7 Genius Meal-Prep Strategies for Homemakers

Hate freezer meals? Me too. Guess what? Meal prep goes way beyond that.

Thinking of little divided containers filled with chicken and broccoli? You don’t have to do that either.

Meal prep for homemakers is a huge help that you need to start implementing now. You’re trying to feed a ton of people, and everyone seems to like different things. No wonder you’re overwhelmed.

You’re busy. We aren’t adding another thing to your plate. We’re making your life easier.

And the busier you are and the more you think you can’t do it… the more you need it.

Meal prep works for everyone. I’ll show you how.

grid of 4 meal prep imaging showing produce, soup, and jars of dried fruit.

Are you completely overwhelmed by feeding your crew every day? Want to save money and stop eating out so much? To stop wasting expensive food? Meal prep helps with all of that. It’s a great, actionable step towards frugal living.

Remember: Think Outside the Box + Step by Step

Sometimes meal prep means a freezer full of ready-to-bake casseroles. Sometimes it means dividing a bag of chips into snack bags at the beginning of the week. Every little bit helps and adds up. Really!

Meal prep is especially helpful for homemakers because you manage multiple people’s food needs. You’re often responsible for three meals a day, plus snacks, for many people. Some are at home; some are on the go. It’s a huge job. A personal chef would be paid a full-time salary to manage this. So don’t roll your ideas and think you don’t need meal prep. You do.

Do not think of this as more things to pack onto your to-do list. Over time, doing everything on this list will make life easier. Master one thing at a time, and build. Trust me.

Strategy 1: Wash and Prechop All Produce for the Week

A small step with big impact. Wash and chop your produce right after you buy it. It’s a simple step, but trust me, it’s a game-changer. Have you ever skipped using broccoli or bell peppers because you didn’t want to wash and chop them? By doing this prep work in advance, you cut that barrier.

washed lettuce drying on counter.

When you have pre-cut vegetables in your fridge, making a healthy meal is much quicker and simpler. Think stir-fries, salads, or veggie-packed omelets made in a snap.

This approach also reduces food waste. We often have good intentions with kale and carrots, but they often wilt or get forgotten. When they’re already prepped, you’re more likely to use them up.

And don’t worry about them losing freshness too quickly. To keep your chopped veggies fresh, store them in airtight containers or ziplock bags. Add a paper towel to soak up any extra moisture. This little trick helps keep them fresh and crisp for longer. It’s all about making healthy choices more convenient. If your fridge is organized with washed and chopped ingredients, you’ll have an easy week of meal prep.

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Some ideas for fruit and veggie prep:

  • Leafy Greens: Wash and spin dry lettuce, kale, spinach, and other greens. Chop or tear into bite-sized pieces for easy salad assembly.
  • Vegetables for Snacking: Slice carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and celery into sticks.
  • Stir-Fry Veggies:
    • Chop broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and snap peas. Store in separate containers for quick stir-fry or steaming.
  • Salad Toppings: Dice tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions. Keep in separate containers for fresh salad additions.
  • Herbs: Wash, dry, and finely chop herbs like parsley, cilantro, or dill. Store in airtight containers with a damp paper towel.
  • Root Vegetables: Peel and chop or dice potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets. Store in water to prevent browning, especially for potatoes.
  • Fruit for Breakfast or Desserts: Slice or dice fruits like apples, melons, strawberries, or grapes. Store in containers for quick access to healthy snacks or yogurt toppings.
  • Onions and Garlic: Dice onions and mince garlic for a variety of dishes. Store in airtight containers to use throughout the week.

Strategy 2: Repurpose Leftovers Creatively

Let’s talk about leftovers. Many people think of leftovers as boring, but with some creativity, they can be meal prep heroes. Leftovers can help you save money and make meals more interesting with minimal effort. To make new dishes, think of leftovers as ingredients instead of repeating the same meals.

roasted veggies in large batch cooling.

Take, for instance, roasted chicken from Sunday dinner. You can shred it for a chicken salad or mix it into stir-fried rice. The same goes for vegetables. You can add leftover roasted veggies to pasta, omelets, or puree them into soups.

Tip: Think of ideas to use them ahead of time, as you’re planning the week’s meals. If I have a container of roasted veggies with no plan, I’ll end up reheating them or throwing them out. But if I know that those roasted veggies are going in a soup, they’ll get used.

Also, don’t shy away from ‘planned leftovers’. Cook a little extra on purpose. If you’re grilling chicken, make a couple of extra pieces. If you’re making quinoa, double the batch. These planned leftovers can save you a ton of time and effort. Make extra white rice so you can have fried rice for lunch for the next few weeks.

