5 Ways To Win at Weeknight Meal Prep
Whether you’re cooking for a family of picky eaters or preparing a meal just for yourself, we ALL struggle with weeknight meals. Particularly if you work outside the home, it can a challenge to get even a single errand done on the way home from work…let alone get to your yoga class and prepare a nutritionally balanced meal! But before you hit “Pizza Guy” on the ol’ speed dial, consider these five relatively simple ways to get ahead of your Monday–Friday meal game—setting yourself up for healthier, less stressful weeknights all year long.
1) Plan Ahead with Menus + Shopping
By far, the most important component of any weeknight cooking regimen—well, ANY kind of regimen, actually—is careful advanced planning. If your goal is to prepare meals with fresh ingredients every night of the week, you should do part, if not all, of your menu selection and ingredient shopping at least a few days prior. It can be particularly helpful to establish a choose/cook/shop/prep schedule in advance, too.
For example: set aside some time each Saturday morning to choose your dinner recipes for the coming week, then use your recipes to shape your grocery list. After you’ve done the shopping, you may also want to look over your meal ideas to see if any of the sauces, dressings or sides can be made ahead of time; this will not only streamline your weeknights but also give the flavors time to meld.
2) Experiment with Make-Ahead Meals
If you find yourself with a little extra time on the weekend and want to take your preparedness up another notch, making “dinner kits” ahead of time—or even freezer meals, which need only be thawed and heated—will dramatically reduce your Monday–Friday meal preparation time. The Internet is brimming with “make-ahead” and “freezer meal” recipes; we recommend browsing around until you have a library you feel good about, then printing out the coming week’s 5–6 winners to help craft your grocery list.
3) Discover the Joy of Your Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are experiencing a renaissance right now, and with good reason. With a bit of advance planning, you can come home to a hot meal and a home filled with tantalizing aromas! Adding a Crock Pot to your weekly meal prep arsenal once or twice a week is a great way to remove a bit of anxiety from busier weeks. Choose hearty-but-healthy recipes, and you’ll also enjoy the added benefit of thoughtful nutrition…which, as you know, can help counteract the immune-crashing effects of stress.
4) Be Creative with Those Leftovers
Particularly if you’re cooking for just 1–2 people, it’s easy (and economical) to work your leftovers into the mix later in the week—whether for lunch as-is, or re-imagined as another dinner. To maximize your creativity, think of your meals in terms of ingredients rather than meals. Roasted vegetables can find new purpose in a frittata or a pasta sauce; leftover meats can become soups, tacos or salad toppers. Carefully considering each meal in this manner can easily create an extra two meals per week, with only side ingredients to shop for.
5) Sign Up for a Meal Delivery Service
If your work schedule prohibits planning ahead (or, if cooking every night just really isn’t your thing), then why not try a meal delivery service? There are dozens of delicious, ultra-convenient options out there; a little bit of research should quickly unveil which service offers the features that are important to you. Here’s a start:
Blue Apron categorizes its meals by customer favorites and prep time, with many meals ready in 30 minutes. Plated works with local partners to ensure that the produce, seafood, pork/poultry and beef are always fresh and seasonal. HelloFresh has options that range from 20–60 minutes in prep time and meal plans that cater to vegetarians and families. Freshly caters to the time-starved crowd with pre-cooked meals delivered in a special refrigerated container, while BistroMD meal plans are geared specifically towards weight loss.
And, the good news is, Carepoynt members can earn Poynts for their purchases this any of these meal delivery services!