It's a new year, and that means the unpredictable holiday schedule is over. As much as I love the break, I always love getting back into a routine again. I actually love getting back into our studies, but it's the rest of life that I struggle finding success when we start back. In the past, it's really helped in the winter to take a little time to prep meals ahead of time so that I don't have to think much about dinner when the time comes! Here are some of my favorite tools to have on hand to make meal prep fun and easy!
Mason Jars are a fantastic tool prepping individual meals. Early risers can grab oatmeal for breakfast when they wake up, your salad will be prepped and ready to go for lunch, and pasta-for-one can be easily reheated when soccer practice runs late.
Meal Prep Containers
Meal prep containers are sectioned boxes that make preparing meals convenient. One section containers are great for portioning out pastas and other one-dish meals. Use two section or three section containers separating side dishes or dressings and sauces that might make your food soggy in the fridge.
Gallon Freezer Bags
If you're freezer prepping, be sure to grab some heavy-duty gallon freezer bags. You will have plenty of freezer space when you use gallon bags to store your meals flat and stack them up. Choose good quality gallon bags and have peace of mind that you won't wake up to a BBQ Chicken fridge explosion!
Casserole Dish or Foil Bakeware
You'll want a casserole dish that you absolutely love for meal prepping. In fact, you might want to pick up two and double your recipe. You'll have a hot dinner for tonight and prepped dinners for the next three weeks all at once.
If your family is on the move, tiny muffin meals are the way to go. I recommend four 12-section muffin tins for easily prepping and cooking meals for the entire family. There are dozens of recipes out there for muffin tins. Everything from egg cups to chicken pot pie.
I'm not kidding when I say a quality set of knives is a must when you're meal prepping. I've had my Rachael Ray knife set for thirteen years, and I still love them. I've replaced one of the knives over the years, but it's been an excellent investment. Chopping a vegetable or two with a dull knife is not a big deal, but when you're prepping for the week (or the month!) a sharp knife will save you a lot of frustration.
Speaking of knife work - a food processor will save you tons of time chopping onions and peppers or mashing those potatoes. If you're planning on using a lot of fresh ingredients to prepare healthy family meals or prepping veggie alternatives to higher carb foods, like cauliflower rice (I could live on this stuff), a food processor is a must have.
If you don't mind the smell of Tex-Mex Chili at 9am, a Crockpot will do. However, a pressure cooker is the newer, faster alternative to your old slow cooker. What used to take 6-8 hours in your now takes only 60 minutes.
If you find a recipe made for slow cookers, you can convert your Crock Pot recipes to Instant Pot recipes easily. It goes the other way, too. But be warned, slow cookers are notoriously temperamental. What takes one 6 hours takes another 10!
Meal prep means that you'll have more food in your fridge that you usually would in a normal week. You'll still want room for your yogurt and coffee creamer, so get organized with drawers and baskets that will keep everything in place.
Labels and a Sharpie
With more meals read-to-go than ever before, you will want to keep track of what you made and when. Teriyaki and BBQ look a lot alike in a freezer bag. You don't want to end up with Teriyaki Chicken with cornbread tonight! You can write directly on plastic bags or foil bake ware lids. For glass containers and fridge organizers, pick up a few labels to keep everything straight.
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.