A Busy Mom’s Guide To Family Meal Prep

If you are creating your weekly meal plan for your busy family get ready to meet your new secret weapon. These quick and easy family meal prep tips are a total game changer for busy moms like you.

family meal prep with vegetables, soup, and roasted chicken

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Meal planning and meal prep go together like peanut butter and jelly. But somewhere along the way, meal prep got a bad rap.

I think it is because busy moms are already overwhelmed enough. And the thought of adding another item to your to do list simply fills you with dread.

Trust me I get it. Because I used to loathe the thought of meal prep.

I mean, I had heard it was this wonderful magical thing but I didn’t have the time.

Then I tried it, and you know what happened? It was super boring, and it took forever. Listen, I am just speaking the truth here.

But, all of my friends who just happened to be single kept going on and on about it. And, I thought okay I have to be doing something wrong here.

Here is the thing I wasn’t. BUT, all of the meal prep ideas I was finding just weren’t for busy families.

Like okay Susan, I get that making enough chicken, veggies, and brown rice to eat every single day for a week works great for you and all. But, that ain’t gonna work around here.

My kids would lose their minds eating the same thing every day. And, I am just trying to get dinner on the table without losing my mind with them. Okay?

I digress.

I just knew there had to be a better way to meal prep for our family. One that preferably did not take hours, and was not boring by eating the same meals over and over.

So, through many trials and errors I finally cracked the code. And, I am pumped to share it with you because I really think it is going to be so helpful for you too.

With that, let’s get started on how to family meal prep for your busy life.

Why should you meal prep?

Let me tell you about the unsung hero of meal planning. And that is meal prep.

Once you figure out how to do it efficiently. It is a total game changer. And is seriously like the best thing ever!

Let me tell you about a few reasons why family meal prep is perfect for your busy family.

  • Meal prep saves you time.

Listen, you are busy. And anything that will free up your time is always a winner. Am I right?

By doing a little bit of work on the front end. You will save yourself SO much time during the week.

By having a weekly meal planner with grocery list you know exactly what meals you need to make. And, by implementing these simple meal prep tips you will be way ahead of the game when it’s time to eat. (P.S. You can grab your FREE meal planner with grocery list at the bottom of this post.)

  • Meal prep saves you money.

By having a weekly meal plan, and adding in meal prep you will save yourself quite a bit of money. Think about how many drive thru runs you make a week. Or, order pizza or takeout.

I get it. You are tired, and stressed, and are pretty much trying to get your hungry family fed. But, those last minute dinner runs cost money. And, it adds up.

  • Meal prep saves your sanity.

You know those precious moments when everyone in your home seems to simultaneously lose their minds and need food right this second? And, you have nothing planned.

Or, how your child who once loved a particular meal now hates that same meal SO much that it leads to an epic meltdown?

Can we all nod our heads in agreement? Solidarity mamas!

By taking the time to create a weekly meal plan, and then practicing family meal prep. You are one step ahead.

There will pretty much always be snacks at everyone’s disposal. And, you focus in on the specific meals that everyone loves so it virtually eliminates the mealtime meltdowns.

How do I plan weekly meals for my family?

Before we dive deep into family meal prep we need to discuss planning weekly meals for your family.

First, take a look at your family’s schedule for the week. Are there any days or nights that are busier than others?

Think about which days you will be running errands or have appointments. Don’t forget about after school activities or community events too.

I encourage you to consider your schedule because on those super busy days and nights. You probably want to keep things crazy easy.

I like to use these make ahead freezer meals for dinners on busy nights. Or, that may be a good time for a simple sandwich night too.

Another meal planning tip is to ask your family members what meal ideas they like best. With our family, everyone’s attitude is much better at dinner time when they know that one of their favorite meals is in the rotation.

Remember, weekly meal planning should work with you and not against you. πŸ˜‰

meal planning template with grocery list with categories

How do busy moms do family meal prep?

First things first. If you are new to meal prep, and are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole process. Please know that you do not have to do it all.

You may want to start prepping for two or three meals instead of a whole week. Keep it simple, and take the time to find your rhythm.

