Weekend Prep for Healthy Family Meals

5 weekend tasks that will help your family eat healthier all week long

It's a constant struggle in my busy household, and I bet in yours too: Putting healthy family meals on the table every day, in spite of work, school, and sports schedules. But just as we tell our kids to lay out their next-day's clothing and pack their lunches before bed on school nights, we can also get a jump on the week's meals by investing some weekend time on prep and planning. Streamline your week with these make-ahead moves.

1
Meal plan.

Mother and daughters preparing food
Tetra Images - Jamie Grill / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

It's far from my favorite task, and I don't do it every week. But when I do, I'm always glad I did. Planning your meals helps you avoid last-minute grocery runs, or pizza delivery orders. And that usually means you'll make healthier choices. Take a good look at your week and think about which family members will be eating at home on which day. How much time will you have to prep a meal? Does anyone need a dinner to go? Can you carry over some ingredients from one meal to another? It's much easier to answer these questions in advance, instead of at 5:30 p.m.! One strategy is to create a running list of your family's favorite meals (you can do this slowly, over time) and then rotate them in to your plan.

2
Grocery shop.

Grocery basket with fruits and vegetables
Dan Dalton / Getty Images

You won't eat well if you don't have healthy ingredients on hand, so use the weekend to stock up on fresh produce, pantry staples, lunchbox supplies, and so on. You can make your trip more efficient by printing out a master shopping list of all the foods you buy regularly. Then add and subtract items during the week as you use them up and plan new meals.

More »

3
Prep vegetables.

In the summer, our family receives a weekly box of produce via a CSA share. Often we need to do some chopping or other prep of the vegetables in order to fit them into our refrigerator, or to keep them fresher longer (e.g., separating root vegetables from their greens). So we're now in the habit of doing that with vegetables we buy at the store too. Pre-chopping helps cooking go faster, plus kids can use the cut vegetables in bag lunches.

4
Pre-make protein.

Depending on what you're cooking for weekend lunches or dinner, you can stock up on proteins to eat during the week. For example, if you're browning ground turkey, making meatballs, grilling chicken breasts, or slow-cooking a pot of beans, make extra; then use them later in the week in a new dish.

5
Learn to love leftovers.

Take advantage of a little extra weekend time to make a big dish that you can use for leftovers all week. My favorite is a vegetable soup (that actually is a snap to prepare, especially if you have those pre-cut veggies!). But you could also do this with lasagna, enchiladas, or any other good-for-a-crowd entree.

Continue Reading