Meal Prep for the Upcoming Week

Meal Prep for the Upcoming Week // shutterbean

HELLO!  See that HS in the title? It stands for High Straightenance.  Some of you already know that I wrote a bi-monthly organizing column on Homefries called High Straightenance.  It's like the term High Maintenance but for people who like straightening things up (me!!). Writing that column was a way for me to channel my inner organizer/crazy brain and now I'm bringing it to Shutterbean.

I posted a picture a few weeks ago on my Instagram (see below) of my meal prep for the week and had a lot of comments asking me to do a post about it. So, here we go. Here are some tips for you to get yourself organized for the upcoming week!

Meal Prep // shutterbean

First of all, I wish I could tell you that I meal plan, but really I don't. I mean...I plan for recipes on the blog and that's my main objective but I'm pretty loose on what we eat every. single. day.  There are a bunch of staples I have on hand and things I buy regularly (post about that sometime soon!) so that I can easily work ingredients into other things. I find meal planning to be confining and sometimes I don't like being forced to have enchiladas on a Thursday when I really just want grilled cheese and tomato soup. I do know that I want access to salads, fruits & vegetables to snack on, a couple of meals with meat (Casey's favorite meals), something carby one night, something Mexican, a few easy meals, eggs, and the option for yogurt & granola during the week. There's always one day where I'm in the zone  where OMG! I CANNOT WASH ANOTHER DISH, WE'RE GETTING TAKEOUT. You get the picture.

One thing that really helps with my week is meal prep. I try to spend a couple hours on a Sunday cleaning out my fridge and making meals/parts of meals to help with the week ahead.  I find it super therapeutic to clean out the fridge. It's the equivalent to cleaning out my purse in that it makes me feel like I have a fresh start. There's something really stressful about opening up a disorganized fridge and really sets a bad tone for the rest of the day. Am I alone on this?

Meal prep is a way for me to problem solve and be creative. It's kind of like how a restaurant offers specials for Brunch on the weekends and really all it means is that they are trying to creatively rid themselves of food because they have a food delivery coming up.  In this case, my grocery shopping day (Tuesday or Thursday) is right around the corner and I have to clean out the fridge to make way for new things.

Meal Prep for the Upcoming Week // shutterbean

1. I don't like to waste food. Who does, really??

2. I like a challenge and I find some of the best combinations through scraps. If you haven't read An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, I highly recommend you do so! The book helps you think of your kitchen/pantry/fridge in a different way. It's ALLLLL about meal prep and building an arsenal in order to make something out of nothing! It's super inspiring and it's helped me cut down on waste in our kitchen.

3. If I don't plan ahead, I get REALLY lazy and waste food/make bad choices when it comes to eating. You don't want to see what I put in my face when I get home after work between the hour or two before dinner. The answer is CRACKERS and anything crunchy. Casey will come home from work and will ask me what's for dinner and I'm like...Uhhh. I already ate (CHEESE & CRACKERS!) and then we don't get to sit down and eat at the same time. That's my reality and we're much happier when we eat together.

Let me walk you through my meal prep for last week:

This is what an hour and a half  on a Sunday morning can do for you.

My Everyday Life // shutterbean

First thing I did was get 3 cups of rice going in my rice maker .  I like to have a big bowl of rice in the fridge (Casey LOVES rice) and then I bag up portions that can easily be stored in the freezer if we don't get around to eating them. Sometimes I'll throw vegetables in the rice cooker when the rice is in the "warming" mode so we have some cooked broccoli or carrots for the week.

I made soup, washed fruits (so they'll be grab & go in the fridge) and sliced oranges. I then made a batch of red quinoa, toasted walnuts, made mint iced tea, put together two Reset Button Salads for work  from what was leftover in my fridge and made some tuna salad for sandwiches or salads later on in the week.

Meal Prep // shutterbean

Chopped vegetables & fruits are EVERYTHING. I have to feed a 5 year old so it really helps to have stuff like this on hand.

Also, if I don't prep vegetables in the fridge, I don't always eat them before they go bad.

