I try to think of Sunday prep — no matter how involved I have time to make it — as a form of preemptive hospitality toward myself and my family. A kitchen that’s well-stocked with snacks, breakfast foods, and meal starters feels like a happier, more orderly place. And one with a lot fewer meltdowns (and I’m not just talking about the kids). Plus, meal prep is good for my budget since we’re less likely to reach for junk food or take-out if we have healthy food prepped and ready to go.
When I have time, I’ll prep a bunch of freezer meals or make-ahead stir fry packs. When I don’t have time, though, or I feel like my time would be better spent investing in some self care at the nail salon, let’s say, I still set aside a few minutes to at least prep these three things that make my weekday cooking way easier. It can honestly all be done in an hour or less.
Related: 7 tips to make prepping family dinner faster and easier.
If you follow CME, you know that our snack recipes abound. We’ve got low-sugar after school snack ideas, gluten-free snacks for on the go, nut-free snacks for school lunch, and protein-packed snacks for anytime you need to make sure you and the family have plenty of energy.
Snacks are one of my favorite things to prep on Sundays, because as we all know, hanger is real and waits for no mom. I’m a big fan of this DIY Trail Mix from our editor Stacie’s cookbook, Make It Easy. If you’re pressed for time, we’ve also rounded up some amazing healthy store bought snacks, because it’s never a bad idea to have those on hand, either.
Related: Meal kit delivery services compared with busy families (and their budgets) in mind.
I know that a lot of people manage to eat cereal (meh) or oatmeal (better!) for breakfast, but honestly, half of the time I skip over even these easy options because my hands are full or I am on my way out the door. And moms — especially breastfeeding moms like me — cannot live on coffee alone. So I find that it’s good to be realistic about having on-the-go breakfast items ready and waiting.
I’ve been loving Stacie’s healthy Baked Oatmeal Bites, which are like oatmeal’s more portable, flavorful counterpart. And if you’re lucky enough to have older kids who don’t mind making their own breakfasts (I’m impressed!), you can also check out our list of easy breakfasts that kids can make themselves, FTW.
Related: 6 DIY freezer meals that save us on busy back to school nights.
Easy Tortellini Salad | Hip Foodie Mom
Meal Plan Prep!
Prepping actual meals ahead of time is obviously a winning thing to do, but I just can’t on a regular basis. I like to keep recipes like these make-ahead freezer dinners and stir-fry packets in my back pocket, because when I do have the time, they are a lifesaver. But honestly, once I have snacks and breakfasts prepped, all I really need is a thoughtful meal plan in place for the rest of the week. These three things alone make my weekday cooking so much easier.
I love the Cool Mom Eat’s weekly meal plans, which feature quick, delicious, family-friendly dinners like the Tortellini Salad at Hip Foodie Mom (above). They have honestly become a lifesaver because I don’t have to spend 30 minutes looking for recipes — it’s all done for me. I just match up the meals with my schedule, saving the easiest and fastest recipes for my busiest days.
If you’d prefer to do your own planning, check out my favorite meal planning apps so that you can plan your weekly meals while stuck in the carpool line or riding the subway or doing the other thousand and one things you do in a week.
Or, if you just hate meal planning and think you’ll never ever do it, check out Stacie’s meal planning tips for people who hate to meal plan. Don’t worry: She doesn’t try to convert you, but rather shares tricks that you can use to reap the benefits of meal planning without actually doing it. At least not formally.
Major bonus is you’re feeing a baby: Planning dinners means that I know which extra veggies I’ll have around to purée into baby food or chop up and store in tupperware for snacks or lunches. Because sometimes just knowing is half the battle.
Top image: Joanie Simon via Unsplash