how i prep food for the week

Posted on Mar 21, 2013 in Food

food prep

I’ve mentioned a few times on here how my food prep binges on the weekend really help me stay on track with nutrition throughout the week. I hadn’t really thought much about writing a post about it until I saw the awesome Lindsay over at the The Lean Green Bean do her weekly series on her food prep routine. I was so inspired by everyone else’s food prep, that I thought maybe I should give you guys a small peek into mine as well. So this past weekend, I snapped some photos while I set off one of my patented kitchen bombs.

The first step for my food prep is to make a list. This shouldn’t surprise you. I’m pretty much the queen of lists. Ha! I did a little pre-list when I made my menu and went grocery shopping for the week, but now that it’s time to actually do the work, I make a “real” list and make sure to put it in the order I want to work.

food prep list

After my list is made, I usually pull out all the ingredients I’ll need to get through the whole list. I’m lucky to have a giant island to spread out on. Having all the ingredients out and clumped together really saves me some time. Plus, I also like the visual of working my way through them. I put ingredients away as I’m finished with them, and as the counter starts to get empty, I know I’m closing in on the finish line.

food prep ingredients

To make the most out of my time, I try to start with the things that have an element of inactive work. Like making bread. I make a loaf of bread each week, and I get the dough together and rising first, before I do anything else. Bonus: because I’m working in the kitchen and have the stove and the oven on, it warms up and my dough rises better. Win!

dough bread

Next, I just start working through my list. I try to keep like things together so I can use the same kitchen utensils without washing. Like, for example, I chop all my veggies for snacking…

veggies

…and then right after, I start working on my salads-in-a-jar. I’m not sure who the first person to think of putting a salad in the jar, but man, it is genius. I was skeptical when I first tried it, but just as long as the lettuce is separate from the dressing, it all stays fresh and crisp for days. My lunchtime veggie intake has skyrocketed thanks to these little salad jars stashed in the fridge. I usually dump the whole thing into a bowl, but Craig just shakes it up and eats it right out of the jar. It’s a a perfectly portable healthy lunch. Love ‘em.

salad jars

Once I’ve made it through my whole list, I stash everything on the top shelf of the fridge. Not only does it make it easy to get to, but it’s also the first thing we see when we open up the fridge door. I’m a believer that if I’m visually assaulted with healthy foods, I’m much more likely to eat healthy foods.

fridge

Curious what I made this week? Here’s the whole lot of it:

food prep

This, plus some other additions like cereal for breakfast or leftovers for lunch, will be enough food to get us through the week. It took me about three hours to get through all this cooking, but I know it saves so much more time than that during the week. It makes it so easy to grab breakfasts, lunches and snacks during the week. Honestly, the time and effort isn’t all that bad. The worst part about the whole thing? The pile of dishes afterward. Yeeeeesh.

kitchen dishes

But thankfully, I have an awesome husband who doesn’t mind cleaning up after I spent hours cooking us healthy, yummy food for the whole week.

Each week, I try to make 2-3 options for lunches, 2-3 options for breakfast and a handful of options for snacks. It changes each week. Here’s another food prep I did a few weeks back. In this one, you’ll see other food prep frequenters like granola bars, overnight oats, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and tuna salad. It all just depends on what we’re in the mood for.

food prep
If it weren’t for food prepping each week, my diet would probably consist of some leftovers and whatever food was within reach in the pantry. I know having all these fresh fruits and veggies ready and waiting has definitely made me eat more goodies. Even Craig agrees! He says that without the weekly food prep, he probably wouldn’t even bother with packing fruits or vegetables in the lunch he takes to work, but with it all there and ready to go, it’s actually easier to just grab something healthy instead of doing the work to pack something not-as-healthy.

Food prepping takes a pretty big time commitment, but for us, it’s a system that works, so that time is worth it. If you’ve never tried it before, I highly recommend making your own list and setting off a kitchen bomb of your very own!

Do you do food prep? What are you favorite dishes to prepare for eating throughout the week?

