If you are just starting out with meal prep or even if you are seasoned meal prep-er, you may have some questions like: How much do I spend on groceries? How long is it going to take me? What the heck am I doing? Prep Dish is here to help =) My name is Jenn and I am a part of the Prep Dish Team. I wanted to show you all how I prepped a week of our 21 Day Challenge menu and hopefully address some of the questions we commonly have with meal prep, meal planning and everything that goes along with it!
In this post I will be touching on some of the topics below:
1. How I prepped 1 week of the Challenge
2. Where I shopped
3. What I spent spent on groceries
4. How long it took
5. What it looked like
6. Some tips and hacks that I like to use while prepping
If you are new to Prep Dish, a long-time subscriber, or thinking about it, there is hopefully something for you to take away!
Prepping for the Meal Prep
Alright, so you have committed to meal prepping…awesome! Now what? My first step is to grab the grocery list and take stock of what I already have and what I need. As a family, we fall more on the creature of habit side, so we typically have the same things in our fridge and pantry so this step goes fairly quickly.
I then decide where I will shop. We have a lot of options where I live (South of Pittsburgh, PA) and I like to grocery shop myself. My top 3 go-to stores are Trader Joe's, Aldi, and Sam's Club! I find that they typically have everything I need, they have organic options and they are on the less expensive side in comparison to our run of the mill grocery store chain. I also rotate which store I go to throughout the month. If I go to Sam's Club one week, I will stock up on what I can for the month and then run through the other stores the following weeks to only grab the fresh produce etc.
Ok, the million dollar question…how much did I spend? About $165 for Week 1 of the Challenge! A few things to keep in mind:
- My receipt is below with $195 total but I also had $40+ dollars in “extras” and then I didn't need to grab everything on the grocery list (eggs, greek yogurt etc)
- The Challenge consists of Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and a Snack EVERYDAY. If you are just prepping our regular menus, your grocery bill would be less.
- These amounts were for my family of 4. My husband, my 5 yr old son, 3 yr old daughter and myself. The kids are not of the age where they are eating us out of house and home but they do eat each meal.
The Meal Prep Breakdown
Alright, the two million dollar question…how long did it take? About 3 hours! I am not a trained chef but I have been in the kitchen for most of my life. The women in my family have historically cooked most (if not all meals) for as long as I can remember and I carry that tradition on in my family. So, while not professional experience, the kitchen is not foreign to me. If you are new to the cooking/prepping scene, it may take you longer and that is OK! Everyone has to start somewhere, so please don't be discouraged. You will get better as you find your own methods and what works for you!
I also, have 2 young children so the distractions are real. What works for me is to involve them in the easy stuff in the beginning…unpacking the groceries, washing the fruit and veg, and simple tasks like breaking the asparagus stalks instead of cutting them. I tend to find that if they are involved in these kinds of activities, they will lose interest when I actually begin the chopping and cooking and I have less to worry about with their little hands! They will also tend to occupy themselves for a longer period of time if they aren't always asking “Mom, what are you doing?”
I also follow the directions for prep day. They are outlined in order so that you are prepping in an organized fashion. When cooking, I will make note of when I can re-use a pan without washing it (maybe just rinse), what can I save to and not chop/cook at all to make the day of etc. I am really finicky about my produce and I do have time on dish day to do a little prep so I will sometimes skip steps in the process. I mark all of these notes on the meal plan itself to save time.
What did I end up with? Peace of mind that I don't have to cook unless I want to and my family will still eat healthy meals. A fridge filled with food for my husband and kids so they can eat on the run, because we are always on the run it seems. And a sense of accomplishment and that is what I really needed. Because as a mom, my to do list is long and some days it doesn't seem to move, so checking this off of my list for the week is a great feeling =)
Some additional tips and hacks that I use that may help you with your meal prepping:
- Read the instructions before you start and mark them up! Mine looks like a graded school paper by the time I am done but it helps me to process what I am doing and organize it in my head!
- Start Clean! I will clean off my counters and clean out the fridge each week prior to prep. This allows me to have enough space for prepping as well as have space in the fridge for the week of meals!
- Make a “station”! I create an area on my counter with a large plate and set the knives, utensils, the veg peeler, spices, oil, cutting boards and kitchen towels I will be using so it is all in one spot. This helps me to keep it all in one place so I am not fumbling around looking for something once I get started.
- Use a garbage bag or bowl. I set mine right on the floor so I don't take up counter space and just start dropping the garbage in. I peel my veg over the sink and create a “pile” of edible scraps and send them out to the yard for the deer when I am done!
- Make substitutions! Don't be afraid to substitute something if it doesn't work for you and your family! Whether it be an entire meal or just 1 ingredient, you can use what you have on hand or what your family would like better!
- Give your kids the option to try and not like something. I always tell my kids, you don't have to like it but you do have to try it. They usually end up liking it, I don't have picky eaters…yet!
- Keep the family favorite meals close by. I usually “star” the family favorite meals and keep that recipe on hand. I will then buy those ingredients next shopping trip, prep that meal (freeze or not depending on needs) and then use when the dreaded “we don't want that for dinner” comment comes up! This allows me to have a “safe” meal and keep everyone in the game and not drive me nuts doing so.
Happy prepping! =)