Parenting Win of the Week: Let's Prep and Rally!

Enter the world of meal prepping (the easy way!) with this expert advice.

September 26, 2022
Beef and broccoli stir fry meal prep lunch box containers with rice or soba noodles

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Beef and broccoli stir fry meal prep lunch box containers with rice or soba noodles

Photo by: wmaster890

wmaster890

Ironically, last week I wrote about my favorite way to make meals less stressful (bowls FTW) and shortly after, I came across private chef, cookbook author, and founder of Prep + Rally, Dini Klein, who helped me think through meal prep and planning meals.

Photo by: Ren Fuller

Ren Fuller

I have never been one to spend Sundays prepping for meals. It always felt like a big investment on a Sunday and I felt like I would likely be over whatever I prepared by midweek. But this fall as my boys are a bit older, our weeknights are a little nuts. Plus, something that has never been a huge issue before is that groceries are crazy expensive right now! Sometimes, I go to the grocery store and I am aghast at the prices.

So for nothing else, I decided that I will take this single grocery shop, Sunday planning, and reusable ingredients idea to heart. And Dini approaches this very casually with kids of her own at home. She does one grocery shop, one meal prep (which also means only one time to really clean up the mess of cooking), and uses those things throughout the week. "Even if you only start with a few things or half a meal prep, that’s OK," she says. And she realizes that sometimes, when things just don’t work out at all, you can always make dinner with eggs (and she has a whole section of her book for that).

As for timing, doing a week’s worth of prep should only take around an hour. She keeps it simple and kid-friendly because the goal is to not have to make a million different dinners each night. Her cookbook will walk you through specific meal plans for each week, how to shop, prep, and serve. It also has an abundance of tips on the tools she uses.

Photographed by: Ren Fuller

Photographed by: Ren Fuller

Photo by: Ren Fuller

Ren Fuller

I wanted to know a few specific things from here, so here are a few key questions she answered:

Doing one big grocery shop can feel daunting and expensive. What are your tips?

I highly recommend online shopping. I started having Fresh Direct delivery and I don’t think I could go back. Very rarely there is a mistake but they are usually quick to correct. It saves so much time and I think you end up saving money and don’t grab that excess stuff. Even though there is a delivery fee, I still think you save money (and time!) in the end.

Can you break down the basics of meal prep for us?

You should think about using things at least two ways each week. So if you are roasting broccoli, maybe it’s a side dish one day and in an egg roll another day. If you are cooking chicken, you’ll want to make a double batch. And then you’ll think about the little things like if I am using scallions for a dish, I may as well use the handful left and add it to my grain bowl later in the week. That will help you reduce food waste, too.

If that is too much, you can simply marinate a few things, make a batch of grains and that can be your starting point until you have that down and add more.

I like the idea of starting small. Once we are ready to fully prep, how do we go about it so it’s not overwhelming?

Choose a time that works on Sunday and you’ll want to first lay things out in their respective sections to prep (note: this is mise en place and most chefs do it). You’ll want to be very effective with your time, prewash your produce, put the garbage can in your working area so you aren’t walking back and forth, put music on, and just flow through it.

If you know you are going to have a particularly crazy week feel free to sub in shortcuts like rotisserie chicken — whatever works for you. The goal is so you have little to do during the week after this meal prep.

What about freezing things or storing leftovers?

Knowing how to store things properly is key. I freeze soups, sauces, even breads and desserts. These Souper Cubes are a great way to portion things out.

Do you prep everything in advance?

Something like fish I usually make the day of, but I have the sides prepped. But that’s the beauty of it — it’s up to you. If you prefer to marinate your proteins on prep day and cook them fresh the night of, that works, too.

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