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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Meal Prep Sunday (or Monday, When There's a Monday Holiday)

kale and apple salad

Who knew that this was a thing, a trendy thing? Many of us have been using some form of meal prep, in advance of actual meal times for years. Back when my kids were littles, I did OAMC, where I would spend an entire Saturday making 25 family dinners for the freezer. Then later, when most of my family members were brown-bagging it to work or school, I meal-prepped lunches, making several casseroles and salads for the fridge, to be grabbed in the minutes before heading out the door each morning. Recently, my daughters inspired me to meal-prep some lunches and breakfasts.

doesn't look like much right now, but this container of onion soup will be
delicious when reheated, one bowl at a time, and topped with melted cheese

Apparently, meal prepping, especially Sunday meal prepping, is an "in" thing. Reddit has at least 7 subs dedicated to meal-prepping. I think that's a lot, considering Reddit tends to attract a lot of younger people, Millennials and younger. My favorite sub-Reddit is MealPrepSunday. If you're looking for ideas and inspiration for your own weekly meal prep, this sub is filled with tantalizing photos, recipe links, and simple-enough ideas.

the other soup that I made -- curried butternut squash and peanut butter.
So, delicious I had to have a small bowl before I put the rest in the fridge.

I know that Alice, here, likes to meal-prep for the coming week's lunches and dinners. I've appreciated Alice's ideas as they've offered inspiration for some of my own meal prepping.

So, what would be some of the advantages of meal-prepping, even for someone like me who is home most of each day?

  • for starters, the obvious -- to make meals easier in the moment, saving time and energy expenditure. The time we save may get us out the door faster in the morning or give us a few minutes to relax at the end of the day.
  • meal-prepping is a way to be more efficient with our work. If I am chopping carrots and onions, it's a lot more efficient to chop a week's worth in one go, than to get out the knife and cutting board on  5 or 6 separate nights, saving my time as well as electricity and natural gas for cleaning the cutting board, knife, peeler, food processor and any other tools I might need.
  • to ensure that we eat what we intend to eat. You know the scenario -- you go to the store and buy a bunch of healthy produce, lean meats, and whole grains. Then at the end of the week, you discover that no one ate the healthier stuff, because in the moment, fixing those foods sounded much more involved than grabbing any of the prepared  foods, such as cookies and pastries. As a result, we might not eat the amount of veggies that we intend for improving our health. Intentional eating benefits our health, as well as our wallet. Which brings me to the next benefit.
  • to limit eating only the more expensive foods, whichever those may be for your kitchen. In our house, more expensive foods would include nuts, cheese, and meat. It's fine to eat these foods in moderation, but if we only ate these foods, and none of the less expensive foods like squash, apples, legumes, or garden leafy greens, we wouldn't be able to keep our budget where it is.
  • to minimize the reliance on last-minute take-out or restaurant eating. Eating out is a fun experience. I am definitely not anti-eating out. However, I think that some of the fun of eating out is diminished when we do it too often, or it's too last-minute. I like to anticipate restaurant meals. I feel like I double my fun through the anticipation segment of restaurant dining.
cinnamon rice -- a complete meal all on its own, grain, nuts, vegetable

There are as many forms of meal prepping as there are individuals. One family may meal prep a full week's worth of meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, one day per week, or even one or two days per month. Another family may double-up when preparing weeknight dinners, making twice every item, then use the leftovers on another night. A single individual might make their own individual freezer meals, using purchased or repurposed sectioned meal trays. Someone else may find it simply beneficial to pre-chop a bunch of veggies and meat to simplify nightly stir fries, soups, or casseroles. Some folks like to bag crockpot ingredients, for and easy dump 'n go in the mornings. For my family, I use meal-prepping as a way to use up lingering foods from the fridge and garden produce that may not last much longer. I pre-portion some items (when I really want us to use these up), while leaving others in large casseroles or tubs. 

So, what did I meal-prep this weekend? As I said before, I tend to use meal-prepping as a way to use up lingering foods, which could account for some of my odd-sounding dishes. Nonetheless, here's my list of foods that I prepped for the week:
  • onion soup
  • butternut squash-peanut butter soup (like Live and Learn's pumpkin-peanut soup, just with butternut squash)
  • chunks of butternut squash to be topped with butter and salt
  • cinnamon rice -- like fried rice, but a sweet version of cooked brown rice, chopped almonds, cinnamon, and small chunks of cooked butternut squash, all sauteed in a mix of oil and butter. My preferred way to make cinnamon rice is with raisins, but I was out of them, so I subbed some cooked squash in their place. This is a favorite breakfast dish of mine when I'm out of homemade yogurt. 
  • kale and apple salad in a sweet dressing made with melted jelly, mayonnaise, and vinegar. Kale is one of a couple of green leafy vegetables that holds up well after dressing, keeping in the fridge for several days without wilting. I tossed the apples in lemon juice before adding the rest of the ingredients, to prevent browning.
  • gingered-carrot salad, using candied ginger and shredded carrots, in a dressing of honey and mayo. Carrots are another "salad" vegetable that will hold up in the fridge for several days after adding dressing.
  • chard, rice, milk, and egg bake -- this one was made with my husband in mind. He enjoys rice baked with eggs more than I do. However, this was a great way to use up some thawed (previously frozen) eggs that had been lingering in the fridge a few days.
  • whole wheat bread -- I baked 4 loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread, which, of course, will pair nicely with all of that homemade soup.
  • boiled eggs -- not much to preparing these, but having eggs already boiled makes grabbing a high-protein food super easy for my family
  • oven-roasted sweet potato wedges
an extra-large batch of sweet potato fries about to go into the oven --
some for dinner now, some for later

