I’m not going to lie…
Real food requires a lot of work!
There are many days when I wish a trip to the store and a box of frozen pizza qualified as “real.” Not for the taste or nutrition (99% of store-bought boxes are majorly lacking in both), but for the convenience. A real food lifestyle requires a total shift in behavior and thinking, one from quick and convenience to slow and homemade.
Okay, this post is sounding rather depressing. Shall we pick things up a bit? I promise, there’s good news!
Just because real food requires more time and work than processed food doesn’t mean you have to spend every single day in the kitchen creating everything from scratch… I don’t! That’s great news. I told you things were going to pick up.
Prep day is my secret “trick” to keeping real food simple, time efficient, and even affordable!
Prep day allows me to prepare ingredients and foods in advance. This means I have more time during the week to work, play with my kids, read a book, etc. Yes, I still cook during the week, but prepping ingredients and foods in advance drastically reduces my overall time in the kitchen, making real food doable even on the busiest of days.
Prep Day 101
What is prep time?
A set day/time for preparing as many ingredients or meals as possible for the week ahead. I suggest writing or typing the day/time on a calendar.
How do I know what to prep?
Take a look at your meal plan.
Now, circle the days that are super busy. Soccer on Monday night? Circle Monday. Church on Wednesday night? Circle Wednesday.
With the busy days circled, take a look at the meals you plan to serve. Think about the ingredients you can prep in advance to save time and stress. Busy days are always my prep time priority. After the busy days are tamed, I choose the hardest recipes and prep ingredients that will make the recipes easier to prepare.
How much time should you spend prepping?
The amount of time you spend preparing is completely up to you. I dedicate two hours on Sunday afternoon. Two hours goes by fast in the kitchen, so I reduce all my distractions–my phone is turned off and I put a movie in the DVD player for the kids (yep, I do that!). I turn on my favorite music and get to work.
I can usually be found chopping vegetables for soup or salads, making salad dressing (vinaigrette or my favorite Caesar dressing), baking bread (I purchase bread from the health food store on super busy weeks) or muffins, making a pot of pinto or black beans, roasting a whole chicken, assembling bean or breakfast burritos, and cooking waffles or whisking a pre-made mix.
20 Prep Day Foods
To get you started with prep day, here are just a few of the possibilities of foods and ingredients you can prep now to save time (and money) later. To make life even simpler, I created a printable checklist so you can print the list and hang it on your fridge or keep it safe in your Meal Plan Binder/Folder. Find the printable list here or by clicking the “printable” icon below.
1. Chop Vegetables and Fruit
2. Chop Salad and Sandwich Ingredients
3. Marinate Meats
4. Form Meat Patties: Hamburgers, Meatballs, Meatloaf
5. Cook Meats: Whole Chicken, Ham, Brown Beef, Crock-Pot Beef Roast and Shred /Slice Meats
6. Cook Soup
7. Bake Muffins, Bread, Biscuits (Biscuits and muffins can be stored raw in the freezer.)
9. Make Pancake/Waffle Dry Mix
10. Cook Beans, Lentils, Rice, Pasta
11. Make Quiche, Mini-Quiche (in muffin tin)
12. Hard Boil Eggs
13. Slice Snack Veggie Sticks: Carrots, Celery, Cucumber, Broccoli, Peppers and/or Roast Vegetables
14. Prepare Salad Dressing(s)/Dips
15. Shred/Slice Cheese
16. Assemble Burritos: Breakfast, Bean, Meat
17. Assemble Salads/Sandwiches/Wraps: Lunch Main Staples
18. Assemble Freezer Smoothie Packs or Prepare Ready-Made Smoothies
19. Make Spaghetti/Pizza Sauce
Prep day/time is the answer to my sanity, and the only reason I’m able to consistently feed my family real food day after day. With my meal plan in hand and food prepared in the fridge, the time I spend thinking about food and cooking is greatly reduced each week. With a little planning, real food is doable, affordable, and even time efficient!