Pro Tip: DIY Meal Prep For Busy Parents

Lyndsay McLeod , Senior Pro Tips Correspondent

January 14, 2019

“Um, excuse me? What? You people need to be fed AGAIN? Didn’t I just feed you?

We parents are busy. Whether you work outside of the home or inside of the home, there just never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. I’ve been making dinner for my family for many, many years now and somehow dinner time seems to sneak up on me every day.

Alas, here I am scrambling to get dinner together while tiny humans run amok all over my house. Not this week, though. This week I have decided that a little bit of meal prep is in order. A quick search on Pinterest told me that meal prep for the week could be done in one hour and could potentially save me quite a bit of my sanity. Let’s do it.

There are several sites that do all the legwork for you. They provide your menu for the week along with a grocery list for said menu. I’m more of a “do-it-yourself” kind of girl so I decided to plan and prep my menu according to meals that I already knew how to make and was confident my family would eat.

Me while planning my meal prep and this blog:

“Wow. I’m really good at this. Is this my actual calling? Parents everywhere will rejoice and praise my name when they are blessed with this valuable information.

Me while prepping my meals:

“Oh no, I forgot the ground beef. You can make spaghetti with ground chicken, right? Pretend this is two onions instead of one.

Needless to say, the most important part of this process is planning out your meals and making your grocery list. Choosing meals with similar ingredients helps to save time and money. An example of this would be Spaghetti and Enchiladas. You are able to cook ground beef for both dishes at once, and then divide in half to add to their prospective meals. Another useful tip would be to embrace ready-made products. I chose a rotisserie chicken because it could serve as the base for two meals and required minimal work.

Start by assembling all of your ingredients. Seeing everything in front of you helps to organize your plan of attack and will also bring to light anything you may have forgotten.

Meat typically takes the longest to prepare so I started with cooking my ground beef. While that was on the stove, I used the time to chop my vegetables. I washed and shredded three hearts of Romaine lettuce to be used for the side salad, Cesar salad, and as a side for the enchiladas.

I then diced the ham and removed all of the meat from the rotisserie chicken. You’ll want to make sure to do this while the chicken is still warm. Have you ever tried removing the meat from a cold chicken?

“I’ll take ‘things I’d like to never do again’ for $600, Alex.”

By the time I was finished with chopping my vegetables, the ground meat was cooked and ready to be combined with the marinara sauce and packed up for spaghetti dinner later in the week.

With the chicken off of the bone and divided equally, I started on the enchiladas. Assembling the enchiladas was quick and easy because I chose the “layering method” instead of the “rolling method.” I love easy.

The diced ham will be combined with the navy beans, diced onion, and chicken broth in the slow cooker in the morning. When dinner time rolls around, all I’ll have to do is make the cornbread and dinner is served.

I chose to make my own Cesar salad dressing but using a pre-made dressing would speed this up even more.  With the romaine already shredded and the chicken removed from the bone, this dinner is done!

I’ve always been a big fan of oatmeal for breakfast and thankfully my kids are too. Overnight oats are quite possibly the easiest make ahead breakfast there is and its completely portable. There are hundreds of recipes available so you can find the one that best suits your families taste.

There it is folks. We made four dinners and five breakfasts in an hour. It’s absolutely doable and the amount of relief and satisfaction you experience when you realize that the hard part is already done is enough to keep you from ever reverting back to the “dinner time scramble.”