71 Comments

  1. Yeesh, Pyrex is just the best isn’t it? All that food looks delicious! I’m thinking about purchasing a food processor just so I can finally make those darn peanut butter cookie date balls that call my name whenever I happen upon your blog.

    I do some food prep on the weekend, but I actually love to prepare my meals during the week. There’s something therapeutic to me about taking some time each day to chop my veggies.

  2. love this!!!! thanks for the shoutout!!!

  3. On sunday, we get our groceries (list and meal plan done) and I usually make some kind of snack for the week (banana muffins, date balls, granola bars). We usually stick to our meal plan, and make enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day (even though I work at home, it is so much easier – decision wise – to have a ready made lunch). This just leaves breakfasts, and my husband always has cereal and almond milk, while I generally have a piece of fruit and Greek yoghurt/whatever snack I made. I’m one of those people who likes knowing what I am going to eat, so prepping/planning works very well for me!

  4. Don’t the smoothies separate?

    • Depending on what’s in them, usually not. But when they do, a quick shake mixes them back up. :)

  5. This is a great post! I usually do some prep on the weekend as well. I cook a batch of grains, clean veggies and make a pot of soup.
    But I’m curious. How long does the salad in a jar and the fruit and yogurt parfaits stay fresh? I would love to do something similar for my kids lunches — but not sure how far ahead I could make it before it would be yucky.

    • oh…. and smoothies too? How long? A day or two?

    • We’ll wait a whole week before eating the salads, parfaits or smoothies, but we haven’t ever got past that to test it. And it’s just a nice and fresh as the day I put it in the jar. :)

      • I notice you use plastic bottles for your smoothie. Is this what keeps them fresh for the week?

      • Nope, not plastic. They are glass bottles with plastic lids. I’m not sure if that has any difference or not.

  6. This may be a dumb question, but this is JUST for lunch and breakfast, right? My husband and I meal plan dinners for the week and I make enough for a family of 6 each night (2 servings for him, 1 for me, 2 lunch servings for him, 1 lunch for me!). I’m starting to wonder if it might be cheaper/more cost effective to do a normal dinner serving and do some lunch prep like this. Thoughts?

    • Yup, just lunches, breakfasts and snacks. We meal plan dinners too, and we often have leftovers, but we use them on leftover night for dinner or for lunch if we’re not interested in any of the food prep stuff. I have no clue if it’s more cost effective. We are not at all skilled at squeezing money out of our grocery budget. We spend a lot of money on food. :) And I’m okay with that.

  7. I should do this.
    I *could* this.

    I think first things first I need to buy some good containers for food storage like it looks like you have. I do have a lot of good wide mouth mason jars, but they don’t work for everything.

    I bought a set of plastic ones at Ikea but they melt. MELT!! Ugh.

  8. Hey Cassie, normally I read your blog in Google Reader, today I decided to click over so I could enjoy the post AND your new design, but it’s really not looking great in my browser — the text font size is huge, the pictures are kind of small, and there are a lot of random blank spaces, as well as a weird overlap between some elements. I can resize the window and it all moves around and the pictures get huge for example, but then it’s too big to look at properly. I’m using Chrome Version 25.0.1364.160, on a Mac running OS X 10.8.2, if that’s any use to you… I thought the feedback might be helpful, but in the interim I will probably still be reading in Google so I’m not worried :p

    Ok I just discovered that there is no button appearing to submit this comment with… I’ll have a look around and see what I can find! If you’re reading this, I got there in the end… :p

    • Hmmmm! That’s super strange Rosie, because I’m using pretty much the exact same set up as you and am not having those problems. The feedback is definitely helpful! Would you mind sending me a screenshot to backtoherroots@gmail.com if you have a spare second? It might help me diagnose what’s going on. Thanks for letting me know!

  9. That salad-in-a-jar idea is brilliant! Would you consider writing a post with a couple of easy variations (not too many ingredients)? I would love it, since I’m always in search of healthy packed lunch ideas that I can throw in my purse in 5 minutes or less :) and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

    • Yes! I would LOVE to know more about the salad-in-a-jar idea, too!

