meal planning and meal prepping part ii

Welcome to part II of meal planning and meal prepping! If you missed it, find part I here. I love getting inspiration from how others plan and carry out their meal planning routines, and seeing what they have at the ready. For this series, I gathered routines from friends in multiple walks of life, dietary needs, and locations, from Washington, D.C, to suburban-NC, to small college towns.

Meal planning and meal prepping have become hot topics, and for good reason. They both take a good amount of dedicated time, but really save time, and use foods more wisely, throughout the week. For us, the time and energy we save when we meal plan and prep makes our weeknights easier and greatly outweighs the time it takes to plan and prepare at the beginning of the week.

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Growing up, my family would make homemade biscuits on Saturday mornings, then sit down at the table and meal plan together over our biscuit breakfast. After breakfast my dad would take us kids to the grocery store to get the items we needed for the week. At the time, I didn’t realize how useful this process was, but now that I am on my own, I appreciate that routine and understand the importance of meal planning for the week ahead.
Meal Planning and Meal Prep Plus 5 Different Routines | www.passthecookies.com

But, even with planning, sometimes I get bored with the meals we have regularly, or we go out of town for a weekend and meal planning and prepping fall to the wayside. I always regret this when I get to Tuesday and find myself in front of the fridge wondering how many ways I can cook eggs ;). In these times, I think it is so helpful to see how other people do things, what routines work in different places and stages of life, and the different foods we may keep on hand in our homes. Seeing what works for other people often inspires me when I get in a rut in meal planning or cooking.

Avery (mid-20s, engaged city-dweller, runner)
1. Briefly describe your phase of life right now.
My fiancé and I live in Washington, DC. While we don’t follow a particular diet or have dietary restrictions, I am a runner and when I’m training for a race (like I was last summer and fall) that takes a lot of time and affects how I eat. Plus we both commute for about an hour each way each day so that eats up a good amount of time!

2. Do you meal plan? If so, what is your meal planning process?
I have thought about meal planning a lot (and even have this cool notepad to theoretically organize my plans!) but haven’t been very successful in implementing. However I try to select a recipe or two each week and plan in advance when we’ll prepare and eat it, but some weeks we do better than others.

3. Do you meal prep? If so, what is your meal prep process, when do you do it, and how long does it usually take you?
Yes! I typically spend anywhere from 1-3 hours on meal prep on Sunday or Monday evenings. I like to start the week off by cooking and getting organized for the week ahead. This could entail making two recipes ahead of time for a combo of lunches and dinners throughout the week, or could be as simple as getting fruits and veggies washed, cut, and sorted into containers so they’re easy to grab for snacking or sides.

4. What is your favorite go-to weekday meal?
I recently made this lentil lemon rosemary soup in the slow cooker and loved it! Another favorite in the fall or winter is this squash, kale, and quinoa stew. It’s flavorful and full of things that are good for us. Plus I’ve made it so many times I have it down to a science. Both are hearty complete meals, easy to make when I get home from work and reheat for lunch!

Dean & Holly (mid-50s, empty-nesters, retired but always active, my parents :) )
1. Briefly describe your phase of life right now.
I am very happy times infinity married, living in a bucolic suburban awesome house. I have three grown children plus one by marriage who are way more mature than me (well the girls anyway). I have a special diet–I have to eat chocolate at every possible occasion.

2. Do you meal plan? If so, what is your meal planning process?
Our meal planning process occurs during breakfast on Saturday morning. We make a menu for each meal for thee next week. We then generate a list, in aisle order (we use old school index cards and/or apps), and hit the store. Whenever one of the aforementioned offspring is home, s/he goes along, having honed their skills for over 20 years.

3. Do you meal prep? If so, what is your meal prep process, when do you do it, and how long does it usually take you?
When the children were young, we did more morning or night before or Sunday-for-the-week prep. We now have more time around dinner time, so we generally do all the prep realtime (except for marinades). For holidays and guests, we tend to prepare meals ahead and bake/cook them right before serving. Generally for a dinner with two to three couples, we prep for 2-3 hours (not including flowers and decorations). Everyday meals generally range in prep time and cook time from 30 to 60 minutes.

4. What is your favorite go-to weekday meal?
Eggs. Linguini with clams is another.

Lane (young-20s, college senior, soon-to-be industrial designer, my sister)
1. Briefly describe your phase of life right now.
I am in college; I live in a small college town; I am single and I live with 4 roommates; my special diet includes as much chocolate as possible, and, when available, cookie dough everyday.

