the hows and whys of food prep day

My world is busy and chaotic sometimes, just like everyone else’s. During the week I start at 6 a.m. and often don’t stop going until 10 p.m. and even then it’s tough to stop the mind hamsters from running laps in my head.

Food prep day saves time, money and energy whether you are committed to eating healthy or not. Once you get a system organized and in place, a few hours on Saturday or Sunday will free up precious time for family and hobbies during the busy work week.

“But my kids are picky eaters, want something different and I don’t want to cook different things for everyone.”

By lining out a weekly menu for the family, as well as planning for your alternative when it doesn’t fit your goals, there is no guesswork off the cuff. I often eat different than my girls, simply because they aren’t watching their weight. While most of the choices for them are healthy (we don’t keep many unhealthy ingredients or foods in our house period) the caloric count just doesn’t always fit into my plan, so having my own meals prepped ahead makes it easy to heat a meal up while I cook theirs so we eat together.

“Eating healthy is so expensive and we can’t afford it.”

Unless the alternative is $1 cheeseburgers at McDonald’s, shopping for healthier alternatives at the grocery store is actually less than buying packed convenience items…and if this frugal single mother is saying it, you can believe it to be truth. Yes, you will have to cook to save money. Yes, you will have to set some food boundaries with your kids. The policy at our house is that no one eats out of boredom. We don’t use food as a hobby. The kitchen is not a free for all where the girls grab and go constantly. They have a snack basket they can eat from, and obviously ask me if they are hungry, but I definitely could never afford to feed a houseful of people eating just because. For me it’s no different than setting boundaries in any other area…food is expensive!

STEP ONE – Get a menu board and use it

She's standing in for the easel

Pinterest inspired project I love. Old photo frame, printed sheet, dry erase marker. I let the girls help pick what their dinners will be. Some nights are simple, some are crockpot meals prepped before work, and some nights are leftovers 😉
STEP TWO – Organize recipes to make ingredient listing easy

My $3.00 recipe system

I have tried MANY recipe systems and this is what works best for me. I don’t like tons of cookbooks laying around and I am not going to pull up a computer page when I’m cooking. So I find them, save them, print them out and put them in clear sheets so I can lay it open while cooking, then wipe it off the mess! It also makes it SIMPLE to flip to a meal and look for ingredients.
STEP THREE – Inventory cabinets against your grocery list
I am the absolute WORST about buying more of something I already have. I am breaking myself of this habit by forcing myself to look through everything BEFORE I hit the store. I inventory cabinets, fridge, both bathrooms and under the sink.
Case in point…these are ALL in my cabinet.
STEP FOUR – Shop weekly
This is tough for some people, but I really think if you go weekly, you’re less likely to overbuy and fresh foods don’t rot before you can use them. Shopping weekly encourages me to consume more fresh fruits and veggies and I find I spend far less when I don’t buy in bulk in case I get tired of that item before I use it. (P.S. Now that my girls are older I like taking them to the store with me, but I also think shopping kidless makes things easier, quicker, and more fun when you can really compare labels and check out different items and prices.)
STEP FIVE – Buy only what you need
I buy what I need to make our meals for the week, a few things for the girls to snack on, plus our staples. And that’s it. There is nothing scary about the checkout for me because I know exactly what I am buying and how much. No surprises. Buy off brands whenever possible.
STEP SIX – Set aside time for food prep and like Nike says JUST DO IT!
 This week, I knew a few things already. I needed a break from egg muffins this week, I needed a break from fake fried rice this week, but I was definitely craving Billie Chili again. So I added some new things…egg whites with a pinch of turkey sausage crumbles, divided into portions.
I was craving refried bean tostadas, which we know are loaded with fat. So I experimented with my new food processor, put a can of black beans in it, twirled it up…

Fake refried beans

I’m serious, I felt like a rocket scientist. It was SO good! I spread some on two corn tortillas, put chicken and fat free cheese on top, baked them at 400 and felt like I was cheating!
The fake refried goes in tupperware for the week, chicken into the crockpot to cook all day for shredding, and tostada dinners anytime I want them!

Next up, Tilapia, my favorite. I found a new seasoning at the store I couldn’t wait to try…

Mrs Dash

Cucumbers, grapes, carrots and celery portioned into snack size ziplog bags for easy grab and go.

Jamie Eason’s Cinnamon Apple protein muffins. Put in seperate baggies and frozen.

Finally, 2 lbs of ground turkey browned for use on tostadas or anything else!

And I’m sure you are wondering…where on earth are the Adorables while she’s spending hours in the kitchen? Well, with me. Of course.

Stay tuned this week for all the recipes!