I will also be diving deep into each of the meal prep categories. Please do not feel like you need to do all the things. Because I certainly don’t.

One week we may be riding the sandwiches, salads, and tacos for dinner wave. Another week it may be freezer meals and crockpot dinners.

Think of this as your Ultimate Guide To Family Meal Prep. And, you do not need to do all of it right this minute.

There are no rules to family meal prep. Make it work for you, and not against you. This is about making YOUR life easier. And, just know that I am right behind you. Cheering you on each step of the way.

Alright, let’s dig into exactly how you should do meal prep for your busy family.

These are tried and tested meal prep solutions that work extremely well for my family, and our non stop craziness. I think they will work really well for your family too.

  • Create your weekly meal plan.

Take the time to plan your meals for the week, and jot them down. Next, take inventory of what groceries you need.

This is a very important step, and it can be done in 10 minutes. You can grab your FREE Weekly Meal Planner with Grocery List at the bottom of this post.

Next take a look at your weekly meal plan, and see how you can stretch your meals. For instance, you could have a chicken salad and then chicken soup one night. You could have enchiladas, and then tacos another night.

By doing this you can easily simplify your meal prep by cooking your chicken and beef ahead of time, and getting all of your vegetables chopped and ready for you at dinner time too. And, they pretty much use all of the same ingredients which is going to make your life easier.

  • Simplify grocery shopping.

When it comes time to do the grocery shopping for your family meal prep I am a big advocate for simplifying where you can.

This may mean buying pre cut vegetables and fruit, or already marinated meats. It may mean that you need to buy a rotisserie chicken, or frozen grilled chicken strips. You do whatever works best for you.

And, although I will walk you through how I do family meal prep. Another way may work better for you. Go with your gut here, and do not even feel bad about it.

And, if anyone ever tries to make you feel bad about it. Please do me a tiny favor, and walk away. They are not your people. Got it?

Another wonderful way to simplify grocery shopping is to use grocery pick up. I absolutely love Kroger Click List, and use it all the time. Walmart has grocery pick up as well. If your local store has pick up available I strongly encourage you to use it.

  • Check your mood.

Once you have finished the shopping you will need to get started on the actual meal prep.

I personally feel that family meal prep will work best for you, if you pick a time when your energy level is moderately high. That eliminates any overwhelm, and you will feel pumped about getting everything done too.

I do encourage you to get all of the food meal prepped with in one or two days. That way your fridge isn’t stuffed full, and the food will not go bad or be forgotten about either.

family meal prep with chicken enchilada soup

  • Convert what you can.

If you have some dinner ideas and recipes that you really want to make as part of your weekly meal plan. See if you can convert them into freezer meals, slow cooker meals, or instant pot meals. Chances are very high that you can.

I am a massive fan girl of freezer meals and using my slow cooker.For instance, this chicken enchilada soup can easily be converted into a crockpot recipe.

All you have to do is substitute raw chicken breast, and then throw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours and boom. Dinner is ready!

So, take a look at your schedule for the week, and convert what meals you can for those extra busy days and nights.

  • Keep it simple.

My absolute best tip for meal planning and meal prep is to keep things simple and flexible. Busy moms know that life can          come at you quick. And who knows when the next tantrum or meltdown will be?

Sometimes it’s just a tough day, and your sanity level needs you to order a pizza. You know what? Order the pizza!

Meal prep and meal planning are all about working for you, and your busy family’s life. Not agains it. P.S. If you have any pizza leftovers you can totally freeze them too. See that’s just meal prepping in advance. πŸ˜‰

family meal prep vegetables

Meal Prep Vegetables

Think about what vegetables you can meal prep to make your life easier during the week. For example will you be having any salads, soups, or tacos? Or maybe some roasted vegetables with a protein?

Once, you know exactly what vegetables you will need for the week, you will need to wash them.

Nothing super fancy here. You clean, rinse, and then place them in a colander.

Next, you will get to chopping, slicing, and dicing.

If you know that you will be eating roasted veggies later in the week you can go ahead and get started on that process too.

Keeping it real. I rarely do this. I typically just schedule those meals on less busy nights, and cook them at that time.

