As most of you, who have been following me for a while know, I'm a super fan of "meal prep Sunday".
Taking some hours off to cook and prepare everything you and your family will be having during the week really is something that can take away all the stress from cooking on weekdays or nights and give you the reassurance of having great and healthy food and snacks available at all times.
I try to think about the amount of lunches/dinners we'll be having at home, as well as school and work lunches, meals and snacks. Since doing my first whole30 I try to limit the processed food we eat and usually reserve those options for the weekend, as a treat.
We've always been used to eating mostly healthy food, cooked at home and with wholesome ingredients. Cooking was always something that was part of my life, growing up, and I've always loved to do it, either by helping my mom out when I was a kid or doing it now for my family. My kids also love to help around the kitchen and my son, Mr. J, keeps telling my that he wants to be a Chef when he grows up! Lets see if we can make the spark last and keep the kids more and more excited about food and making healthy choices.
When meal planning and prepping for your family there are some main points that you should have written down. I've writing this blog post about meal prep and I always go back to the basics when I start my plan:
What do I need to know in order to build by meal plan for the week:
After getting this essential information you must also think about the order in which your meals and food will be eaten. Some of the things that might get spoiled easily must be eaten first, as well as raw leafy greens, like arugula and spinach. I always prep my raw veggies for the week and keep them in airtight containers and they last throughout the whole week.
I just got an amazing set of clear glass food storage containers and I absolutely love them! I will be needing to buy some more of the bigger sizes and one of the reasons I love them so much is because I can see exactly what each container holds without having to open or move it! That way I don't forget about eating something that's in a colored plastic container, hidden from plain sight!
I wrote this blog post throughout the week and, at the end of the post, I'll be able to tell you exactly how many meals I got with this specific meal prep. I'll also be creating a shopping list for it and I'll be giving the option of getting some more information on my meal prep and new recipes by entering your email on the box by the end of the post so you can get all this amazing information in your inbox!
Let's move on and get into the delicious details of my family's weekday meals!
Every week I try to cook up, at least, a batch of soup. It's an excellent way to get some more vegetables in your diet because when I say soup I don't mean "hamburger soup" or "tortilla soup" but a vegetable based soup. This is also great to control the amount of food you eat because if you're having a plate of healthy and satiating soup before your main dish you'll probably be able to eat a bit less of your main dish and, this way, control the amount of food you eat in one sitting.
This week I was missing this amazing roasted tomato soup and I decided to cook up a batch that was enough to fill two tall plastic containers - I'm still midway through changing all of my food containers to glass!
I love tomato soup but I'm not a fan of a heavy version of it (with added cream) and this light but super flavorful version is just perfect! I gave up dairy since completing my whole30 and I really don't need it. The prolonged cooking process of this soup (roasting, simmering and simmering again after blending it) gives it a creamy texture and an amazing deep flavor.
I also cooked up a batch of carrot soup with fresh watercress. I made a basic vegetable soup base with carrots, onion, garlic and zucchini, blended it with my immersion blender after cooking the vegetables in bone broth for approximately 20 minutes and then added the watercress and cooked for an additional 10 minutes on low heat.
Making vegetable soup is so easy and simple and it is a great way to enrich your daily diet. Give it a try and mix your favorite veggies and get eating some delicious and comforting soups to go with the colder weather that is getting closer and closer by the day! For the colder days try this super yummy Onion soup or this hearty meatball soup that is a whole meal by itself...I love soup season!
I always like to have fresh raw veggies to have as a snack, both for me and for the kids. The notion that a snack doesn't need to come in a package is something that I've been trying to pass on to my children. Of course they eat those snacks too but I always try to make them like a weekend treat event and not a daily eating habit.
Fresh veggies are great for kids and come in so many colors that helps us build colorful and beautiful lunches that are healthy but super tasty too. Either by themselves or with some hummus or good quality ranch dip I always send two or three different kinds of veggies in the lunchboxes - I try to ask the kids if there's a preference for the next day because kids' tastes are ever changing, right?!
This week we chose celery, bell peppers, carrots, radishes, green beans and cucumber. We usually have grape tomatoes too, but this week our farmers market didn't have a good batch so we passed on those. All I have to do is wash the veggies (except the carrot which I peel), pat them dry with a "unpaper towel" (I love these ones, from Marley's Monsters and they're my secret to having gone down to 1 roll of paper towels every couple of months!) and cut them up. I store them in glass or plastic containers and they really last all week long -- the celery and carrot hold pretty good even longer.
These veggies are an essential component of the kids' lunchboxes and they're also great for a quick snack, which some hummus or cheese. Pick your favorites and include them in your weekly meal prep to make your snack time easier and quicker.
