Friday, May 5, 2017

How To Become a Meal-Prepping Genius

The truth of the whole Meal-Prepping matter is that you both love it and hate it at the same time. 

Nobody wants to spend hours in the kitchen chopping and washing and cooking and storing, but on the other hand - nobody wants to spend every single night battling the dinner time demon with nothing started, and no idea what you are going to do. 

I have just spent 3 times as long looking for a picture to put with this post than I did writing it. All the picture of people in the kitchen and preparing meals are so ridiculously fake and staged, I don't dare share them with you, and a few were people in screaming kitchen disasters and while they were funny, I didn't want to scare you away. 

But let's get on with it ...  I meal-prep for the same reason that I meal plan, because it saves me money, and then it saves me time, and I would much rather spend my money and spend my time on stuff that I enjoy and not stuff that I "have to" do. 

You probably aren't going to be amazing at it the first time, probably not the second time either. But you'll find your groove, You'll find what works for you! 

Currently, our house runs like this - 
  • We get the store ads in the mail on Tuesday and Wed,  
  • I make a meal plan and a corresponding grocery list on Thursday (hopefully, Sometimes I don't get it done until Friday).  
  • Joseph does all the grocery shopping early on Saturday morning. (This works for us because he is a no-nonsense shopper, he's fast, he doesn't have to take kids and our local store has A LOT of Saturday morning special sales - and they are jammed packed and way early *I Hate That!)
  • When he gets home from the store, I do all the food prep, cooking, and lunch making for the week. I also prepare as much as I can for the upcoming dinners during the week. 
Yes! that doesn't sound like a lot of work and confusion and it usually doesn't run as smoothly as I would like it to - but it is something that our family HAS to do. 

This plan takes advantage of all the major ways that I have found to save money on a grocery bill. 
1. Plan your meals 
2. Shop the ads
3. Don't waste food

** So although I can think of quite a few ways that I would rather spend a good chunk of my Saturday, I remind myself that meal-prepping is worth every second that I spend in the kitchen - times 5. 

So the first thing you need to do is -  Plan Your Menu. You can't prepare for meals that you don't know what they are. Meal planning is hard to do, at least a lot of people think so. How do I know... because there are 100's of people making money doing it for you.  Save yourself some cash and do it yourself. I have bought the meal plans and you never use them. They suggest things your family won't like, you won't feel like eating this or that, or it just doesn't fit your style. Pay yourself to do it, that is honestly how I started motivating myself to do it. I certainly don't love it, but I do it because I know that it helps. It will get easier, I promise.  There is lots of help at Food Sense and on my blog. 

The second part of the plan is to Shop the Ads, buy things that are in season, but them on sale and keep track of how much things cost "normally" so you aren't fooled by big yellow signs and the store claiming that the prices are reduced. I used to keep photos on my phone of how much things cost, because I couldn't remember for the life of me and I hated feeling like the stores were tricking me into buying things that weren't really going to cost that much less. 

Don't Waste Food is my last bit of advice. This can include lots of different ways - I am a huge fan of cooking once and eating "twice".  It also can include storing things in the proper way so that they don't go bad in your fridge. In my family, it also involves putting food into a form where it can be eaten. - that sounds silly doesn't it! But I swear to you, I can buy cantaloupe, which everyone in my family LOVES and it I don't cut up that melon and put it in the fridge in a tupperware, that melon will sit on the counter until it goes back. But once I cut it up, it won't last a day. That may be a step for you family, to put food in a form that it can be eaten. - that is why there is a whole world of pre-cut bagged veggies and single serving packages of crackers and cheese. 

When I post photos of myself meal-prepping on social media, I get lots of comments on "teach me how" "you need to show us how to do this" - lots of websites make millions of dollars trying to do it for you, having you subscribe to their sites and making it all sound like there is a super secret way to do it that is going to make it easy and pain-free. 

The absolute truth is that you'll get good at it by doing it. - Not a single one of us would expect our kids to be able to play soccer by reading about soccer on the internet, watching soccer videos or having someone tell them how they play soccer.  You learn by doing it.  You just have to do it. You'll not be great at it the first time, it will take a bit before you find what works for you. and after you find that, you'll probably still have to adjust it. But doing it, is what makes you a genius at it. Doing it and not giving up and keeping on trying, that is what makes it look so effortless and easy.  

* and now that you've read this, and I just told you that you won't get any better at it by reading this, thanks for letting me be so awkward and strange. I love you all.