Now, you will need to store your vegetables. You can either put them in a ziploc bag, a storage container, or a mason jar.

I like to keep any greens in a bag, and use mason jars for the rest. But, you do whatever works best for you. If you decide to store your greens in a Ziploc bag be sure to press all of the air out.

family meal prep fruit salad

Meal Prep Fruit Ideas

Having fresh fruit on hand is always a great idea for when the kids want a snack. And, it works great in school lunches, and for breakfast too.

First you will want to clean and rinse your fruit. From here you have two options.

  1. You can either place any berries or grapes into a Ziploc bag or food storage container. And, then leave your other fruits for your family meal prep whole.
  2. Or, you can do what I do. Chop up the apples, and throw the rest of the fruit into one big bowl for the week. You see, Jasper and Willow were requesting 3 different fruits at a time. And even though I had meal prepped, I still needed it to be even easier. I am telling you. Having fruit salad as part of our family meal plan has been really helpful.

family meal prep oven roasted whole chicken

How To Meal Prep Chicken And Meat

Preparing your proteins for the week is where you will be spending most of your time while meal prepping.

But, it doesn’t have to take too long. And, believe me when I tell you it makes things SO much easier.

One of the first things I do when doing our family meal prep for the week is to get started on this oven roasted chicken. Our family eats a lot of chicken, so this recipe is used a lot in our home. It is perfectly juicy and delicious. And, is insanely easy to make too.

I love a protein that can be stretched throughout many meals. And this easy chicken recipe does just that. You can use it for salads, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, and soups.

You can also make a big batch of ground beef for any upcoming meals, and store it in the fridge or freezer. Yep. You can freeze ground beef, and it basically changed my life.

Feel free to grill or bake any meats you may need for the upcoming week too. When the weather warms up I always get my husband to grill some chicken breasts for us to eat on throughout the week.

This is a great time to make any bacon, sausage, or eggs that your family will eat during the week too. You can make bacon for breakfast, and also add it to any sandwiches or salads. I like to boil eggs for salads while meal prepping proteins too.

You should also take this time to marinate any meats for any freezer meals that you will be eating during the week.

family meal prep with quesadilla snack and casserole

How To Meal Prep Dairy And Pasta

One of my biggest money saving hacks when grocery shopping is to buy the big blocks of cheese.

Simply shred however much cheese you will need for the week, and place into a bag or container. I am personally convinced that the cheese tastes better shredding it yourself rather than buying it shredded.

Again, please do what works best for you. If it will save you time and stress to buy pre shredded cheese, than do it. There is no judgement coming from this side of the room.

If you know that you will be serving a pasta dish for later in the week. Go ahead and boil it while you are doing your family meal prep. This will save you a ton of time at dinner.

Now that we have broken down each of the major categories for family meal prep. Let’s break down how to put all of this together to create the meals for your busy family.

family meal prep breakfast idea with sausage casserole

Meal Prep Breakfast

Being completely honest here. Meal prepping for breakfast was one of those things that I resisted for a really long time. Please do not ask me why, because whoa mama it is so easy.

And, everyone is way happier in the mornings now too. Do yourself a favor, and at least consider these meal prep ideas for breakfast.

Some of my absolute favorite make ahead breakfast ideas for on the go families are:

This easy make ahead sausage casserole is next level delicious. Using crescent roll sheets, sausage, and you can even sneak in some veggies too. Picky eaters won’t notice those veggies either because of the next level cheesiness factor.

I always make at least two of this recipe. You can go ahead and freeze it now to make for later. Or, cook them now and then refreeze the individual pieces. Reheat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes when ready to eat.

  • Breakfast burritos

These are super easy to make, and can be held in your hand. So, they are the perfect breakfast for on the go.

All you need to do is get some burrito sized flour tortillas. Add in some scrambled eggs. Crumble some of the bacon or sausage that you made earlier. Add in some of the chopped veggies that you prepped and some cheese.

Simply roll the burritos, and then place them in a Ziploc bag to go in the freezer. Heat the breakfast burritos in the microwave for 2-3 minutes in the microwave when you are ready to eat.

