I know you may be thinking right off the bat, WHY would I take time to meal prep when I’m busy with so many other things as a parent. There are actually some pretty overlooked benefits to meal prep. There are also ways to make it work for you and fit meal prep into your life schedule.
So Why meal prep?
more time on your hands
You probably have enough on your hands with the little one(s). Meal prepping is a way to add one more bit of order to your day. You need energy and the ability to give attention to other unexpected challenges of the day.
If you’re worried about your little ones’ nutrition, meal prepping is a way to premeditate and plan for nutrient-dense meal options for them. Rather than scrapping something together at the last minute that may not have the best variety of veggies, protein, and healthy carbs, have it ready with the prepped meals.
I’m sure you attempt to avoid this as much as possible by having the fridge and pantry stocked with good food options, but it does happen more often if one is unprepared.
contributes to self-care
On the other side of things, meal prepping for yourself is a great time hack as well! As caregivers, we at times get so wrapped up in making sure our children are getting the very best, often to the point of self-neglect.
You might have to shove a cookie in your mouth and call it ‘breakfast’ to kill hunger for a moment while you do one of the million things with your kid(s). But having nutrition and energy planned out by means of prepared meals for the caregiver is one of the easiest ways to keep up energy, and reaction time. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
How to meal prep
You can meal prep in different ways depending on the types of foods you and your family like to eat, and depending on the age of your kids. Meal prep can be done twice a week for 3-4 days worth of meals at a time. You can do mass meal prep at a chosen interval, such as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly to freeze. Another option is to do a combination of the two.
small meal prep every 3-4 days
This is a great option for maintaining freshness as most foods are only good in the fridge for about 3-4 days.
Prepped fridge foods can also be supplemented with ‘counter snacks’ such as fruits, nutrition bars/cookies, nuts, and dried fruits. Foods best suited for this style are salads, stews, fish, eggs, poultry, beans, rice, pasta, and bread. Pretty much all foods.
An additional tip for baby foods, prep the meals separately! this may mean investing in a good Tupperware set. For example, if you have to take out a bowl of peas, minced chicken, and brown rice separately, then put it together, warm it, and put it back the three bowls in their designated spot in the fridge.
The preparation method can be applied to your own meals as well. Using small containers of prepared meals will save you all that extra time and effort. For babies on their first foods, do all the mincing and chopping beforehand, all at once, then section out for separate meals.
mass meal prep at chosen intervals
This is a great option for eliminating wastage. This also reduces your prep days. The intervals can be any ones you choose such as monthly, or biweekly for example. Most foods are only good in the freezer for about 3-6 months. So as long as you are mindful of the freeze-times for your specific meals, freshness can still be maintained.
Such meals can also still be supplemented with ‘counter snacks’ as mentioned before. To remember the foods that fit this option, think of foods that freeze well. Some examples are foods like stews and soups, lasagnas, pasta/rice bowls.
combination of small meal prep and mass meal prep
This is an all-around favorite as you don’t have to overthink about making too many freezer-friendly meals specifically. Rather, you have some of those in the freezer as a backup, so that your twice-a-week cooking schedule has room for unexpected delays. Maybe your Monday prep needs to be moved to Tuesday because you or your partner had longer work meetings than planned, pull out some backup lasagna from the freezer!
Ways to improve the effectiveness of meal prep
Call on supports – if friends and/or family are willing to help with meals, let them! Have a stew made by someone and freeze it for later.
Use food meal services – if you struggle with meal ideas, there are great meal prep service companies that even deliver set items for cooking.
Grocery delivery – this can just help eliminate a step in the whole process and save time from a grocery run.
Freezer friendly foods ideas
- Soups & stews
- Chicken pot pie
- Zucchini pizza casserole
- Spaghetti sauce
- Asian chicken thighs
- Slow cooker beef barbacoa
Freezer-friendly toddler foods ideas
- Chicken sticks
- Black bean cakes
- Chicken nuggets
- Ham & cheese muffins
- Green veggie pancakes
- Vegetarian calzones
- Meat and veggie balls
- Ground turkey and sweet potato burgers
Freezer-friendly baby food ideas
- Sweet potato
- Baby-led weaning muffins
- Baby pancakes
- Instant pot maple cinnamon oatmeal
- Coconut protein cookies
- Apple sauce, pear sauce