    • Sure! I’d definitely think about writing a post about it. :)

  10. Love this! I would love to see a photo of this every week… it would really give me some great ideas!

    • Totally agree. A photo and a list of what the foods are! :D Maybe it can give you bumps in traffic when you link to older blog posts? Just like you did with the overnight oats link here. Ach, I don’t need to tell you that, you totally knew what you were doing there… :)

      Thanks for this wonderful post!

  11. WOW! You are an inspiration to food preppers everywhere! Are you at home to consume this food all week? I love your very orderly group photo of the finished product. Thank you for sharing! Have a great day!

    • Yup! Sure am at home eating all this (and my husband takes it to work with him). :)

  12. I have made a giant bowl of salad for the week, and made a main dish or two to have leftovers, but I’ve never done that much comprehensive food preparation,and I can’t wait to start! I think it will make a huge difference in getting through the week with unplanned indulgences due to laziness (confession!!) and when I start working again it will be one of the best ways to transition back to full time work after over 18 months off.

    Thanks for this post!

  13. Yep. Can’t say I’ve ever done any food prepping! My breakfasts and lunches are pretty simple, though, so I haven’t really felt the need. I will eat oatmeal or granola for breakfast, and leftovers from the night before for lunch.

    I do want to add more salads to my lunches, though. Easy way to get in more greens!

  14. Cassie! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea! I am on my way out, right now, to Walmart to see if I can locate some cheap jars. The salad in the a jar idea is pure brilliance. My plan, this afternoon, was to get some things together for lunches and dinners this week, and this food prep blog has completely inspired me! Thank you!

  15. Man! You’re so organized! I’m impressed.

    I wash and cut up all the veggies on Sundays after I grocery shop. That’s pretty much the extent of my prep. :)

  16. I am loving all the meal prep ideas out there lately! I’m a huge Sunday food-prepper.

    For breakfast I love oatmeal bakes, egg sandwiches to pop out of the freezer, hard boiled eggs and homemade bars. For lunch I also love salads in jar or SOUP. Love soup. Also, leftovers! For snacks I usually just have fruit, popcorn or yogurt. I also chop all my veggies/do any long prepwork for dinner recipes on Sunday.

    It makes the week so much easier!

  17. Wow! That’s amazing! The most I ever do is that I’ve started making two servings of dinner each night and packing one right away for the next day’s lunch. I don’t know if my brain is capable of being this organized. Your things look really yummy too.

  18. In my house, food is a challenging thing… Thus, meal planning can be a little challenging.

    I’m a recovering picky eater who’s trying to expand her palate to include healthy things (like vegetables) but that process is still filled with a lot of anxiety. My partner is an unapologetic picky eater who has no desire to change his habits, he’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy and thinks that things that are green are gross (with the notable exception of mint ice cream). Our roommate will eat anything you put in front of him, but you have to constantly remind him to eat the food because he doesn’t want to be a bother.

    My partner has a few dishes that he likes to cook on his days off that stock the fridge with something to eat… Lasagna, roast beef hash, and scalloped potatoes. Beyond that… There is no meal plan.

  19. I have to ask – do you keep the smoothies in the freezer or fridge? I generally make smoothies the night before and leave ‘em in the fridge, and even within 12 hours they get kind of liquid-y. Or maybe I am too picky. ;) I love the new design, btw!

    • In the fridge! And it depends on the ingredients. Just as long I don’t include greens or thickeners (like chia or flax) it’s always fine for me.

  20. This is fantastic! What a wonderful resource. Love all of your meal and snack ideas :) Do the veggies stay fresh over a whole week? I think this kind of prep would help me SO much! Thank you for this excellent post! Love your blog! xo

    • The veggies dry out a little bit, but they are still definitely edible and crunchy at the end of the week. Dip ‘em hummus and they’re great! :)

  21. Thank you for sharing this bit of genius…I’m on track to do this- love the uniform pyrex containers- very visually appealing too- and I tell ya food is so much about that…and of course taste and reachability. I’m feeling motivated to make this my own!

    Cheers!

