I’ve been at goal weight for almost a year now. Over that time, I have eaten much more at home and I have made a lot of those meals. I have made “extras” of foods so we’d have some for later in the week, but I’ve never set out to do an entire week’s worth of dinners. I’ve been intrigued with how a weekly food prep can simplify weekly dinners and so the experiment begins.
The Menu Plan
I plan to make 5 dinners for this experiment. There will be 3 adults for each meal. We are pretty much “meat and potato” people, so I’ll have 3 meals based on that and 2 meals that are crockpot based. The crockpot meals will be based on “dump” recipes. “Dump” recipes, if you have not heard of them, are recipes that are prepared ahead of time and the ingredients are “dumped” into freezer bags and frozen until ready for use, in my case-in a crockpot. The menu will be as follows:
Monday-Vegetable Beef Stew
Tuesday-Chicken w/Mashed Sweet/Potatoes and Carrots
Wednesday-Ham/Mashed/Sweet Potatoes/Beets/Butternut Squash
Thursday-Pork Chops/Mashed Sweet/Potatoes/Brussel Sprouts/Carrots
Friday-Chicken Italiano/Mashed Potatoes
The Weekly Food and Meal Prep Plan
The idea behind this is to take a few hours one day to plan and make your meals for the week ahead. This can be in the form of fully cooked meals or casseroles that just need to be heated up when you get home. You can also create freezer “dump” meals for the crockpot that can simply be “dumped” in the crockpot in the morning and your meal can be ready by the time you get home from work. Here are some things to consider:
- Planning what to cook
- Checking ingredient inventory
- Make shopping list and get what’s needed
- Assembling ingredients
- Prepping veggies/cooking meat
- Assembling the meals in containers/freezer bags
- Adding directions if needed
- Storing in freezer
The Day Before Plan
The day before my weekly food prep, I did some recipe searching online, thought up “meat and potatoes” meals and also noted what I already had in the house. I had gone to a Farmer’s Market in the week and I had A LOT of fresh veggies which I wanted to use for this plan. I checked out my ingredients and made my shopping list.
Food Prep Day
The day began by going to the supermarket and getting the few ingredients I needed. I started the “cooking extravaganza” at about 9:30. The kitchen island area was cleared off and used as my work station. I gathered all my ingredients on another table. The one recipe, I didn’t have in my head, was online and so I had my laptop close by to use. Did you know that there are playlists out there that are based on Cooking Music? Having just heard this recently, I did a search on Spotify and there were lists! On came the tunes!
The Prep Begins…
I decided to start with veggie prep as I had so many to do. A newspaper comes in handy for me for peelings and scrap and I started prepping away. Separating the veggies for the stew in a separate bowl for further assembly. I boiled white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets on the stove. Brussel sprouts and butternut squash were roasted in the oven.
There were two meats that needed to be cooked-chicken and pork chops. I cooked them on a George Foreman grill. The ham I got was a bone-in one and needed to be cut up. There were two freezer bags of leftover ham and I also made a ham/scalloped potato casserole for future use.
Once the cooking was complete, I assembled the meals in the containers. Each container contained one meal, so I ended up with 9 containers. I used these Rubbermaid containers. I have used these often and they are useful and durable for fridge, freezer and microwave use. They are also stackable which makes it easy when it comes to storing them. They also come with separate compartments which is nice when you don’t want certain foods running together in the container. Nice lip on the lid too so it’s easy to open and close!
Now The “Dump” Meals
I am going to LOVE using this concept in the future. For my recipes, I was assembling all uncooked items. I could have browned the stewing beef if I had liked, but I didn’t do it. The hardest part was prepping the veggies. The Chicken Italiano is just 3 chicken breasts, about 1/2 jar of your favourite spaghetti sauce and a few shakes of some Italiano seasoning.
I used large size freezer bags for each recipe. Write any recipe directions on the bag first before filling. It’s easier. Take it from me! :o) It was a bit of a balancing act as well to fill the freezer bag without it spilling. I didn’t have someone to hold the bag open for me, but I managed. Several recipe sites use this device though. I wish I had it, but sadly it doesn’t ship to Canada :o( Lots of positive reviews on Amazon though!
Just as a note, I did also create the ham/scalloped potato casserole and made a Taco soup in the crockpot. These are not a part of next week’s dinner plans, but as I had the ingredients and was on a roll…why not!
The After Report
So at the end of the weekly food prep, I created a total of at least 15 individual meals with potential for some leftovers with the Beef Vegetable Stew for next week’s dinners. I also created the extra casserole which will probably cover the 3 of us for one meal and the crockpot soup for another 2 lunches over the coming days. I also managed to freeze 2qt size bags of cut up ham. This process took me 4.5 hrs. It took me about an hour to prep all the veggies I used for the dishes. The rest of the time was the cooking and assembly. This does not include cleanup which probably took 30-45 minutes washing the majority of dishes by hand.
How Could I Have Saved Time?
- purchase prepped veggies from the store
- use frozen veggies in my meals
- prepared more “dump” recipes
- make it a family affair or cook with a friend
- use ham steak or use spiral cut ham
Get Your Meal Planner Here
I am sold! The key to weekly food prep is planning! Looking at your schedule and put it on the calendar. Be sure to set out 3-5 hours, or an afternoon depending on how many meals you will be making and if you have help. I can help get you started with my meal planner and grocery list worksheet! And all on one paper! When you are ready to go to the grocery store, just grab it and go!
Prepping meals ahead takes some time and organization, but with trial and error, I know that this process can definitely work to your advantage! In doing this, you don’t have to use them all during the entire week, although you can if you want. Some days are going to be more hectic than others and on those hectic days, using one of these meals will be an easy way to get a healthy meal on the table, quickly and without the fuss and less cleanup! These are always nice to have on hand as well on days when the cook is ill, out-of-town or away for the evening. These come in really handy for college students who live away from home, ill or bereaved friends or relatives. So many uses!
I will definitely thank myself on those hectic days for weekly food preps. The prep time can be challenging, but the results will be worth it!
Frequently Asked Questions
This is very dependent on what you are making. In particular, how much veggie and/or meat prep is involved, and the way it is to be cooked afterward. Prepping for crockpot or instant pot could potentially be easier than setting up individual meals.
Use store bought prepped veggies, or frozen veggies. Use crockpot, instant pot or pressure cooker recipes that don’t require any recooking prior to freezing. Also involving the family or joining up with a friend to prep meals can save a lot of time.
After years of weight issues, I have finally found the formula of combining healthy food choices, regular exercise and positive behavior change to lose weight for good. Coupled with, exploring self-development, being productive and living simply, I am now maintaining a healthy lifestyle and in a good place. I enjoy writing articles to help my readers to become the best they can be!