Thursday, December 4, 2014

Make-Ahead Meal Ideas for An Easier, Healthier Week

Meal planning for the week on Sunday is always a great idea. It means you still have groceries and ideas by the time Wednesday roles around. What's even better? Actually making your meals for the week ahead of time! While it can't always be done (busy weekends and all), it means a beautifully easy week if you prepare at least a couple of your dinners on the weekend.

Like most families, we try to be efficient with our time and our budget wherever possible. Making meals in large quantities on the weekend accomplishes both. No more going for takeout in frustration come Thursday, or heading to the grocery store for the third time because there are no ingredients for dinner.

Whether it’s a big pot of soup or homemade Italian pasta sauce, we use a selection of Rubbermaid storage containers with Easy Find Lids to portion out meals, ingredients and snacks into suitable amounts to use throughout the week.

Big-Batch Meal Ideas

Take a couple of hours on Sunday to make one or two of these healthy family dinners.

  • Prepare yummy lentil burgers and store them uncooked in a container in the fridge or freezer with pieces of wax paper between each burger. When it comes time to eat them, prepare the gravy while they fry in the pan.
  • Throw this Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup in the slow cooker on Sunday morning and you are hands-free to make another meal.
  • This Pea and Potato Curry makes a welcome dinner on a cold night.
  • Make a big pot of Vegetable Soup With Lentils.
  • Versatile Vegetarian Chili reheats nicely, and you can prepare Easy Guacamole In Minutes for a refreshing chili topper on the night you eat it.
  • My favourite recipe of all time, lentils and rice, makes enough for two family meals. Store it in an air-tight container and use within three days.
  • Wash a bunch of lettuce and spin it dry. Portion it out in several containers for the week. Tuck in a paper towel to grab any excess moisture (my mom's trick). Through personal experience I know that salad often falls to the wayside on busy evenings or when you're just plain tired.
  • Don't forget breakfast. You won't have to have cereal every day if you make a batch of Fluffy Vegan Blueberry Pancakes ahead of time. Just reheat a couple in the toaster each morning.

Prep Now/Cook Later

  • Make a big batch of brown rice or quinoa (or both!). Store some in a container in the refrigerator for the next day's dinner. Freeze the rest for a meal later in the week.
  • Cut up broccoli, carrots and peppers. Use them to make a quick stir-fry or veggie fried rice with soy sauce or a low-sodium bottled sauce.
  • Cut up proteins such as vegan sausage or tofu. They can be used in a stir-fry, pasta dish or chili later in the week.
  • Cut up butternut squash to make a quick squash soup.

Snacks & Lunches On The Run

  • Combine strawberries, grapes, blueberries and your other favourite fruits to make a big medley of fruit that the whole family will love. Portion the fruit salad out in small containers so each family member has a Monday afternoon healthy pick-me-up snack.
  • Cut up carrots, cucumber and celery and portion them out in small containers that your family can take to school or work.
  • Make this easy and delicious hummus from Oh She Glows or buy a big amount of hummus at Costco. Divide it into smaller containers to eat at work or school with veggies or crackers.
  • Make or buy a trail mix and portion it out in small containers for a nutrient-dense afternoon snack.
  • These All or Nothing Granola Bars are a healthy, delicious snack to take to work for your mid-morning snack. Make them with a nut-free spread instead of peanut butter so the kids can take them to school too. Cut them into bars or squares ahead of time and store them in small Rubbermaid containers that you can grab and go.
  • Store these Lunchbox Carrot Mini Muffins in individual containers for a healthy school or work snack.
  • These No Bake Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls freeze nicely for those moments you need a special treat. If you can keep them long enough.

Getting Organized 

One very big deterrent to organizing your food on the weekend is a cupboard full of tumbling-down, messed up storage containers. After the fifth time searching for the right lid for your container, prepping your meals ahead may not seem appealing anymore. Have you ever filled your container with food, only to discover that the appropriately sized lid is nowhere to be found? I have...many times.

Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids have made a world of difference in organizing my cupboard. The lids snap to each other and also to the bottoms of the containers, giving you a wealth of organizing options. If, like me, you like to put the lids on the containers and stack them that way, then the Easy Find Lids allow you to snap the containers together in tidy stacks according to size. If you are short on space, you can snap all the lids together and fit the containers together on top. Rubbermaid's containers come in graduated sizes so they nest for compact storage. And secure, leak-free lids make them ideal for taking foods to work or to holiday dinners.

I have purchased cheap, no-name containers before and regretted it. Rubbermaid containers are BPA-free, durable and microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe. Besides, they look all pretty stacked together in my cupboard. That makes me happy. I just really like containers. I think it's a mom thing.

Do you prepare meals ahead? What do you store in your Rubbermaid containers? Are you addicted to containers like I am?

Visit Rubbermaid on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for more organizing tips.

Disclosure: I am part of the Rubbermaid Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


  1. oooh they do look pretty all stacked up, definitely! Meal prepping is such a great thing, I'm doing it as we speak (for myself, as I've started a nutrition/exercise plan). Having food ready to go for four days in a row is such a relief and absolutely worth the effort! Now I just have to meal plan for the family as tonight I discovered my daughter suddenly doesn't like the pasta I made for dinner, even though she has eaten it every single other time...

    1. Good luck with your nutrition/exercise plan. I know you'll do great - you cook so many wonderful dishes, it always impresses me. Having food all prepared for four days is awesome! Oh the kids, yes they love to change their minds about what they like eating! Now I feel bad about the challenges we presented to my mom... ;)

  2. I need to get better at planning ahead, I am such a last minute kind of girl! speaking of which, it's almost dinner time, I should figure something out lol
    We need to replace some of our plastic containers, thanks for the reminder

    1. I definitely have the last-minute weeks too! But then I find it frustrating to come up with ideas and I go back to the same few recipes. Good luck with tonight's dinner!

  3. I love make a head meals. I don't do them as much as I would like to.

    1. I'm not sure if anybody does them as much as they would like. There's just not enough time to be perfect. ;)

  4. Ooooh, these are great ideas! I love doing batch cooking and making meals ahead of time. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks Bonnie! Sounds like you are well organized. :)

  5. Great ideas for big batch cooking - so important with busy families who would like to have homemade meals. Love those Rubbermaid containers too. So many great sizes - very versatile.

    1. So true Kerrie - it's too easy to start eating "junk" if you don't have the right groceries/plans, isn't it? And the containers are a big help!

  6. This is great, I am so flaky with planning ahead, or even grocery lists. Makes me want to get my life together!

    1. Ha ha. You do what you can when you have two little ones at home, right? ;)

  7. We generally are able to plan ahead for a few weeks in the summer, then the whole thing collapses. Sigh.

    1. Well, at least you do a few weeks Taby. That's something! :) Jo