  • Scrambled egg cups 

Mix together some eggs and sausage or bacon. Add in some veggies and cheese. Pour your scrambled egg mixture into a sprayed or lightly greased muffin tin. Bake on 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Take the finished scrambled egg cups, and place in a freezable storage container. Heat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes when ready to eat.

Another super easy handheld breakfast idea for on the go.

  • Fruit parfaits

This is one of Jasper and Willow’s favorites. Put some of the fruit salad that you prepped into a bowl or small mason jar, add in a scoop of yogurt, and top with some granola.

These peanut butter and banana quesadillas are great to make in a big batch. And, are easy to freeze too. Heat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes when ready to eat.

Some other family meal prep breakfast ideas are to bake some biscuits in a big batch. Take your bacon or sausage that you prepped earlier. And freeze make ahead sausage biscuits or bacon biscuits. Feel free to add scrambled eggs and cheese to the biscuits too.

family meal prep with chicken enchilada soup

Meal Prep Lunch

When filling out your weekly meal planner don’t forget about lunch. Especially if your kids bring their lunch to school. And, if someone works outside of the home, meal prepping for lunch you will save money too.

Here is how to make your earlier meal prep work for you when making lunches for your family.

  • Salads

Since you already have your veggies chopped, and the chicken made. Salads are a super easy lunch option. Place everything you need into your favorite storage container.

From there you can either place the salad dressing in a small storage container, or you can try my favorite way to meal prep salads.

Place your dressing on the bottom of a mason jar, and then add in your salad toppings. This way the salad won’t get soggy while it waits. And, all you have to do is give it a good shake to have your salad mixed.

  • Sandwiches and Wraps

Again, since your veggies are already chopped and ready, making a sandwich or wrap is a breeze. Feel free to make a few at a time, or each evening.

  • Soups

While doing your family meal prep, you can easily add in a soup to make in bulk. These are great to serve with your weekly meal plan. Bonus points for doubling the recipe, and having a freezer meal for later.

  • Quesadillas and Burritos

These are an amazing freezer meal option as well. I love making quesadillas and burritos in one big batch because they are so easy to make.

When rolling the burritos, add in some aluminum foil. Then place the burritos in a freezer bag. You can reheat them easily in the oven.

Or you can lay the burritos and quesadillas on a cookie sheet, and place in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes. This will lightly freeze them, and then you can transfer them to a Ziploc bag. In case you would prefer to reheat in the microwave. πŸ˜‰

family meal prep with make ahead freezer meal beef enchiladas

Family Meal Prep Dinner

Moving right along to how to utilize your family meal prep for dinner. This will probably be the most important meal that will save you a bunch of time and stress.

So, I encourage you to really hone in on how to make these meal prep solutions work for you and your busy family.

By having your weekly meal plan in place. You will know exactly what steps to take that will make dinner time a breeze. Believe me when I say that your life is about to get so much better.

Here are some meal prep ideas for dinner:

Let’s break down exactly how to incorporate these simple beef enchiladas into your weekly meal prep.

When looking at your meal plan for the week see how many meals will need ground beef. Then, simply cook up however much you need.

Next, let’s say you are meal prepping on Sunday. And, you would like to serve these enchiladas on Friday evening.

Go ahead and make the enchiladas to the stopping point of freezing them. Then on Friday evening pull the enchiladas out and bake as directed.

Busy Mom Tip: This is another recipe that I almost always make two of as well. That way you can have two freezer meals ready to go whenever you need them.

  • Burritos

Burritos are a seriously amazing meal prep dinner idea that is freezer friendly too. You can make these ahead of time using beef, chicken, or beans.

Add in whatever toppings you want, roll them, and then freeze. (The only topping I would leave out is lettuce because it can get a bit yucky when reheating.)

You can either heat them up in the oven or microwave when you are ready to serve.

  •  Tacos 

When you are meal prepping vegetables go ahead and chop up any items you would need for tacos. The same thing applies for cooking your beef or chicken too.

That way all you have to do is warm up your meat and shells in the microwave, and assemble the tacos when it is time to eat.

  • Salads

Again, since you have already prepped your veggies and chicken. All you will need to do at dinner time is throw a quick salad together.

