This post may contain affiliate links. Affiliate links come at no extra cost to you. These links allow me to share the products I authentically recommend (and use) and support Live Simply by receiving a small commission.
If you’ve been around Live Simply for any length of time (or follow me on Instagram), you probably know that I’m passionate about preparing food in advance (AKA: prep time). When I talk about prep time, I’m not talking about spending an entire weekend making “all the things.” What I am talking about is an intentional action of making a couple of foods, during a dedicated time, in order to prepare for the week ahead.
Over the past year, I’ve been in a consistent routine of prepping food on Sunday afternoon. When I first added this activity to my schedule, I made a lot mistakes. These mistakes were important learning lessons. They helped me simplify this time. From these mistakes, I’ve developed a few unspoken rules for my prep time. Well, unspoken until today.
5 Rules to Simplify and Succeed at Food Prep
1. Set intention by consulting your calendar and meal plan.
In order to be intentional about prep time, you’re going to need two things: your calendar and a meal plan. Take a look at your calendar and meal plan, and ask yourself, “What’s the most important food to prep based on my schedule? What’s going to simplify my life this week? What’s going to make the biggest impact?”
If upcoming mornings are going to be busy, prioritize making one or two breakfast meals based on your meal plan. Think about meals that may be served multiple times (pancakes, granola, smoothie packs, etc.). If you notice that what you’ve planned isn’t going to work for your schedule, tweak your meal plan. Make your meal plan–and what you’re going to prep–work for you.
2. Write down your prep plan.
I find that it’s helpful to make a note of what I’m going to prep on the side of my meal plan, or on a note card. This note keeps me focused during prep time. I’ve also found that a written plan helps me establish a good flow for prepping–what to make first, second, and last.
3. Start with a clean kitchen, fridge, and food prep containers.
There’s nothing more discouraging than prepping for an hour or two, and then spending an additional hour cleaning up the mess. To minimize the mess, clean your kitchen before prepping. Clean any dishes sitting in the sink. Clear any clutter (extra knives or food from earlier) from the kitchen countertops. Even better, ask your kids or your partner to help you clean up before prep time begins. A clean kitchen will give you more room to work, keep prep time organized, and minimize the after-prep mess.
4. Keep your next meal simple.
Have you ever prepped food for the week ahead only to realize that you’re too tired to actually make your next meal (usually lunch or dinner)? **sheepishly raises hand**
I’ve made this mistake more times than I’d like to admit.
To fix this mistake, I keep our Sunday night dinner simple. We either have soup from the Instant Pot (which can also serve as more prep since leftovers are inevitable), quesadillas, or hamburgers on the grill. Another option is to make prep day a family night out. Go out to Chipotle or your favorite restaurant. The idea is to keep this meal simple so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the idea of preparing and cooking a time-consuming lunch or dinner.
5. Double check your ingredients.
Finally, before beginning your food prep, make sure you have all the ingredients needed to make your recipes (or food components). Also, make sure you’ve defrosted any meat you’ll need (unless, of course, you’re cooking something from frozen in the Instant Pot). I like to sort my ingredients on my counter based on what I’m making (i.e. all the pancakes ingredients together, soup ingredients together). This little step, which takes about 10 minutes, keeps my prep time organized and focused.