Remember, meal prep aims to make your life easier, not to chain you to the kitchen. Get creative with leftovers to make meals more efficient and enjoyable.

Ideas for making leftovers ahead of time and using them well:

  • Grilled or Roasted Meats:
    • Use leftover chicken, beef, or pork in tacos, wraps, or as a salad topping.
    • Shred and mix into pasta sauces or casseroles.
  • Cooked Grains and Pasta:
    • Turn leftover rice, quinoa, or pasta into a stir-fry with fresh vegetables.
    • Make a cold salad by adding vinaigrette and chopped veggies.
  • Roasted Vegetables:
    • Blend into soups or purees.
    • Include in omelets, frittatas, or quiches.
  • Baked Potatoes:
    • Scoop out the insides and make twice-baked potatoes with new fillings.
    • Dice and fry up for a quick hash.
  • Extra Bread:
    • Make croutons for salads or soups.
    • Use in bread pudding or as a base for a savory strata.
  • Making More Ahead of Time:
    • Double up on sauces and stews, freezing half for a later meal.
    • Prepare extra servings of marinated proteins and freeze for future use.
  • Planned Extra Proteins:
    • Cook a larger batch of grilled chicken or fish to use in salads, sandwiches, or burrito bowls throughout the week.
  • Extra Cooked Vegetables:
    • Mix into pasta dishes or layer into lasagnas.
    • Add to breakfast scrambles or wraps for a nutritious start to the day.

Strategy 3: Prep your snacks

This sounds like more work for you, but it isn’t! You’re already doing a lot of this, but in an inefficient or expensive way.

dried fruits and nuts being decanted into jars.

You can cut snack bags and bars from your grocery budget. You can put these in lunch boxes in a minute and have everything ready. When your kids need a snack, they can get in the habit of opening the fridge and fending for themselves in a way you feel good about.

Okay? Okay.

  • Portion out nuts and fruits. Nuts and dried fruits give you energy, but it’s easy to eat too much. Pre-portion them into small bags or containers. This way, you have a ready-to-go snack that’s already in a sensible serving size.
  • Veggie Sticks and Hummus. Cut carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and celery into sticks. Put them in containers. Pair these with small servings of hummus or your favorite dip. They’re perfect for a quick, healthy snack.
  • Homemade Granola or Energy Bars: Make a batch of granola or energy bars during your meal prep session. Once cooled, cut them into bars or break them into clusters. Store in airtight containers for an easy, grab-and-go snack.
  • Freezing Baked Goods. You can make muffins, scones, and other baked goods in advance and freeze them. I don’t recommend adding this as a big production your scheudle. But if you’re baking already, wrap them individually and freeze them. Put them in a big bag or container labeled “snacks”. Now you have mix of homemade treats.
  • Yogurt Parfaits. Layer yogurt with fruits and granola in mason jars. I add frozen fruit and protein powder to mine.
  • Cheese and Whole Grain Crackers. Portion cheese slices or cubes and pair them with a serving of whole grain crackers. This combo provides a good balance of protein and carbs, keeping you fuller for longer.
  • Frozen Fruit: Freeze grapes, banana slices, or berries. They make for a refreshing and sweet treat, especially in warmer months.
  • Popcorn: Pop a large batch of popcorn and season it to your liking. Portion it out into individual bags for a light, fiber-rich snack.

Remember, the key to successful snack prep is making sure your options are both convenient and tasty. If your family doesn’t already eat something, don’t make a bunch of it.

Strategy 4: Batch cooking (for the fridge)

Batch cooking is like having a secret weapon in your meal prep arsenal. It’s all about cooking larger quantities of food at one time, which you can then portion out and use throughout the week. The beauty of batch cooking lies in its efficiency. You spend the same amount of time cooking, but you get multiple meals out of it.

pot of soup on stove, simmering.

Pick recipes that scale up well and that you won’t get tired of after a couple of meals. I do not like casseroles for this, but usually soups, stews, or chicken salad.

I can hear you now: but my family won’t eat the same thing day after day! Well…they need to learn. This isn’t a technique you use every week. If you have a busy week and everyone wants chicken noodle soup for lunch three days, they’ll have to accept it. Expecting anyone to produce 21 unique meals per week is insane.

Mastering the Art of Bulk Cooking

Mastering bulk cooking means getting comfortable with larger quantities. It’s important to have the right kitchen tools for this – large pots, pans, and enough storage containers. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different recipes. Maybe one week you try a big batch of curry, and the next, it’s a hearty bean stew. The variety will keep things interesting.