  • Soup

Soups are one of the absolute easiest make ahead and freezer meals ever.

If you want to make your soup into a freezer meal all you need to do is dump all of the ingredients into a bag. Place the bag in the freezer, and then pull it out to defrost in the fridge the night before you want to serve. From there you can dump all of the ingredients into your slow cooker.

Another one of my hands down favorite soup recipes is this Chicken Enchilada Soup. Since you have already prepped your chicken this soup can be made in 20 minutes.

Which works really well for extra busy nights. And, oh my gosh is it delicious!

Meal Prep Snacks

As a mom you already know that it seems like the kids are forever hungry. And they always seem to want, dare I say ‘need’, a snack.

You can stay one step ahead of the snack time hangriness by adding snacks into your family meal prep.

Here are some meal prep snack ideas:

  • Fruit Salad

When you meal prepped your fruit for the week you were already on top of this one. πŸ˜‰ Simply give the kids a couple of spoonfuls from your fruit salad bowl, and send them on their merry way.

  • Crackers and Pretzels

Instead of buying the individual snack packs, you can make them yourself. This will save you money too.

Simply buy crackers, pretzels, and whatever else your kids like and then place them in snack sized baggies. The next time you hear ‘Mom, can I have a snack?’. All you have to do is have them grab a baggie.

  • Veggies and Dip

When doing the meal prep for vegetables you already have everything sliced and chopped. So, all you will need to do is grab some veggies and add in whatever dip or dressing your kids like best.

What are the best meal prep containers?

Now that you know exactly how to create a meal plan that works for you. And, how to do your family meal prep. It is time that we discuss how to store all of this food.

Here are a few of my favorite meal prep containers:

I absolutely love these Bento Box containers for storing lunch and dinner leftovers. They are reusable, can be cleaned in the dishwasher, and are freezer safe too!

These food storage containers are perfect for any soups or sauces. These containers are also dishwasher safe, and are freezer friendly too.

These glass food storage containers are awesome because you can take them straight out of the fridge or freezer, and use them in the oven. And, the busy moms of the world all collectively said thank you.

Mason jars are some seriously amazing food storage containers. You can use them for make ahead salads, and to store vegetables too.

Sometimes you just need a tried and true Ziploc bags. These work great for lettuces and greens, and to store any freezer burritos, scrambled egg cups, and quesadillas.

If you are a fan of make ahead meals, or freezer meals you need these disposable pans. Seriously, these are a game changer. They freeze incredibly well, and there is no clean up after cooking. That is a winner in my book every time.

How long can I keep meal prep in the fridge?

Once you get started with meal prep a big question that comes up is how long will the food last. I mean, you didn’t spend all that time doing your family meal prep to have the food go bad. Right?

I am going to be completely transparent here, and let you know that I am one of those people that does not play fast and loose with keeping food in the fridge. Yeah, I am the lady that throws food out on the exact date of expiration. P.S. My husband strongly disagrees with me on this.

With that said, I will break down how long it is safe to store food in the fridge. But if you are like me, just know that I freeze pretty much everything that I can.

  • Vegetables – 1 week
  • Fruits – typically 1-2 weeks
  • Cooked chicken, beef, pork, and fish – 3-4 days
  • Cooked bacon – 4-5 days
  • Boiled eggs – up to 1 week
  • Cooked pasta – 3-5 days
  • Most cooked foods/leftovers – 3-4 days

If you want complete information on how long to refrigerate or freeze certain foods you should head on over here.

You Are A Family Meal Prep Rockstar

Whew you made it! You now now exactly how to plan weekly meals for your family, and how to save time grocery shopping. How to meal prep efficiently, and which storage containers to use for your food too.

Please know that you totally got this.

Keep it simple. Take shortcuts where you need to. Remember, family meal prep is here to work with you, and make your life easier! I am cheering you on each step of the way.

And, don’t forget to grab your FREE Weekly Meal Planner with Grocery List HERE. It is editable too, so you can fill it out in the carpool line, and mark off items while you are the store. Because you are a busy mom, and I want to make your life just a bit easier.


family meal prep guide

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