  22. Hey Cassie it’s me! (Corrie from Blurb Column, now Casa Beebe.) YES YES YES! I food prep regularly on the weekends, including an inventory of the fridge/freezer/pantry, menu, grocery list, shopping, and then prepping for the week. Lots of chopped veggies, cooked grains or eggs, other easy to grab snacks, lots of fruit. This is SUCH a lifesaver for me. Like you, if healthy food is easy to grab I eat it. On the weeks that the food prep/menu planning doesn’t get done we are about 1000 x’s more likely to eat out multiple times, or just eat junkier food overall. Food prep is where it’s at!

  23. wow…. I’m throroughly impressed by this!!!!!!

  24. wow, you are so organized! i can see how all this work and organization really helps to keep you on track… wish I could be this way!

  25. Hi Cassie,

    i just dropped in to your amazing space from foodgawker and I am completely awed by the idea of food prepping to this extent and specially the salad in a jar. You have the dressing on the bottom, and hte lighter foods n top so when you want to delve in to them you simply give it a good shake…is it a mason jar? I love love love it! Do the greens/lettuce stay crunchy? That really helps as the greens sometimes wilts by the end of the week….Looking good and inspiring me to try it out too!

    Shobha

    • Yup, just as long as you keep the lettuce away from the dressing (and any other juicy veggies like tomatoes), it’ll stay crisp all through the week.

  26. I am so inspired right now. I really enjoyed reading this and now I’m super excited to get started on my prep this weekend. Thank you so much!

  27. Awesome job on your weight loss and eating healthy! We also food prep/shop on Sunday’s for the week. We grill chicken breasts on Sunday’s for our salads for the week for lunches. We do assemble the morning of, but have everything prepared and ready to go. My sweeetie cooks us egg white omelettes every morning,we looove eggs! We also do the smoothie thing, but we keep ours in the blender in the fridge and give it a quick mix before packing into out lunch. I agree, this is a big diet and budget savor! Cheers~

  28. Preparing like this may seem a good idea, but it is not. Sure, you can make bars, muffins, bean burgers, but cuting your veggies beforehand will make them lose most of the vitamines. Your fruitsmoothies have same problem. They will oxidate within a few hours. Preparing is a good thing, but this is not healthier than eating white bread for instance. An, from Holland

    • I’ve never heard that cutting veggies makes them lose nutrients, interesting! I’ve heard that they start losing nutrients the second they are chopped of the stalk and when they are cooked, but never that just by cutting them into smaller pieces. Do you have any sources I can read up about it to learn more? Thanks!

      • I’m sorry, this information comes from dutch dietician books, so, I don’t have that information in English.

  29. I notice you used all glass containers/jars. Does this keep the food/drinks fresher versus using plastics?

    • I’m actually not sure! We switched to all glass a few years back (before I started prepping) so I’m not sure if that makes a difference or not.

      • Glass is definitely better than plastics for foods where there might be a risk of chemicals from the plastic leaking into the food. It’s more likely with liquids and things containing fats and acids. Probably doesn’t make much difference for carrot sticks, but I think you’re wise to go with all glass anyway.

  30. I used to food prep all the time when I worked, now that I am home with the kids, I don’t. The reality is, I should food prep more. For me and the kids. Thanks for the ideas!

  31. Really cool post! Very inspiring.

  32. Here from Clothilde’s at Chocolate and Zucchini. I wondered about nutrient loss, as I’d heard that about cutting too. I’ve always tended to avoid things like bought coleslaw and, here in France, the carrottes râpées – pre-shredded and dressed carrot salad, for that reason – plus also things kept in dressing don’t stay so nice anyway. But according to this

    http://nutrition.about.com/od/askyournutritionist/f/cutveg.htm

    there’s not much to worry about anyway, since you keep the veg in airtight containers in the ‘fridge and eat them within the week. And it seems to me that doing it this way means you get to eat more veg anyway, especially raw, which would more than make up for any slight loss of vitamin C and carotenes, the only things seemingly affected.

