. 

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About MOMables

Laura Fuentes is the CEO & Chief MOM at MOMables™. A wife, mother of 3 and a lunch enthusiast who insists on healthy, wholesome food for her family. 
She’s on a mission to help busy parents overcome the difficulties of packing fresh school lunches. On her personal blog, SuperGlueMom.com, she writes about motherhood, deadlines, healthier living, and keeping her cool, even when her kids super-glued her hair. She’s also a food contributor and published weekly in numerous sites.