Food Prep Like a Pro to Make Your Week Run Smoothly
Today I am excited to share a guest post by blogger Angie Vaughters, who takes us through her weekly food prep routine, to make meals (and the week) run smoothly.
Food prep! As a wife, mom, and someone who runs a business from home, it’s one of the activities that make my week run so much smoother. I used to hear the term ‘food prep’ before and I’d think about containers of plain rice, broccoli, and chicken and think 'Bleh!' Who wants to eat that week in and week out?!
It wasn’t until I started realizing the power of batch-prepping food in general, as opposed to just putting some bland ingredients in a container for lunch, that the light bulb finally turned on! Food prep for me is taking one day a week and preparing fruits and veggies (washing, peeling, slicing), putting together ingredients in mason jars, and pre-making things like sandwiches that can be frozen. I spend about 1.5-2 hours per week prepping food. Below I’ll talk about what I do each and every week!
Fruits and Veggies
I pack lunches for my kids every day, so for the sake of time in the morning, it is extremely helpful to have fruits and veggies prepped and ready to go. I can just grab them and put them into the kids' bento box containers in the morning. It’s also fantastic having fruits and veggies ready to grab... when things are washed and prepped, it’s just as easy to grab an apple as it is some chips or another unhealthy snack.
I love using glass containers with lids to store our fruits and veggies in.
- Apples - Every week we buy a huge lot of small organic apples. I wash and dry them well and stick them all in a large reusable bag (unsealed) in the fruit drawer of the refrigerator. You could store them in a bowl, but that takes too much space in my fridge. Apples will last a long time in the fridge, so they never go bad on us because we eat them quickly.
- Grapes - When organic grapes are in season, we wash them and pull them off the stems. Then I store them in the fridge without a lid, unless they are completely dry. These will last about 5-6 days. If they start looking like they will get dry, I use a lid.
Strawberries - We wash and hull the strawberries (pull out the stems). This tool is my favorite for getting the hulls out. We store them whole and with a lid on the container. If they are still wet from washing, I’ll leave the lid off for a day or so, and once they strawberries are dry, I put a lid on to keep them fresh. These will last about 5-6 days.
- Carrots - Baby carrots are nice for the convenience (they are peeled and cut!), but so many times they are so wet and it grosses me out! I will still buy them occasionally if I’m short on time and dry them well before storing, but my preference is to buy 2 lb of carrots and peel and cut them into sticks. DO NOT PUT 2 LBS WORTH OF CARROT PEELS DOWN YOUR DISPOSAL. I have learned this from experience! If you compost, this is a great use for the peels. Otherwise, put them in the trash, NOT the disposal! I store peeled and cut carrots in a covered container in the fridge; they will last over a week.
- Bell Peppers - We wash, dry, and cut bell peppers into strips. We store these in a covered container in the fridge; they will last about 5-6 days.
- Celery - Sometimes we’ll get on a celery kick, my kids love celery sticks! We just wash and cut these into 4-inch pieces and store in a covered container in the fridge. They will last over a week.
- Pineapple - I will cut pineapple into chunks and store them covered in the fridge. I have no idea how long pineapple lasts in the fridge because it’s gone within a couple days around here!
Oats for Breakfast
The next thing I love to prep in advance are oats for breakfast. We used to use oatmeal packets for the convenience, but the ‘healthier’ options are so expensive and usually still have lots of sugar! So I started seasoning our own oats with spices and other ingredients, but I was pulling out so many ingredients every morning. Then one day I thought, “I can make my OWN oatmeal packets!” And, we generate less waste since we don't use disposable packets anymore.
My daughter and I both enjoy oatmeal in the morning, so on my meal prep day, I’ll line up mason jars for her and mason jars for me (since we like our oats different, ha!). It is SO much faster batch-prepping our oats when I have all the ingredients out, rather than pulling out those same ingredients every single day.
In the morning, I simply pour the contents into a pan on the stove and heat it up! There are a lot of ‘overnight oats’ recipes out there but below are our favorites. Because I heat our oats up, I use more water than if we were going to eat them cold… so if you were going to eat them cold, adjust the water down.
Here are our recipes:
Apple Spice Oats (my daughter’s favorite)
- ⅓ cup dry old fashioned rolled oats
- 6 dashes of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove)
- 1 tsp coconut sugar
- 2 tsp collagen (optional - collagen is said to be good for gut health and contains protein, this is the one we use)
- Dash of salt
- ¾ of water (add 1-2 nights before - see below)
Directions - heat in a pan on the stove in the morning, add ½ diced apple (they are already washed in the fridge!), sweeten with maple syrup to taste if desired.
Cocoa Oats (my favorite)
- ½ cup dry old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 tbsp collagen
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- Dash of salt
- 1 ⅓ cup of water (add 1-2 nights before - see below)
I like to blend my cocoa oats to a coarse powder in a Vitamix/magic bullet/blender - these are like Cocoa Wheats when I was a kid!
Directions - heat in a pan on the stove in the morning. Serve with 1 tbsp chopped pecans and a dash of almond milk. Sweeten with maple syrup, if desired.
Note on oats - It’s been said that soaking oats overnight in liquid (water in this case) helps make them more digestible. So I will add water up to 2 days in advance to the jars of oats and put them in my fridge. The rest of the dry oats stay in the pantry until they are ready to soak. However, you can skip this step and just add your water the day of.
Did you know some sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen?! One of the most helpful food prep tips I learned this year was that you can make and freeze most sandwiches in advance! My daughter still likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in her school lunch, so I make these and store them in the freezer (in a sealed, reusable gallon-sized bag because I can push the air out). I have also made turkey cheese sandwiches and turkey cheese rollups this way. Things that don’t freeze well are vegetables like lettuce and tomato. I just pull out a frozen sandwich/wrap and place it in their bento boxes, and by lunchtime, it's thawed and ready to eat.
Other Food Prep Ideas
Most weeks I’ll also make a loaf of homemade bread (with freshly-ground wheat berries) or some banana oatmeal muffins that we can use as snacks during the week. It’s nice to have things baking and to dirty the dishes all at the same time, so the kitchen is only in major chaos once during the week.
I’ve also made ‘smoothie packs’ by adding all the ingredients except the liquid (so banana, spinach, berries, carrots, etc.) to a reusable bag and freezing. When you're ready to make your smoothie, dump your premade pack into your Vitamix or blender, add liquid, and blend away! Again, this is where the power of batching comes in and saves so much time.
Mason jar salads are also great to prep ahead. Layer your jar from bottom to top: dressing, hearty veggies (not lettuce), protein and/or grains (eggs, beans, rice, quinoa, pasta, etc.), and lettuce/greens on top. You can make these 5 days or so ahead of time and store them in your fridge. When you’re ready to eat them, just dump them in a bowl and the dressing is on top without making your lettuce soggy!
Rectangular glass storage containers with lids are my favorite for storing prepped fruits and veggies. With Mason jars, it’s the WIDE-MOUTHED jars that I like the best - this makes pouring ingredients in AND out the easiest! (especially with salads). For oatmeal, wide mouth pint jars work great. For larger items like salads, you’ll need the wide mouth quart jars.
I hope this was helpful and gives you some ideas. Prepping ahead will save you so much time during the week and help it run smoothly! Let's hear your food prep recipes and tips. Leave a comment below.
Angie Vaughters blogs at The Well Oiled Life, where she is passionate about empowering people how to take care of their families in more natural ways. You can connect with her on Facebook or Instagram!