Meal prep ideas that are big on impact and low on effort are high on my list. Learn how just fifteen minutes of prep can turn into a week’s worth of healthy meals.
One of the secrets to establishing healthy habits is planning! When life gets hectic, it’s tough to make healthy choices. I know because I’m a busy mom too! The key is to make it super easy to grab the good stuff. Fifteen minutes, once a week, is all it takes. Even if you don’t have time to make a meal plan—which is always helpful but sometimes hard to pull off—having veggies at the ready will be a huge help when it’s 5 o’clock and you’re trying to figure out what to make for dinner!
Step 1: Stock Up in Advance
On Thursday or Friday, hit the market and stock up on your seasonal favorites. I try to pick what’s fresh and in season, as opposed to making a big list in advance. Aim for at least 5 colors in your cart: red, green, yellow / orange, blue / purple, white. Grab a few healthy proteins, too. I usually pickup a whole organic chicken, some grass-fed beef, and a couple of packages of tofu—you can work those proteins into just about any dish. Purchase fish the day you plan to prepare it. Don’t forget to add something new to try!
Step 2: Prep for 15 Minutes
On Saturday or Sunday, set aside fifteen minutes to power-prep your veggies. When you’re ready to begin, start a batch of brown rice or quinoa in the rice cooker. I may not know how I’m going to use them, but brown rice or quinoa are two great ingredients to have on hand for quick and easy weeknight meals. Set out a series of glass containers and then get to work washing and prepping vegetables. Don’t get fussy with peeling! Give carrots and sweet potatoes a good scrub, then slice them leaving the skin on. Easier, faster, and more nutritious! If you have time, marinate your proteins.
Tip: This is a great opportunity to get your kids involved and definitely counts as “cooking together!” Invite them to tear and wash the kale, or scrub the rainbow carrots. The more they are exposed to new foods, even if it’s just washing and prepping vegetables, the more likely they will be to try new foods. Plus, they’re learning an important healthy habit: prep ahead.
Step 3: Flip Flop Your Fridge
Store veggies in glass containers and stack them on the shelves of your fridge. When you open the fridge door, you want to see color! Leaving produce in the crisper drawers is a sure fire way to forget what you’ve got. If fresh, colorful foods are the first thing you see when you open your fridge, you (and your kids) will be more likely to grab them.
Watch how I organize my fridge in this 1-minute meal prep ideas video.
Tip: Make a low drawer or easy-to-access shelf in your fridge the kids’ snack drawer. Organize it by color. It’s an easy way to help your kids make healthy choices.
Having a few healthy ingredients ready to go will allow you to pull together a quick and easy dinner even if you haven’t done much to plan the menu in advance! Those fifteen minutes will pay big dividends on busy weeknights.
Now that you’re ready, check out a week’s worth of my favorite quick and easy weeknight dinners, starting with a fun breakfast for dinner recipe: Mini Frittata.
A few more easy dinner ideas:
Cinnamon Beef Noodle Soup: This delicious winter soup can be made in a slow cooker, which saves a huge amount of scrambling at dinnertime. My recipe is featured on Oprah.com along with a few other ways to make veggies spectacular!
Clay Pot Chicken with Bok Choy: One of my go-to weeknight quick cook dishes, this simple stir fry can be ready and on the table in 15 minutes if my ingredients are ready in advance. Get the recipe in my new book, The 52 New Foods Challenge.
Pear and Parsnip Soup: Pair this make ahead soup with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and a selection of colorful roasted veggies for a quick and easy dinner.
Quinoa Crumble Cakes: Assemble ahead and freeze so dinner’s a breeze. This recipe is a riff on a veggie burger. It’s great for meatless Monday. Get the recipe in my new book, The 52 New Foods Challenge.