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25 how to meal prep for the week in one afternoon

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. 

82 Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets Recipe

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets

Do you ever find yourself wanting a quick yet healthier version of the boxed oatmeal from the store? This recipe has less sugar but is just as rich in flavor!
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets Recipe

Instant oatmeal is one of those breakfast household staples. Those little packets, usually 10 to a box, are very convenient for rushed mornings.

I love making my own because they are cost effective, I can reduce the sugar, and I can customize to whatever I have on hand.

If you have kids (especially big ones) who love instant oatmeal, you know they can go through two or three packets on one sitting! By Thursday, I am nearly out of oatmeal. This leads to making plain oatmeal from quick oats and adding a little milk and sugar on my own.

When Laura, the Chief MOM, gave me her oatmeal packets recipe, I realized that I should have made my own all along!

The ingredients are simple: quick oats, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and powdered milk. If you follow our recipe, you’ll be able to make up to 24 packets of instant oatmeal. That’s over twice the amount that comes in a single box!

My daughter and I made them together, and I can say she really loved helping me make these. Nothing beats mother/daughter time! She loves oatmeal and was shocked to see how many packets we made in so little time!

The best part is that we can add whatever she wants to it. I don’t need to buy separate boxes for different flavors! I can add my own mini chocolate chips or dinosaur sprinkles to it, and she likes it just the same! You’ll never need to go back to boxed instant oatmeal again once you realize how easy it is to make your own!

When making these DIY Instant Oatmeal packets, I put most of them back inside my quick oats container for storage, but any container will work.

5.0 from 10 reviews
DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets
Recipe type: Breakfast
  • 10 cups quick oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1½ cups brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 21-24 snack-size zip bags
  1. Put 6 cups of the oats into a large bowl.
  2. Place the remaining 4 cups of oats into a blender. Blend until almost powdery, then pour into the large bowl.
  3. Add the salt, brown sugar, powdered milk, and cinnamon into the large bowl.
  4. Mix well until everything is combined.
  5. Measure ½ cup of the oatmeal mixture into each snack-size plastic baggie and seal.
To use DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets:
  1. Pour the packet into a bowl, and add the desired hot water. Stir and serve.
Because the plastic bag doesn't get wet or dirty, you can reuse it.


10 Non-Sandwich Lunch Ideas by MOMables

Need non-sandwich lunch ideas to fill your lunch box? 

10 non-sandwich lunch box ideas recipes via momables.com 

Our Meal Plans are designed to help you add variety to your family’s lunches and meals. They include non-sandwich ideas that are made with real ingredients and quick to prepare.

To help you get out of your sandwich routine a little, we’ve put together a post with Non-Sandwich Lunch Ideas!

If you want more fun ideas delivered to your inbox, for FREE, click here. 

Not every kid loves bread or, due to dietary restrictions, can have it. Specialty gluten-free and allergy-friendly breads can get expensive! Don’t worry, we got you covered, including two delicious new MOMables recipes in this post!

Mini Pumpkin Pancakes are a fun way to rock Breakfast for Lunch! The best part about pancakes is when you make one big batch, you can freeze them so they’re ready at your fingertips for breakfast on the go or in your lunch box.

Another yummy idea are our simple Apple Wraps. Tons of flavor without the bread! They’re also low in carbohydrates making them diabetic-friendly.

My daughter loves egg salad. The MOMables recipe for Greek Yogurt Egg Salad isa kid pleaser! That recipe is available when you subscribe to our free newsletter by clicking here.

Pizza is another family hit! Our gluten- and grain-free crust recipe can be made into different fun shapes with your choice of toppings.

Another grain-free favorite? Veggie Lasagna Cups. A great way to add more veggies into lunches with tons of delicious flavor.

Speaking of veggies, have you made our Spinach Artichoke Cups yet? Turn a delicious appetizer into a fun finger food for lunch.

Berry Good Wraps for Berry Good Kids! ;) Another MOMables recipe included at the bottom of this post, it’s a delicious salad wrapped in a healthy tortilla. Yum!

There’s a reason our Homemade Chicken Nugget recipe has been pinned more than 2,000 times. It’s simple and delicious! Stop buying the unhealthy bagged ones in the freezer section, and make your own for dinners or lunches.

As fall approaches, or family gatherings, break away from the typical “leftover turkey sandwich,” and try our Easy Turkey Broccoli Quiche recipe instead. A yummy lunch box treat for kids and adults!

Change up the typical burrito by adding nutritious black beans and sweet potatoes. It’s a great way to use up leftover sides from dinner, rolled into a delicious wrap for lunch!

Berry Good Wraps
MOM Tip: Lightly dress spinach-strawberry salad right before packing, or put dressing in a side container for dipping.
Cuisine: Lunches
Serves: Serves 1
  • 2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese
  • 1 8-inch tortilla (whole-wheat recommended)
  • Small handful baby spinach
  • 2 or 3 strawberries, sliced
  • 1 slice nitrate-free bacon, cooked and crumbled (organic recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon raspberry vinaigrette dressing
  1. Spread the cream cheese over the tortilla.
  2. Layer the spinach and strawberries, and top with the bacon.
  3. Lightly sprinkle with the dressing.
  4. Roll tightly, and cut the wrap in half.