5 Tips to Sunday Meal Prepping That Will Save you All Week Long
I am lucky enough to live across the street from Liz Bandy, a mother of two adorable girls, home cook extraordinaire, and a director of content for a publishing network. We share our cul-de-sac, which is most often filled with kids on scooters, and our adoration of all things media.
While I like to cook, Liz really cooks. She amazes me with the seemingly complex meals she whips out day after day, and with two kids age three and under, it’s a true feat. Her secret: meal prepping on Sunday. Here, she divulges how she gets it done.
Cooking wholesome nightly dinners during the week when there are small children involved can be a trying experience, to put it lightly. Dinner time falls right at the crossroads of the workday ending and the bedtime routine beginning, with a couple of hungry kids (and parents) thrown into the mix. It can sometimes amount to general chaos.
That said, everyone must eat, and we make an effort to cook homemade meals on the weeknights. (This also makes a Friday night pizza outing feel all the more deserved!)
Meal planning in advance of the workweek is a wonderful way to alleviate some of the dinnertime pressures, but what I find is that even the most well-intentioned meal plans can go awry. Someone polishes off one of the key ingredients during an impromptu weekday lunch at home; something (major) was forgotten from the grocery list; or I’ve just plain lost interest in one or two of the recipes that sounded so good to me back on Sunday when I made a mental map of the meals for the week.
Planning is surely the first step, but prepping is the difference for me that means a wholesome meal makes it to the table each night. Prepping ensures there is something nearly ready to serve at any time—just in case the plans go bust.
Here are five things I do every Sunday that can help make dinners (and lunches!) a cinch all week long.
Slice or dice some of your favorite vegetables, spread them on a couple of sheet pans, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, or your favorite herbs, and roast at 350 to 400 degrees until they begin to brown. We like cubed sweet potatoes, half-moons of zucchini or summer squash, whole beets (ends and stems trimmed, then wrapped whole and unpeeled in tin foil—the skin will peel off easily once they are cooled), rosemary potatoes, carrot coins and red pepper, but anything will do. Store in airtight containers in the fridge.
Prepped veggies are great as a side dish for everyone in the family, can be tossed into the kids’ lunch boxes, or piled on top of some greens or rice for a lunch or dinner, along with some protein. Think of it as your own personal Whole Foods salad bar.
Hard boil eggs
Boiling eggs may only take 10 minutes, and yet, when do I ever have 10 minutes to spare? Making a handful of hard boiled eggs (which thankfully my kids will eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner) on Sunday night gives me a couple of options: egg salad for sandwiches or served with greens, peeled and whole in the lunch boxes, quartered and served on a chef’s salad (or with veggies, see above) for dinner.
Here’s how I do it:
Cover eggs with cold water
Add a splash of vinegar (white, rice, whatever you have)
Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil
When the pot boils, turn the heat off and leave the pot on the burner
Set the timer for 8 minutes
After 8 minutes, remove and cool. Perfect every time!
Mix up a big batch of dressing or sauce
I have never been into store-bought salad dressing. Typically I wing it by adding about 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, then adding salt, pepper and a squeeze of dijon mustard to emulsify. Add a squeeze of honey or lemon juice or raspberry preserves for an added twist.
There are a ton of great recipes for asian-inspired sauces that can dress up any rice bowl, which I'm increasingly making on Sunday nights to have on hand during the week. Making a dressing is not complicated, but doing it on the fly around dinner time can seem like too much.
Whip up your dressing for the week on Sunday night and you’ll have a homemade topping for salads or served over grilled fish, grains, chicken or tofu.
Slow cook soup/chili/stew
This can be tricky if you are short on time on Sunday, but I like to make a double batch of a soup, chili or stew in the slow cooker or Instant Pot or stove that can serve as our Sunday meal, and can freeze half to set aside as a weeknight dinner for the following week (or the same week, if you don’t mind eating leftovers).
Prep a protein (or at least get it marinaded)
It takes almost no time to throw together a salad, cook a pot of couscous or rice, sauté a few vegetables or come up with another viable side dish. It’s the entrees that usually throw my weeknight meals off kilter. Sunday is a good time to grill chicken breasts, cook a couple dozen meatballs, or marinate tofu. The chicken breast can be served over salad, in a rice bowl, in a taco shell, or diced for picky eaters. Meatballs can be heated in marinara sauce for a quick spaghetti and meatballs preparation, or served as a main course with yogurt dipping sauce.
I’d love to say I always have a plan, but even when I don’t, moving the time-consuming prep work for busy weeknight meals back to Sunday can set the weeknight cooking up for success. I can’t guarantee it will eliminate the chaos of dinnertime, but it’s a definite start.
P.S. Here’s one week of meals.