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Can I share with you a little meal planning secret?
I’ve been using the same meal plan for breakfast and lunch since school started back in August.
And you know what? I love this! I love that I only have to sit down and plan dinner each week (from a list of favorite meals, and some “to try” meals that peak my interest). That, my friend, is how I’m simplifying life right now–consistency and routine (in the form of a rotating weekly menu) for breakfast and lunch, and variety and spontaneity for dinner.
I do add variety to this set plan by incorporating different fruits and veggies as they go on sale and now with the changing seasons, but for the most part, these meals are consistent and unchanging. Does my family get bored with this predictability? Not yet. Will I change my plan in the future? Definitely. Maybe I’ll create a new plan for breakfast and lunch in January, which we can use for the remaining months of the school year.
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Without fail, carrots and celery are always served on the side of the lunch mains. Why? Because both are inexpensive (whether they’re from the local market or purchased from the grocery store) and both foods are staples in my fridge since they’re so versatile. Some weeks the lunchbox carrot and celery sticks are served with a dip (like a homemade ranch, hummus, or a roasted eggplant dip).
I personally don’t like to cut veggies every single morning, so I’ve added this task to my weekend prep time. It takes about 10 minutes for me to cut a bunch of carrot and celery sticks. I also cut some apple slices (soaking them in lemon juice and water before adding the slices to a storage container) and cucumbers. That, my friend, is time well spent. And doing this shaves off precious minutes from my morning routine. Those precious minutes, as all parents know, are incredibly valuable on a busy school morning. Every second counts.
If you’ve ever prepped carrot or celery sticks in advance, you’ve probably run into a major issue: limp, dry veggies. For a while, I continued to prep these veggies, despite this issue. I figured no one noticed how dry the carrots looked (and tasted) and how limp the celery was. My assumption was wrong.
After weeks of sending these veggies in the kids’ lunchboxes, Piper spoke up, “Mom, I don’t like the carrots in my lunch. They don’t taste good. And they’re so dry.” At the time, I didn’t know how to fix the issue, other than going back to slicing the carrots and celery each morning.
A couple of months ago, right after Piper’s confession, I walked into a local health food store and immeadiately noticed the prepared veggie section in the front of the store. The store had a bunch of pre-cut options, ranging from fruit to spiralized veggies, but that’s not what caught my eye. What caught my eye was the carrot and celery sticks, which were cut into slices and stored in water. “Hmmmm, could this be the answer to my carrot and celery issue?”
I immeadiately tried out the “hack” in my own kitchen–slicing carrots and celery and then placing the “sticks” in mason jars filled with water. The cut carrots and celery remained fresh and crisp for the rest of the week (7 days).
I’ve been using this hack to keep carrots and celery fresh and crisp for months now, and it hasn’t failed me once. The veggies always taste and look amazing, even on day seven. I’ve already described how this hack works, but I’ll spell it out in a more step-by-step way, below. Plus, there’s a video.
How to Keep Cut Carrots and Celery Fresh and CrispPrep Ahead Hack
Cut the carrots and celery into the desired sizes: sticks, coins, etc.
Add the carrots and celery to mason jars or storage jars. I’ve found that wide-mouth mason jars work well for “sticks” since the pieces can stand up in the jars.
Fill the jars with filtered water. Secure the lids on the jars.
Store the jars in the fridge for up to a week (I’ve gone a bit longer, too). Add fresh water to the jars every few days to keep things fresh.