The amount of food you need to prepare for your family each week—all those meals, all those packed lunches, and all those snacks—can be daunting. If you're overwhelmed just thinking about it, blogger and dietitian Lindsay Livingston has three words for you: weekend food prep.
Livingston, a mom of a toddler (with another baby on the way), takes a couple of hours each Sunday to prepare for the week ahead, making everything from washed and chopped raw veggies, hard-boiled eggs, and homemade energy bars they'll eat as snacks, to cooked beans and lentils, baked potatoes, and grilled meats she'll use in dinners. She has a recurring Food Prep series on her blog The Lean Green Bean to inspire others and share all the food she preps for the week (she also features photos from readers and fellow bloggers of their own prep work).
Prepping all that food on the weekend—when there's generally more down-time (and more hands to help!)—will do more than lighten your stress level. It will also help everyone in your family eat healthy all week long. "Food prep is probably the most underrated, underutilized healthy living tool," says Livingston, who just released an e-book called The Ultimate Guide to Food Prep. She shares these four pointers for anyone new to food prep:
Identify your biggest struggles and start small: You may not have time to prep food for every meal and snack. Pick the area you need the most help in—typically one meal or snack—and start there. Once you get more efficient, or on days when you have more time, you can try prepping more.
Make a meal plan: Once you get comfortable with food prep you can often get away with having more general meal ideas versus a specific meal plan. However, when you're first starting out, it's good to take some time to plan your meals. Use Pinterest, blogs, and other resources to pick a few meals you want to make for the week.
Choose your food prep style: Prep ingredients or do a combination. Based on what you've chosen to eat for the week, decide if you want to prep full meals ahead of time or prep components.
Have a plan of attack: Before you start, make a list of everything you want to prep. Organize it by things that need to be cooked, what appliances you need to use, etc. Then write out a timeline.
For more information about Livingston's book, which includes time-saving kitchen hacks, trouble-shooting, snack ideas, and printable grocery and meal planning templates, visit her blog.
Do YOU prep food on the weekend—and if so, what are your favorite things to make?
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.