2. Do you meal plan? If so, what is your meal planning process?
I do meal plan. My process either starts with a specific recipe in mind, a specific ingredient, or I start with a totally blank slate. I then look up recipes– I do not have any cookbooks yet so I look up recipes online, which can be tricky because you never know if it’s actually going to be good or not. I try to look up recipes from blogs or from people I trust. For example, I look up recipes that Sara Foster or Ina Garten might have online because I trust them.

Then I make my grocery list based on what I need (it is, of course, in aisle order, because I am no peasant and we were raised to have maximum efficiency in a grocery store).

3. Do you meal prep? If so, what is your meal prep process, when do you do it, and how long does it usually take you?
I do not usually meal prep. Occasionally I will chop/cook things at the beginning of the week but that’s extremely rare. I really cannot emphasize enough how rare that is. When I do it, it usually doesn’t take too long, it’ll just be like cutting up one sweet potato or something. I do cut and cook things at the beginning of the week with the intention of reheating them later in the week. Not sure if that counts. This is also rare, and again, all it usually is is cutting up and roasting veggies.

4. What is your favorite go-to weekday meal?
I’m really into naan pizzas right now. Making homemade pizza dough is just truly not worth it, so naan is a good base. But then you can make veggie pizza, or fancy za like goat cheese, walnut, fig, honey and it takes like 20 mins. Those are really good classics. However my ride or die meal is eggs. You can’t go wrong with those.

Alden (20-something, new mama to a sweet baby girl)
1. Briefly describe your phase of life right now.
I am a stay at home mom to my beautiful 6mo old girl! We live in a small city and literally installed a picket fence this week. (Ok actually it was aluminum fence) We are gluten (husband has an allergy) and dairy free (baby has a dairy intolerance).

2. Do you meal plan? If so, what is your meal planning process?
Our sweet little girl hardly sleeps so meal planning has saved our lives. I did some serious hardcore freezer meal prep before she was born which helped so much but we have just about run out of those now. Normally we pick out what we want and the grocery app during the week & order our groceries online. My husband picks them up from the store on his way home from work.

3. Do you meal prep? If so, what is your meal prep process, when do you do it, and how long does it usually take you?
We don’t really have time to do it all at once but we do it in phases over the weekend. Friday we usually do prep work and cook any meat we will eat that week. Saturday we cook the rest and assemble the meals into Tupperware. Thankfully my husband likes to cook and he always helps! He even cooks and packs his own lunch! I am hoping when she sleeps better I will begin to cook again at night, but sometimes you just got to do whatever it takes to survive this phase.

4. What is your favorite go-to weekday meal?
Quinoa burrito bowls! It is all the good things of a burrito bowl but with quinoa instead of rice. It is easy to add in lots of vegetables and make a big batch. It also freezes beautifully when you portion it out ahead of time. I usually have quinoa, chicken or beef, beans, peppers, corn and squash in my prepared Tupperware and add guacamole and spinach when it is time to eat. Sometimes I eat it in a tortilla or with chips to add a little variety.

Hope (mid-20s, runner, baker, married to a med student)
1. Briefly describe your phase of life right now.
I live in a college town with my husband, Will, who is in medical school. We eat mostly pescaterian meals at home, but call ourselves flexitarians because we still eat meat when we go out or visit family and friends. Will’s clinical rotations and schedule, along with my busy seasons at work (October-early December, April-May) sometimes restrict the amount of time we have to make dinner in the evening or push our dinner to later hours. I am a runner, and when I am training for a big race that takes a lot of time (like my marathon this spring), we have to manage our evenings well during the week in order to make dinner before we (I) get hangry ;).

2. Do you meal plan? If so, what is your meal planning process?
Yes! On Saturday I grab a few cookbooks and pull up some of my favorite blogs to gather ideas for our meals for the week. I love the Love and Lemons cookbook and this salmon recipe on How Sweet It Is. We have a few dishes that we have in our regular rotation so we will decide which of those we want, then fill in the rest of the dinners around those. We often plan to have what we call “leftover salad” or eggs toward the end of the week, as an easy way to use up leftovers, and a quick dinner since we get more and more tired as the week goes on.

3. Do you meal prep? If so, what is your meal prep process, when do you do it, and how long does it usually take you?
The amount of meal prep I do is based on how much time I have that weekend and the recipes we have on our meal plan. I often cook a batch of lentils and make chickpea salad for us to have in lunches all week. If I have time, I also cut all of the vegetables so they are ready to go when we get ready to cook them during the week. We often schedule roasted veggies early on in our week so we can use leftovers from that in our lunches and in other meals later in the week.

4. What is your favorite go-to weekday meal?
We love roasted veggies in all forms. We often have lentils with roasted broccoli, sweet potatoes, onions, and cauliflower, or put the roasted veggies on top of cauliflower rice with some cajun spices for a tasty burrito bowl.

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