Meal Prep // shutterbean

After I'm finished putting stuff in containers, I label everything. It may look like it takes a lot of time but it doesn't. All you need is a sharpie & some washi tape (it easily peels off) and you're good to go. If you're putting anything in the freezer, put the date on the outside. It's very helpful to your future self.

*** Owl bowls can be found at Cost Plus World Market ***

Meal Prep // shutterbean

Then we put it away!

Meal Prep // shutterbean

I have a list of things that are IN the fridge OUTSIDE the fridge so I can look at it and figure out what to eat.

I use a Martha Stewart Decal from Staples with a dry erase pen. Every week there's a new list.

I highly recommend this ALL OUT OF notepad near/on the fridge so you can mark the things you need to pick up at the store. I carry a few extra pages in my purse so I can create a grocery list on the fly.

Meal Prep // shutterbean

Even though I don't "meal plan," I know what we'll be eating for a few meals this next week.

Meal Prep for the Upcoming Week // shutterbean

SOUPS: If you have chicken or vegetable stock and a fridge full of vegetables to be used, you can have instant soup.  We tend not to eat the same soup two days in a row around these parts, so I freeze individual portions for lunch at work or quick dinners during the week. Soups are a way to get extra vegetables in my diet without having to chew them. That sounds weird, but I usually fortify most of my soups with fresh spinach or kale. You can get rid of SO MANY things in your fridge with one soup. Add a can of tomatoes, a can of white beans and some pasta and you have an instant minestrone. Black beans, cilantro, dried oregano, hot sauce & cumin and we're having a Mexican fiesta. Throw some rogue corn tortillas/tortilla chips in while you're at it. Tortilla soup!

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CHOPPED VEGETABLES: If you have containers of chopped vegetables, it's SO much easier to snack on them instead of chips/crackers/pretzels. It just takes less than 5 minutes and you have a little appetizer to get you through the afternoon hours before dinner. You could always do prep for fajitas or stir fry and bag the ingredients up so you can save time later on.When I made the batch of chopped vegetables for the week, I had an impromptu get together that night and my prep turned into a vegetable appetizer with dip. 

Dips & Spreads you might like:

ROASTED VEGETABLES: We are HUGE fans of Roasted Broccoli around these parts. I will make a big batch of broccoli or any other vegetables that roast well (beets, carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, & peppers). Sometimes I throw in a few sausages with the vegetables to make a quick & easy meal. You can eat the roasted vegetables cold, in salads, in eggs, on top of baked potatoes (with cheese!), in rice dishes & puree them in soups. Another reason to have chopped vegetables in your fridge! If you don't get around to snacking on them, you can roast them before they go bad.

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SALADS: The only way I eat salads on a regular basis is if I've made them ahead of time. I know this about myself. It's REALLY easy to make a salad, but if I don't see it in front of my face, I'm not likely to know it's an option. I like to make a big batch of salad and split it up into containers, so that I have side salads/whole salads for lunch or dinner during the week. I highly recommend my Reset Button Salad .  Make a large batch of dressing and keep it in a jar in your fridge and dress when you're ready. Someone asked me about food browning when you chop it. I tend to avoid things that brown (apples, pears, avocado, etc.) in my pre-made salads but I'm happy to add them RIGHT before serving. I ALWAYS buy crazy amounts of arugula and if I don't make it through my stash, I make Arugula Pesto.

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RICE/QUINOA/COOKED PASTA:  It's really good to have access to grains & rice that are already cooked. If we have rice, I can easily make Bacon Fried Rice, a Mexican Rice (with soyrizo or an egg for breakfast!), a quick stir-fry, or rice dish with roasted sausage & peppers.  Red quinoa has been one of my favorite fridge staples lately. I add it to my salads or I'll heat it up in the morning with almond milk, toasted walnuts and bananas and call it breakfast. Quinoa is also really good with pesto & eggs. If you have any leftover plain pasta, mix it with a bit of olive oil and seal it in a storage container. It's delicious with eggs in the morning and if you have a fun shaped pasta like bowties or shells, you can make a pasta salad for later in the week.

