How to Actually Meal Prep Dinners When You Barely Have Time to Breathe

6 March, 2020

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Taking time to meal prep dinners always sounds like a great idea until you actually start to do it, right? You may start off with the best intentions, but by the time the prep session actually needs to start, you’ve got a to-do list a mile long and suddenly other stuff seems more important. 

…Or is it? Even spending just 30 minutes a week meal prepping means you can save that much time or more 

And yes, there are the adages of “make one, freeze one”. Or “set aside time on the weekend to prep”. And honestly, they’re great ideas.

They work. But only if you actually do the work. 

If you’re struggling to find time to even sit your tired behind down and plan out a meal prep plan, figure out what gets made first, get the groceries and prep the ingredients then I feel you. It’s not easy to stay on top of meal prep! 

But what if I told you there are a few tricks you can keep up your sleeve to make sure you’re getting the meal prep done quickly, so you’ve got more time to actually relax at the end of the long day? 

Because let’s face it: getting a few meal prep dinners ready is a total effing timesaver during the week.


Read: Meal Prepping 10 Lunches in One Hour


After it’s done you’re always thankful you took the time to do it, right? Growing up, my dad always told me, “You have to take time to make time”. Translation: Take the time to do the thing, so you can enjoy having the time later on. 

I’m sharing with you today my 3 favorite ways to cut time on dinner prep quickly, seamlessly, and easily.

These prep tips help you work meal prep into your normal day – not find the time you don’t have.

They’re my time-saving meal prep hacks and tips, and the things I do every week to get my dinners meal prepped ahead of time so I don’t find myself rushing around in the evening… or throwing in the towel and ordering pizza, instead #guilty

Meal Prep Dinner Time-Saving Hack #1: Double it up. 

This is the tried and true way to do get make-ahead dinners ready, and there’s a reason it’s the tip you hear more often than anything else: it works. 

Here’s how: Make two lasagnas and wrap one, and serve the other. When you’re making tacos, pack another set of ingredients away in a freezer-safe bag to be used as a “meal kit”. Double up the soup and freeze half in freezer-safe containers or Soupercubes for easy thawing when you need them. 

A word about Soupercubes: I love these things. They’re large silicone cube trays, created by a grad student, and are perfect for freezing leftovers in just the right size.

(c)Food52.com

The trays themselves are made of super flexible silicone that makes popping the frozen item out super easy, and the rims are fitted with sturdy steel, so you can stack the trays easily while the meals are freezing. They have a flat lid to keep everything steady in the freezer. They’re super easy to clean and really durable. I’m officially obsessed. Click here to grab them on Amazon or click here to buy directly from the website


Read: Meal Pre Made Easy for the Workweek


Meal Prep Dinner Time-Saving Hack #2: Premade ingredients. 

There is no shame in my produce-aisle game guys. And while I hate the extra plastic that comes from purchasing prepped ingredients (though I try to recycle or reuse as much as possible) buying pre-chopped vegetables, mixed salads at the deli, and other premade items saves me a ton of time.

I mean, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, I’m just trying to get dinner on the table without losing my freaking mind in the process. 

A great place to peep premade stuff is the frozen aisle, where I’ll grab frozen fried rice for an easy side, or premade dumplings for busy nights.

And don’t forget the deli counter! Rotisserie chickens, tuna salad, and even getting a container or two of pre-sliced tomatoes, chopped broccoli salad, and other things the deli may have on hand for their ease can help you out a ton, also. 

Meal Prep Dinner Time-Saving Hack #3: Keep it easy, mama. 

I store a lot of my meal prep storage items in a bag so I can just plop it next to me and not have to go hunting in a drawer somewhere.

When I’m putting away groceries, I’ll try to keep ingredients that go in the same recipe grouped together in a bowl or container, so all I have to do when it’s prep time is pull out that container and prep what’s in front of me.

When I make recipes, I go to the trouble of printing them out on actual paper (my kids use the sheets afterwards as drawing paper) and tape them up or use a magnet, so they’re easy to refer to.

I find that if I’m using my phone or a tablet, I’ll get distracted by a call, or the screen will time out, and it’s frustrating to keep having to re-open a recipe.

Everything I do in my kitchen is with a mind to keep it easy, keep it simple, and make meals happen with as little effort as possible. Not only does this make the prep itself go faster, but I’m more willing to start the prep because I know it won’t take all freaking day to get done.

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to procrastinate because you think something will take “too long” to do? Most of the time, once you actually do the dang thing, it takes a fraction of the time you envisioned it would. Knowing that I’ve already “greased the wheel”, so to speak, by keeping things grouped together and ready to go, cuts down on my procrastination a lot. 


Read: Meal Prep Power Hour Worksheet


At the end of the day, having meal prep dinners saves me a crazy amount of time during the week. It’s such a relief to know that all I’m doing for dinner that night is dumping a container of prepped ingredients in the Instant Pot and walking away, or peeling foil off a baking dish and popping it in the oven. And by using these helpful time-saving hacks, you could be enjoying that sweet relief in your own kitchen!

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