Imagine the zen that comes with having an organized, well-stocked refrigerator. Imagine the satisfaction that comes with having ingredients for a week's worth of meals prepped and ready. It can be yours — in exchange for little time every Sunday.
Marni Cioffi, an entrepreneur and mother of three, has been in the Sunday meal-prep habit for 8 years. Her routine starts with one big trip to the grocery store on Sunday mornings.
"Anything I buy that has to be cut or washed or chopped, I do it right away and put it into containers," she says. "I don’t necessarily cook all the meals, but I try to get the ingredients prepped on Sundays because it makes the whole week easier."
Cioffi says the food shopping, cleaning, prepping, and storing takes a few hours every Sunday, but that's a small price to pay for three big benefits.
Let's face it: The time it takes to prep a salad can be the reason why you opt for something less nutritious. "At lunchtime, I’ll have lettuce and other veggies washed and in containers, so it’s easy to make a salad in five minutes," Cioffi says.
For dinner, she has these four tips:
1. Get proteins ready. Marinate chicken, steak, and fish and store them in the fridge. Or grill some chicken to have it ready to use. You can typically keep raw meat in the fridge for 1 or 2 days after purchase. Once it is cooked, it is recommended that it all be consumed within 4 days.
2. Keep it simple. "Tacos are really easy when you have everything else prepped. You just have to cook the meat, put the veggie toppings in bowls, and let everyone make their own," Cioffi says.
3. Get saucy. "Bolognese sauce is easy to make before and a great way to hide a lot of veggies. Then just pour over pasta or spaghetti squash," she says.
4. Roast trays of veggies. "On Sundays, roast a bunch of vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, or mushrooms. It's so simple to reheat without them drying out or being overcooked," she suggests.
Like many kids, Cioffi's children come home from school ready for a snack. Her Sunday routine provides them with nutritious choices like chopped fruits and veggies, rolled-up slices of protein-rich turkey, and stacks of single-serve yogurt and cheese that are as easy to grab as a bag of chips.
"I like to buy portion-size, resealable plastic bags and fill them with carrots or sliced cucumbers. I can easily grab one and throw it in their lunch during the week," she says. Reusable sandwich bags are a great eco-friendly option, too.
Planning meals ahead of time is one way to cut down on food waste at home. The week's menu can use up what's already in your fridge, and you won't buy more than you need at the store.
Cioffi, who recently opened a business called bePREPared, says organizing your refrigerator is another way to reduce food waste. "The more you see the food inside, the more likely you won’t waste it, and the more likely you are to gravitate toward better options. If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to clean and cut, it’s no problem because it’s ready."
Cioffi explains her system for organizing her fridge, pictured above: “I have all the liquids on one shelf. My next shelf is all fruit containers, and then I have a bin with yogurts and cheese sticks. All the containers of prepped foods are in a section, too.”
As she says, a prepped fridge is a happy fridge!
Top Image Credit: Ben6/iStock