As much as possible, I made my work easier. For instance, some of these items were part of dinner one night. I just made lots so that there would be leftovers for another meal. I used my food processor for shredding and chopping. I used my stand mixer for mixing and kneading the bread dough. And I didn't peel the sweet potatoes -- healthier and easier.

Now for the burning question -- did you do any advanced meal prep this past weekend? If so, what did you make for this week's meals? Do you tend to meal prep dinners more than lunches or breakfasts, or do you like to meal prep for several types of meals?


  1. Lili,

    That was kind of you to do a "shout out" for me! But I'm sure there are others out there that do just a good a job so kudos to them also!

    We had a marathon weekend driving to Ohio (5 hours each way) to help daughter and son-in-law get their house ready to move in. We got a lot done but not enough. We might go back over Thanksgiving.

    When we got home Sunday evening I pulled lots of goodies out of the freezer to get my meal prep started. I had Monday off (hoping we could stay another day but our passenger needed to get back Sunday night (son in laws young sister attending college in our city). So I used Monday to do some of my own home things that needed to be done.

    I started with a huge pan of tater tot casserole for meals and to freeze. Then it was a small pork roast with a bone in for something this week and a freezer meal. Bacon for breakfast. Two butternut squashes needing to be baked. All these items baked at the same time. So I'm well on my way to a week of meals. We got groceries so there is plenty for the week. Whew!


  2. While we occasionally do meal prep ahead, we are getting a little lax in this area as is our meal planning. However, I will say that yesterday I used up some potatoes that were getting old and made mashed potatoes to be used different ways this week and processed that last of the pears from our tree that were starting to go. Trying not to have food waste is a great motivator for both me and my son who are the main cooks around here.

    As for meal prep in bulk, "Everything old is new again."

  3. You accomplished a lot in your meal prep session! It all sounds so yummy. I'd happily take those items for lunch.

    I've never tried prepping a lot of foods in advance. As far as working ahead, I usually prep as much of supper for the night as I can in the morning. My husband has to get up early for work, and goes to bed early. It helps to have supper ready to pop in the oven, or in the crock-pot, when I get home from work.

    Have a great day!

  4. As for meal prep in bulk, "Everything old is new again."

    You are so right Live and Learn! That "new" grocery pickup or delivery is not new because that was the thing of the past! My grandfather was a grocer in the Netherlands back in the 1930s and he would deliver groceries on his bike with a huge basket in the front. My mom as a little girl would sit in that basket and go deliver groceries with her dad. We've gone all the way back in time but the people of today never knew that it existed a long time ago.

    I got a catalog in the mail last week and I can't remember from whom but it was like the Sear's catalog from a long time ago. It was thick and full of things to order. That was something that a lot of people enjoyed back in the older days and it's coming back.


  5. I don't think of what I do as "meal prepping", but maybe sometimes it is! If I'm working the next day, I either try to plan a simple and quick meal for dinner or I make a crockpot meal the night before so all I have to do is plug it in and go in the morning. I do that frequently for brunch after church, as well, as it makes my life easier. I'm not good at pre-chopping veggies (except onions). My husband typically cooks the big meat meals (roasts, etc.) and we freeze portions of those for reheating or using in another recipe. If I'm at home for the day, I typically like to do a meal that takes a little more time and effort and I enjoy the process of putzing around in my kitchen. I don't get a lot of those kinds of days and they are enjoyable to me when I do get them!

    I have also been thinking that we are returning to old techniques of purchasing food--grocery delivery is nothing new! The reasons may be different (lack of transportation vs time issue with working full time) but the solution is very similar.

  6. M-F its just me and I hate cooking for one. SO i usually skip dinner all week. Weekends provide leftovers for DH to take with him or I eat them at lunch

    Drumsticks for lunches
    Bacon for breakfast
    SF Jello for dessert
    Meatballs for 2 dinners/1 lunch

  7. Alice, you're right about the grocery delivery. And it happened a lot later than in the 1930's. I was a colicky baby and the neighbors used to take me out on grocery deliveries to give my mother some peace. I bet your mother was adorable in the basket of the her father's bicycle.