There are so many vegetables available all year long that there's no shortage of cooked veggies for our weekly menus! I love roasted and grilled veggies and this week I chose roasted acorn squash and sweet potato, grilled eggplant, boiled mini corn on the cob (great for dinner and paired with a cup of soup!), sauteed garlic kale, roasted mushrooms with thyme and garlic and boiled mixed veggies.
The mixed veggies is something that I always like to have in my freezer because they make those quick lunches doable and super easy! Mixed with a hard boiled egg and 1/2 a can of tuna they make up for a satisfying and nourishing lunch, both for kids and adults.
I also grilled some asparagus (simply seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder) and roasted a whole cauliflower, cut up in medium pieces and seasoned with curry powder and turmeric, which is a great anti inflammatory .
In the big glass square container there's a whole spiralized zucchini. This is a pretty expensive item to get at the supermarket, if you buy it already spiralized but it's so cheap and easy to make it at home that it really is a pretty good investment to get your own spiralizer and do it yourself. A lot of vegetables can be spiralized, like butternut squash, carrots, beets and turnip.
I use one pretty similar to this one and this even offers more blade variety so you can get different shaped veggies!
Cooked extra sides
Besides the vegetables I also cooked some quinoa and white rice to go with the prottein sources and the veggies. I also ended up coking up a batch of smashed potatoes and the kids absolutely loved it, I'll be cooking those up again a lot during the winter time!
This an extremely easy recipe for potatoes and all you have to do is boil the potatoes in salted water and after straining all the water out just lay all the potatoes in a baking tray lined with parchment paper. With a potato masher squash each potato until it gives in and spray the potatoes with some olive oil. Put the potatoes under the broiler for about 10 minutes or until you see they're getting crunchy and golden - keep an eye on them because the broiler can be really fast doing its work!
Cooked protein sources
One thing that you'll always see on my weekly meal prep is hard boiled eggs! It's such a great and portable source of protein and it's great to incorporate in almost every meal or to have as a snack - I usually cook up half a dozen and by the following day they're almost gone! Tuna or chicken salad with a hard boiled egg is usually one of the meals on repeat for the kids' lunchboxes because it's pretty easy to put up in the morning and everyone loves it.
I also cooked up a smoked kielbasa sausage, basically just pan searing it, with no added fat. It's also a great option to add to any plate with veggies and rice, for example. The chicken breasts I grilled were enough to make a batch of chicken fried rice and are also a perfect meal to heat up in the microwave during the week or to send in thermos containers to school or lunch.
I was in the mood for cooking some comforting meals and a medium batch of ground beef with tomato sauce was the perfect solution for that - it goes great with the smashed potatoes, over some spiralized zucchini or with the plain white rice or quinoa. As I've mentioned before I'm totally focused on keeping "food boredom" away and that's why I'm always trying to build up different meals with my meal prep items - I'm not one to eat the same meal 3 days in a row but if I have the opportunity to use the same protein base and mix it with different veggies and sides that makes it perfect!
This week the kids were asking for hot dogs so I changed it a bit and baked some pigs in blankets with some store bought refrigerated dough. Paired with a bowl of soup this make up for a great dinner and I also love to send them for lunch, with some raw veggies and fresh fruit.
How many servings/meals did we get from this meal prep?
After all of this you must be asking yourself this really important question:
How many meals did this weekly meal prep rendered?!
So you can have a very accurate idea of how many meals/servings I got out of each item on this meal prep I'll give you a full description of what we had and how we paired our main and side dishes:
As you can see we had a total of 22 meals and 14 servings of soup for the whole week, which was great for a 4,5 h meal prep work. This is one of the reasons I stick to this routine - there have been weeks when I wasn't able to meal prep and the result was a chaotic week with stress mornings prepping lunches and a lot of cooking during the weekdays which is something that I try to avoid!
I know that it might sound daunting prepping for that long in a day but, trust me, it is totally worth it!
This is an amazing way to make sure that you and your whole family have healthy and balanced meals and snacks at all time! Whenever you feel like eating something you'll be able to open the fridge and take something out that is good for you and quick to pick up.
To make this meal prep easier for you I've listed all the items used on this meal prep. If you wish to receive an email with the full list just fill out the form below with your name and email address and you'll get everything delivered to your inbox. The full grocery list needed and, as a bonus, for those of you that enter the email address I'll also be putting up a document with most of the recipes I used on this 4,5 h meal prep, so you can give it a try and test them with your family! Those will be sent separately and, probably, during the next week.
Once again I hope that this blog post is somewhat of an incentive to get you on the "meal prep train" and to also help you with some healthy and quick meal options for the whole family. I'll be publishing some more weekly meal prep posts and also weekly menus with different recipes so you can choose from a wider variety of meals and ingredients.
My whole30 journey was what triggered me to start doing this and it is something that I always try to pass on to my friends and family - eating healthy everyday is possible, it just needs time, organization and prep time!