Pseudo Meal Prep for Busy Families

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Do you feel like meal prep is more work than it is worth? Especially when the school year is in full swing and work seems to be picking up. If you’re anything like me that means that there rarely seems to be enough hours in the day to prepare three healthy meals for you and your busy family. Read on for some of my favorite tips for making meal prep work for you and your busy schedule.

The Basics of Building a Meal:

  • Start with your favorite non-starchy vegetables. Don’t be afraid to mix and match a variety of veggies with different colors and nutrients.
  • Choose your protein. There are so many plant based and animal proteins to mix and match for variety. 
  • Add flavor! Most proteins and veggie mixes can be prepared in many different ways and with a variety of flavor profiles. Healthy fats, herbs, and spices will elevate your meal and may aid in satiety and reduce inflammation.
  • Add some substance. Finish your meal off with complex carbohydrates like fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains.

When planning out meals for the week, some people find it easiest to spend a few hours on the weekend fully preparing all of their meals. Whenever I try to do this, I end up not eating all of my meals and wasting food. This happens because I end up in the mood for something different and seem to lose some of the enjoyment of a fresh cooked meal. Because of this, I have adopted this pseudo meal prep method.

How to Pseudo Meal Prep:

  • Step 1: Make a loose meal plan. I start with a tentative meal plan for the week with about three different breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Try to plan for meals with similar ingredients (like veggies or starches) so you can easily incorporate leftovers or extra items into your next meal to save time. (ex: Leftover broccoli and chicken can be saved and added to a stir fry, extra chopped veggies for a salad can be added to bolognese or on top of tacos for a kick of nutrients!)
  • Step 2: Make a Grocery list. Based on the nine-ish meals I have planned for the week, I make my grocery list and go shopping. The list makes sure I won’t need to go to the store again mid-week.
  • Step 3: Wash and chop veggies. As I unload my groceries, I try to chop up and wash all of my vegetables. Doing this saves me a ton of time later in the week and enables me to just throw them in the pan when I’m ready to cook. Just make sure you fully dry the veggies, so they don’t spoil faster.
  • Bonus Step: If there is extra time, cook your proteins. Usually, if I pre-cook my proteins, I only season them with salt and pepper, so they can fit into a variety of recipes and can be further seasoned later. This saves me a lot of time later, but keep in mind it may not work for every protein and recipe.

Throughout the week, as I prepare my meals, I do not always stick to my meal plan. Yes, I typically use the same ingredients as I had planned, but I may prepare them in a completely different way that better reflects what I am in the mood for.

In the end, my biggest tip when starting meal prep is to be kind to yourself throughout the process. Start with Step 1 this week and see if making a loose plan helps you feel more prepared for the week, then go from there. Every little step you take towards eating healthier makes a huge difference! 


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