  8. My meal prepping includes all of the methods, partly by accident because of the much-talked-about-but-difficult-to-do ‘scaling back’ from cooking for a large family to ‘just the two of us’. If I have an abundance of something, I prep and freeze. If making pizza, since the dough recipe makes four pizzas (Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day, whole wheat version, is my go-to and SO EASY-google it!), I make four and freeze three, cooked and microwaveable. I invested in quart freezer containers so homemade condiments (barbecue sauce, etc.), chili, soup, pasta sauce, etc. are easily frozen. When making brown rice in the rice cooker, I make the max and freeze in 2 cup/bag portions.

    All of us who food prep are making our own FAST FOOD, and are able to serve nutritious, delicious, frugal and timely meals.....Write (Right) On, Lili!

  9. P.S. As I just added these to the freezer: I’ve found that meat loaf mixture made into MEATBALLS works so much better! I form them with my large cookie scoop. They bake faster than a loaf (less energy), and, when frozen for future meals, I can just take out the number I need (rather than needing to eat a loaf over a week.). I also find them to be versatile - served plain (with bbq sauce or catsup); warmed with home made red or white sauce; the basis for sandwiches.....more FAST FOOD!

  10. Hi Alice,
    When I began writing this post, your reports of various soups and casseroles that you've made ahead in the past just stuck out in my mind. I've used some of what you make as inspiration for my own work-week lunch prep. So, thanks to you!

    What a nice, but busy weekend you had. It must be good when you can visit with your daughter and her new husband, and so nice you could help with them in their moving in process. I hope you can go back over Thanksgiving.

    One of these years, I'll have to try a tater tot casserole. I love tater tots, so I imagine I'd enjoy this casserole.

    Your observations about life then and now are spot on. I remember when our family had one car and my father took it to work. So, my mother had many things delivered to the home. There was a milkman (of course), a bakery truck, the dry cleaner, and even a pharmacy that delivered locally. And now, so much of what many of us buy is delivered to our homes, in one way or another.

    I went through our mail today and found an Amazon catalog that was much like the Sear's Wishbook. Perhaps some form of catalog ordering is on its way back in. It's fun to reminisce.
    I hope you had a good day, Alice!

  11. Hi live and learn,
    I agree with you, that trying to avoid food waste is a good motivator to get a few things made up for the week. It seems to work for me. What did you do with the last of your pears? If I remember they were a smallish variety. Did you freeze them or do you can? I bet your mashed potatoes will be very appreciated by the menfolk in your house.

    The image of you on your neighbor's grocery delivery route is a humorous one. What good neighbors to give your tired mother a break!
    I hope you had a good day, today, Live and Learn.

  12. Hi Angie,
    You know, I think your way of meal prepping is very efficient for a lot of people. It makes sense to put everything together for supper in the morning as you're getting yourself ready for the day. Then everything is ready when you are, later. Less stress than making everything from scratch in the evening.

  13. Hi Kris,
    your meal prep method is the other way that I think a lot of households now put together meals -- prepping the night before. I imagine walking in the house at the end of your day, to the aroma of a delicious dinner is very welcoming. Almost like having someone else do the cooking. Almost.
    Have a lovely evening, Kris!

  14. Hi Patti,
    I can fully understand the problems of cooking for just one. It's just not as fun. Half of the fun of cooking dinner is having an "audience" of sorts. People to talk about dinner with. so I can understand your not wanting to even bother with dinner. It sounds like oyu've got your lunches and breakfasts taken care of. I'll be right over for breakfast! Bacon, my favorite!!
    Have a wonderful evening, Patti!

  15. Hi Conni,
    You are so right. All of those foods that would be leftovers are now your convenience foods. Great work! I'll check out that Artisan Bread recipe. thanks for suggesting it.
    Oh yes, meatballs instead of meatloaf! The part if dislike about making the meatballs is forming them all, but a cookie dough scoop would work perfectly. Thank you! The other ting I do with meatloaf is make them in small loaves in muffin tins. I learned that one from Live and Learn (I think) many years ago. that's also a good one for using less electricity for baking when wanting meatloaf. But I agree, meatballs are very versatile, for sandwiches, sliced or halved on pizza,, in all kinds of casseroles. Now you've got me thinking I should make a batch of meatballs soon!
    Have a great evening, Conni!

  16. Live and Learn and the rest of the readers.

    Lili mentioned how my mom might have looked adorable in the basket and she was because we have a picture of my dad coming home from a delivery near their home and she's sitting in the basket. I'm not sure how cute she was because it was taken from a distance but just the thought and the far away view makes it adorable. Mom had that picture made into a painting which is on her living room wall with the actual photo tucked into the corner.

    When we visited the Netherlands we saw the same home but I'm not sure if I have a photo anywhere but my youngest daughter lived in Italy for a semester and took a weekend trip to the Netherlands and found the home and snapped a photo for my mom. It looks different today but she made herself a memory of her history!


  17. Alice, this is wonderful that your mom has preserved this glimpse of her childhood so well. Thank you for sharing a bit about your family's past.


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