How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? ~Dr. Seuss
I bet more than one of you can relate to the quote above. It relates to how quickly the year has flown by, how fast the holiday seasons are zooming, and most of all helps me explain where the heck I disappeared to over the last five months with the #100DayProject. I kept up behind the scenes and was able to effectively cut food waste in my kitchen, implement meal planning, and save time with some quick shortcuts here and there. Alas, dear readers you only were left guessing with many of these aspects. Sorry.
But I decided today that I’ll still share and keep the #100DayProject posts coming if you promise not to judge me on the long lapse of dates between. I knew we would be in agreement!
Today, I wanted to share one of my favorite “shortcut tips” that I use weekly. I discover when I implement it on a Sunday morning/afternoon, my meal plan for the week gets a healthy start AND I’m able to fill in a few blanks when the days get busy. Sunday Prep Meal.
*Note: IF you are not into leftovers, this tip isn’t going to work for you. Not judging you, but you will cringe and you will food waste if you follow to the “T.” Instead use Prepping, Preparing, Planning but only make what you will use for ONE meal. You can still make it work, you won’t have as many “multiple meals” but it will still help with time.
Prepping for Sunday Prep – Buy the Goods
When I go to the grocery store or box store, I ALWAYS find the bulk bins or shelves where I can find the dried beans, grains, lentils, etc. I check to find sales (usually there is something with an in-store sale – BOGO, or even 10-50% off). When I find a sale, I find a few pennies in my budget to get extra bags of black beans, northern beans, pinto, lentils, faro, etc. and store. Many people use these on the shelf in cans, etc. I also will keep a few prepared beans can on my shelves but truthfully I find that I get a better savings buying dried beans or grains instead of prepared. Call me extra frugal but if you find a way to do your own (which usually involves soaking overnight, rinsing, or a few extra minutes/hour to cook it is well worth it). If you aren’t ready or just find that impossible, go with the cans. I simply go with bags of dried b/c they are easier to store in my SMALL pantry. You’ll see in the picture these two shelves are what I use to USE and STORE. Tight, right?
I’ll freeze in my extra chest freezer if necessary but shelving is at a premium. Buy what you love – I buy northern beans, white cannellini, lentils, black beans the most. I would succumb to the pintos, or multi-bean mixes sometimes for a veggie soup or burrito/enchiladas but I stop myself because I KNOW I won’t use those as much as my “go-to” white chili, lentil soup/bakes, black bean burrito/taco salads, brownies, etc. So before you get caught up in “SAVING” buy what you need, not what you waste. I suggest doing this buying over a few months getting WHAT you need for two meal plans first, when you get into your groove, you’ll know what your using and what is sitting on the shelf or forcing down your family’s leftovers.
Planning for Sunday Prep – Making the Magic Work
When I meal plan, I have worked hard to include vegetarian/vegan options. Not because we are on strict regimen, but I know for our family this is healthier to include. Easier too especially during the winters when we all (ahem) tend to bulk up with comfort foods. I start my Sunday identifying the main “Sunday Prep” ingredient. It may be lentils, beans, or a mix of both. I identify with the no-brainer formula of:
2-3 MAIN meals – Lentil Tomato Basil Soup (M), Lentil Casserole Bake (M), Lentil Veggie Burgers (M)
1-2 MAIN +1 side – Black Bean Soup (M), Black Bean Burgers (M), Black Beans & Rice (S)
1-2 MAIN + 2-3 Leftover – Lentil Soup(M), Black Bean Soup (M) Lentil tomato Soup (L), Black Bean Chili Mac (L), Lentil Black Bean Bake (L)
The beauty of the combos above is YOU get to choose. No right way or wrong way. I make myself select so I have a pretty good idea and EASY way to fill in the meal plan and preventing us from falling into our “uh-oh pitfalls” – lunches out, no dinner plan=takeout or dine out, or food waste in fridge. Your pitfalls may be different – meal plan stumped, need more lunches, too many meals out, no leftover love, etc – so figure out what frustrates you and formulate accordingly. This means meal planning and it isn’t easy in the beginning – you’ll have winners and BIG failures. I have found a recipe for a lentil bake which looks and seems so AWESOME – get giddy – only to find out we had to choke it down until we hated lentils for at least a month. But then you find your true winners – white chicken chili, tomato basil lentil soup, black bean and sweet potato burritos, and you can constantly recycle and everyone wants more! Don’t give up if you have a few flops – just make a note that your family will riot if you serve it and find your easy fallbacks to put on rotation.
Preparing For Sunday Prep- DIY Meal Making
I am the early riser. So when I get my coffee going on Sunday I know I’ll also throw in a few cups of beans or lentils to quick cook on the stove (if I FORGOT to soak overnight -oops), or throw goods in a crockpot to cook for the day. Our crockpot goes outside b/c hubs hates “crockpot smells in the house all day” – I get it, 7a black bean soup simmering isn’t as welcoming as scrambled eggs on a Sunday. I can usually get it started cooking, or slow cooker going before I have to run errands, go to church, start weekend chores. I make myself do it Sunday morning too b/c I am a born procrastinator. If I don’t get it going, I’ve lost the initiative. The main goal you are shooting for is to get your MAIN PREP INGREDIENT MADE. It may seem odd to have a whole bag or two of beans, lentils, etc. going in the kitchen but it will make sense later. Boil lentils, cook beans, soak legumes, etc. Just do it.
Look at and check your formula to determine HOW MUCH you will need. (See Above) For example, I’ll prep a bag of lentils – cook some in a soup initially and save the rest in a tupperware to mix in my other two meals, or cook a big batch of soup for FREEZING and SERVING during the week. The main thing is you are getting ONE meal covered and several others “filled in” for the week.
Implementing for Sunday Prep- Eliminating the Extra Steps
Truthfully, we hit the proverbial wall on Monday nights and NOBODY wants to cook, so I cook my ONE meal Sunday but refrigerate for Monday’s meal. I also know on Thursday nights, I need a leftover meal during school semester because our schedules are hectic that day. So my formula inevitably is 1 MAIN + 1 LEFTOVER (2 servings) + 2 LUNCH. My MAIN MEAL is Monday, 1-2 lunches for the husband and me, and 2 servings of a Leftover meal for Thursday. We are two so I can stretch – you may have to work with your measurements depending on your servings in the family. My “extra servings” of the main ingredient are refrigerated, or frozen, for the week so we can prep the burritos, or start simmering the soup without the added EXTRA STEP of getting a main ingredient going day of the meal. Hubs has taken an active role “getting dinner prepped/started” so he’ll find the containers and can piece it together and I finish it out, or enjoy sitting down to dinner b/c the prep work was done early in the week. Find what works for YOUR family. One size doesn’t fit all, trust me.
It seems simple, and certainly not genius. You don’t have to be a great chef to do this. Go with what works and what the family will eat. You may discover you can make freezer burritos for “on the go” lunches/dinners with sports practice, classes, evening commitments, etc. with the big batches of prep. Or, you just may give yourself a break and relieve stress of “doing a top-notch meal” every.single.night. Bon appetit!