    So keep up the good work, which is truly awesome and inspirational! I’m not sure I’d have room in my fridge for all this mind, unless I suppose I got that a bit more organised too…

  33. I love your blog!!!…Your simplicity and honesty!

  34. Please post some dinner prep ideas: what you do ahead that pays off the same way your breakfast/lunch ideas do. Years ago, when my three children were small and I was working full-time and going to law school evenings(!), we managed to eat well by using week- end food prep. I was actually learning to cook from Julia Child , James Beard,and Joy of Cooking. The key thing that proved most helpful was that I made three big dinners, doubling them (baked ham, beef stew, roast chicken, for example) and eating a dinner meal from each every other day. For lunches, we would make sandwiches with the left-over roast meats or add them to pre-prepared veggies for healthful, yummy salads. On the next week-end, I would use any left-overs to make split pea soup, chicken soup, and pot pies with the last of the ham, chicken, and stew. To that, I would add another roast, such as pork, and make some meatballs for a pasta dinner and /or a rice dish. Baked fish and shrimp were additional staples. Preparing veggies on the week-end was a huge help. We had a running contest to see how many different veggies we used to make salad— often we managed to have nine! Also, I made a point of buying fruit in season, generous amounts, so it was always available for snacks or dessert.

  35. Wow, this is so inspiring! Love it!

  36. Thanks for sharing your process and providing inspiration. I can’t wait to do more prep. I completely agree that having healthy “grab and go” food is the key to eating better.

  37. I love your ideas, I prep on Sunday and Monday, I add tuna sslad and potatoe salad and cole slaw and egg salad. i make little differences every week. The blessing of fresh homemade food keeps us from being bored. I love your pictures and will do the same this week.

  38. Hi Cassie,

    Love your blog!!!! A friend forwared it to me and described it as “inspirational” I too think you are inspriational!!!!. Thanks..

    One question, what is the recipe for the item on your “How I Prep Food for the Week” just to the right of the salads in a jar??? Looks like a mimi quiche and it looks yummy!

    Thanks and please keep posting,
    Linda

  39. I just found this post and it’s truly inspirational! Thank you. Also, while searching for other ideas I found that your photo was being used by Sensa with no attribution. Just thought I’d say something because I know how hard bloggers work for their photos and posts.

    Here’s a link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151606771394644&set=pb.46618879643.-2207520000.1370569776.&type=3&theater

    • Thanks for pointing that out, Emily. That’s a bummer! :(

  40. I really love the idea of baking a loaf of bread every week and the salad in a jar. I am going to give meal prepping a try (after I clean out my fridge..yikes!) Thanks!

  41. I LOVE doing food prep on weekends it is the best thing! I tried your salad in a jar idea and I loved it so it’s become one of my favorite things to do for lunch. I also tried the pistachio stuffed dates and they are now one of my favorites! Actually, this post really helped me redefine the way I do food. So incredibly helpful, thank you! I’m planning to do a gluten free food prep post on my site. Hope you can check it out! http://saltlicklessons.com/

  42. This is such a fantastic way to operate, I have never thought of taking it to this level but it really makes sense. I am a long hours, come home and grab whats convenient kind of girl and I can tell that this would solve all my problems. A wonderful way to be organised. Thanks so much for sharing! I’m definitely going to try this.

  43. Have tried the salads-in-a-jar, herbed turkey and egg cups, overnight oatmeal, peanut date balls and black bean sliders (I made full-size burgers). Yum, yum, yum! Thanks for sharing – super helpful.

  44. I found your blog through Pinterest and I love all of your food posts! I am a recent subscriber. I was a little surprised when I saw one of your recipes recently – not because of the recipe, but because I realized we have the same name! First and last! If your middle name is Nicole… that would just be crazy! :)

    • Ha! My middle name isn’t Nicole, but you’re the first other CJ I’ve ever met! :)

      • Same here! It’s not a real common name. Nice to “meet” you! :)

  45. Love this food prep post! Do you have a link to the chocolate cherry smoothie recipe? That looks delicious!

  46. Finally. Someone who uses glass instead of plastic or aluminum.

  47. I saw your blog and have been trying our meal prep for a week as well. Would love to get your opinion on how I did healthylivying.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/meal-prep-first-timer/ :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>