Also, consider your week ahead. If you know you’re going to have busier days, plan to use your batch-cooked meals on those days. This strategy can relieve a lot of the dinnertime stress that comes with a packed schedule.

Savvy Storage: Keeping Your Meals Fresh and Accessible

You’ve made all this food; now you need to keep it fresh. Invest in good quality, airtight containers. Portion it out, if that’s helpful. If you pack your husbands lunch, put the dish in lunch containers straightaway. Maybe it’s two or three out of his five weekly lunches. That’s still a big, big help to you, having it done already!

Labeling is your friend. Mark containers with the date and contents. This not only helps you remember what’s inside but also keeps track of how long it’s been stored. You can store cooked meals in the fridge for a few days.

If you made a lot, freezing is a good choice. Just remember: Freeze in portions. It’s much easier to defrost exactly what you need for a meal, rather than having to defrost a huge block of stew.

By using these batch cooking strategies when preparing meals, you can simplify your week. This will allow you to have more time for your family or to simply unwind. It’s practical, efficient, and honestly, a bit of a lifesaver for any busy homemaker.

Strategy 5: Freezer Meals

I know, I already said I hate them. But I still make them.

They are perfect for those days when you just can’t muster the energy to cook. I also like to have them in the freezer in case I get sick. Instead of reaching for the takeout menu, you can pull a homemade meal out of the freezer.

finished casseroles on kitchen counter.

Soups, stews, casseroles, and marinated meats are all great options. To freeze your food, make sure it’s completely cooled. Use containers that are safe for the freezer. Make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.. And don’t forget to label everything with the date and contents – freezer mystery meals are no fun for anyone.

Having a backup plan is comforting, even if it’s one I don’t like to eat 😉.

Strategy 6: Made Ahead Breakfasts

Make your mornings smoother and healthier with prepared breakfasts. Here’s how to do it:

small jars of yogurt parfaits with fruit.
  • Overnight Oats:
    • Mix oats with milk or a dairy-free alternative.
    • Add flavors like honey or peanut butter, and top with fruits and nuts.
    • Store in the fridge for flavors to meld overnight.
  • Breakfast Burritos/Wraps:
    • Scramble eggs with veggies and your choice of protein.
    • Wrap in a tortilla and freeze. Microwave for a quick meal.
  • Baked Goods:
    • Bake muffins, banana bread, or breakfast bars during the weekend.
    • Grab and go for an easy morning start.
  • Pre-portioned Smoothie Packs:
    • Combine fruits, greens, and add-ins like protein powder in bags.
    • Blend with your choice of liquid for a quick, nutritious breakfast.

Weekday mornings are crazy. Don’t add making breakfast to your plate!

Strategy 7: Prepping Food Ahead of Time for Cooking Later

One great way to manage busy schedules is by preparing meals ahead of time.

I know, duh, we’ve already been talking about this. the whole article, right?

No, I mean prep now, cook later.

fresh veggies chopped and assembled.
  • Slow Cooker Meals:
    • Assemble ingredients for stews, soups, or roasts in a large ziplock bag or container. Include your base (like meat or beans), vegetables, and spices.
    • Store in the fridge or freezer until ready to cook. Then, empty the contents into the slow cooker and set the cooking time.
  • Instant Pot Prep:
    • To make dishes like chili, curries, or pasta, put all ingredients except liquids in a container.
    • When you’re ready to cook, put everything in the Instant Pot and choose the right setting.
  • Deep Fryer Prep:
    • To prepare chicken, fish, or vegetables, make and store the breading or batter separately.
    • When you’re ready to fry, coat your food in the breading or batter and it’s ready to go straight into the deep fryer.
  • General Tips:
    • Chop or slice all your ingredients to the required size and store them in labeled containers or bags.
    • To make marinades, mix all the ingredients together. Put the meat or vegetables in the marinade and keep it in the fridge. This not only saves time but also enhances the flavor.

This is such a relief when it comes time to cook dinner. All the hard work is already done!

More Meal Prep Resources

It’s a big world of meal prep out there, friends.

Start small and add these strategies to your routine. Take it slow! Celebrate the little wins, like prepping breakfasts for a whole week or successfully using freezer meals.

Remember that meal prep is a journey, not a destination. There will be weeks where everything goes smoothly and others where life gets in the way. That’s completely normal. You’ll get there, and you’ll be glad you did ❤️.

7 Genius Meal-Prep Strategies for Homemakers

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