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GRANOLA/NUTS/SNACKS: When I have my oven going on a Sunday night, I like to throw in a batch of granola, nuts or shredded coconut to toast. If I have a batch of granola in my kitchen cabinet for the week, I pair it with yogurt & a banana in the morning and I'm all set. Every now and then I go through our pantry and make trail mix out of the small/random bags of raisins, dried cranberries, pecans, almonds, etc. I'll throw in some of the toasted coconut & a handful of chocolate chips/peanut butter chips to keep it interesting. I put the trail-mix into portioned containers and keep a few in my purse and in my car for emergencies.

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I don't drink enough water. Maybe you're the same. I've found it easier to drink water when there's a flavor to it. If we have a lemon that's getting hard or a rogue bit of cucumber, slice them up and and make instant flavored water.  I especially love the combination of orange & cucumber.  Iced tea is great to have as well!

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Meal Prep for the Upcoming Week // shutterbean

A juicer: When I have rogue fruits & vegetables that can be juiced, I juice them! Juicing is usually a weekend thing for me as I don't have the time in the morning before work to clean up my juicer. If you're looking for a good juicer, I highly recommend the Omega J8006 Nutrition Center Juicer . It's really great at getting all of the juice out of greens. And greens are usually what I have left hanging around by the end of the week.  Slow mastication is the way to go!

A Food Dehydrator:  We've been binging on dehydrated food lately. You have NO IDEA how many pineapples I went through this past month. When we have food that's on the verge of over-ripening, I dehydrate!  Cooper loves bananas the most. I'm a sucker for apples, pineapples and pears. It's a great way to make your food last longer and it adds to your snack arsenal. We have a  Nesco Food Dehydrator  that we love and highly recommend. It has a great price point with fantastic reviews on Amazon. We have been VERY happy with ours. I think we ran it every day in December. Also BEEF JERKY!!!

The Freezer: This is an entire post in itself, but all I have to say is when in doubt, freeze it. Too much fruit? Freeze it? Bags of rice, loaves of bread, cookies, muffins, coffee cake, makeshift pizzas, freezer burritos (breakfast ones too!), tortellini, frozen bananas, leftover lemon juice, leftover wine!, packs of fruits for instant smoothies, and leftover marinara sauce all take up real estate in my freezer.  The key is labeling your items (washi tape helps!), having them organized & using them before they get too old. The freezer is SOOOO YOUR FRIEND. Don't take it for granted!

I hope this helps you to remember that carving a little time out of your weekend can really help ease you into the upcoming week.

If you have any tips & tricks to add, leave a comment below. Let's share our knowledge!

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    Thank you, thank you for this post.
    I've shared this and revisited this several times over the past year.
    When I actually do meal prep for the upcoming week the week is way better.
    I was clueless until I read your post.
    Your "meal prep for the upcoming week" is genius!!! The pictures are gorgeous and I love the list on the fridge. I hate when food get's forgotten in the back of the fridge and ends up getting thrown out.

    I would ask if you felt so inclined to do another week of Food Prep.? Maybe?

    It's really inspiring so thank you and Happy New Year!!

  • Rachel

    I absolutely love this! It's so overwhelming to plan ahead for meals, and I totally agree with you about "what if I don't want to eat that thing I planned?" I'm definitely going to make a list with my husband and make this part of my routine. Thank you!
    (Found you via howsweeteats)

  • Flora Margaret

    I want to live in your world! Thanks for this glimpse into it.

    I plan meals for the week, but having healthy things prepped for lunch or snack or a change of meal plans is such great idea. Even just that step of pre-washing the fruit-- a small thing, but I know will make difference.

    I continue to love this blog and your podcast with Joy the Baker! Thank you!

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    Hi Tracy!

    OMG thank you for this post!!! I want to start meal prepping because I also have bad habits when food isn't ready to go. Also, this will save a ton of money! Anywho, how do you re-heat the frozen rice? Do you just pop it in the microwave? I currently started living with my boyfriend and I am used to cooking for more people than just he and I so I end up wasting everything. The freezer is my best friend :)

    Thank you!!!

    • Tracy

      I will either pop it in the microwave or if I'm making a stir fry, I'll just throw it in and kinda fry it up!

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