Confession: we are picky about our food and love the best, but we are no super hero when it comes to work/life/meal balance. Just like everyone else, our team does not have time to spend hours after work hunched over a range, attending to a skillet or watching over the barbecue.
We believe that meals can be simple, quick and of premium quality without all the work. That’s the inspiration for our conveniently packaged, 100 percent nothing-but-beef products, available in your favorite grocer's case in the form of ground beef, fresh burgers, frozen burgers and even sliders.
But you can't have burgers every night, and we know coming up with a way to mix up your dinner routine without a lot of extra effort is at the top of many of our customers' lists. Always well-intended, we see you: on Pinterest, pinning ideas for meal planning, plotting your grocery rendezvous…
But as meal planners ourselves, we know despite the best efforts, execution of a meal prep plan sometimes falls short. Too much mess, a forgotten ingredient, lack of tupperware; all these things can be very discouraging. So, to help you along with this process, we have developed realistic tips, tried and true, prepared by actual meal preppers to be shared with our meat loving, well-intended, ameteur meal planners.
Meal Planning and Prep How-To: Ten Tips for Success
Tip 1: Compile a Running List of Recipes.
Enlist your best effort deciding ahead of time the meals you would like to make and sketch out a list. We find the best way to do this is to compile a working list of meals you like to cook or would like to try, and write them down or create a Pinterest board. Make sure to include recipes with a variety of meats, vegetables and sides so you have plenty to choose from.
When selecting recipes, consider single-dish meals. Casseroles, foil meals and crock-pot recipes are a great way to get your meats and veggies in one simple dish. They also require little prep, attendance, and clean up afterwards.
Tip 2: Check Out What's On Sale and In-Season.
Now that you have a list of recipes you would like to cook, take a look at your favorite grocer's ad to see what's on sale and in-season. From there, you can get a good idea of what makes the most sense to cook that week. For example, if pork chops are on sale, pull out that Mustard Dill Pork Chop Recipe, and if Instacart is having a sale on Steakhouse Elite (lucky you!), you can opt to try one of our recommended burger combinations. Same goes for fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods–let them drive your cart of ideas of what to cook for the week!
Tip 3: Minimize and by Maximizing Your List with Proper Planning.
By thinking ahead of time what you want to serve for the week, you can eliminate last-minute runs to the grocery store, saving you time and money. Those who meal plan well not only save by cooking around what’s fresh, on-sale, and in-season, but they also find ways to re-use pieces of their meal throughout the week.
For example, a roast can be eaten one night, and then used to make shredded beef tacos the next; or spaghetti and meatballs becomes pizza sauce and toppings the next. Another way to do this is to try to target recipes that have similar ingredients to maximize your budget, like tacos, a southwest chicken salad and a ground beef pizza.
Tip 4: Make Your List.
The most time-consuming, and probably least favorite part of meal planning is making THE LIST. We suggest doing this chore when you can squeeze in a free 15 to 30 minutes. Many of our people are seen pulling their lists together during baseball practice, on lunch break or while waiting in line at the DMV or post office. Efficiency is key!
You can opt to make a list on paper, digitally, or directly on your grocer's website or food service like Instacart. Often, these lists and orders can be saved so you can simply re-use the same list or order when you choose that same meal plan another week.
When making your list, try to consolidate ingredients to avoid over-buying. For example, if two recipes call for a 1-½ of onions between both of them, two onions should do to meet the needs of both recipes. A family pack of chicken, though too much for a single meal, might work nicely for two meals during the week. Also consider possibly substituting like ingredients for each other to cut back on the overall order.
Tip 5: Find Ways to Cut Corners.
With the development of online ordering, store delivery and in-store pickup, the process of grocery shopping has become a lot easier! We have found that ordering online, though it initially takes about 20-30 minutes to set up, is much less time-consuming than driving to the store, meandering through the aisles, checking out and loading up the car with groceries, all of which can take upwards of one to two hours! There's also an added bonus of only buying what you need and nothing more, which saves money and waste!
Tip 6: Make Your Food Prep Painless.
There are a few ways you can really cut down on the time spent prepping in the kitchen.
Some of these include:
Tip 7: Rethink Your Idea of Balanced.
We spend a lot of extra time preparing unnecessary extras for our dinners. Next time you are pinched for time, take a moment to really evaluate each ingredient for taste and nutrition. For example, do you really need to add croutons to the salad? Or dinner rolls? Or even rice or a pasta side dish?
You can simplify your meals by creating beef and vegetable combinations and skimp on the starches. This will save you time, and your family may not even notice the difference.
Tip 8: Make Your Cooking Day Fun.
Pick one day out of the week to prepare the majority of your meals ahead of time and make an event out of it! Put on some music, invite a friend over to prep with you, and maybe even cork a bottle of champagne and cook with mimosas-infused enthusiasm.
Tip 9: Think About How to Store the Meals Ahead of Time
Meal prep isn’t just about dicing, prepping and stirring, it’s also about storing! Put all ingredients for your crock-pot meal in a baggie, pre-measure ingredients for your meal, or prepare and refrigerate a lasagna or casserole in a disposable pan so all you have to do is reheat and serve on a busy night.
Tip 10: Make Clean Up Time Part of the Process.
After meal prepping there's always a mess in the kitchen. The good news is, if done right, it is one mess, one time a week! There's nothing else to clean up for the rest of the week because your meals are grab-and-cook with very little--or no--dishes to scrub, counters to clean or messes to sweep up! So, look at the clean up from a positive perspective: this one clean up will save your six clean ups throughout the week!
Hey, we're not superman. We like the short cuts and easy ways to do things when they don't compromise taste. These real-life meal prep hacks can help resolve the dilemma between time and quality, with time-saving, realistic tips for food preparation.