Scheduling in a working moms’ meal prep routine can seem tricky at first but I’ll let you in on this secret: meal prepping is my number one timesaving strategy and some weeks, the only way I manage to keep my sanity!
Want to know why? It’s not because it saves you time cooking (although is fully does) It’s because it saves you time washing dishes.
By far and large, whenever I talk to my fellow busy parents riding the struggle bus during weekday meal times, their biggest complaint is this: I freaking hate washing dishes.
This is even more so in New York City, where so many apartments come dishwasher-free. If you’re raising kids and doing it without a dishwasher, I say to you: I’m with you, and I salute you and isn’t it just the worst!?
I’ve been living without a dishwasher for almost three years now, and in that time I’ve launched a cooking company, scaled up my recipe testing and recipe development freelance work, and continue to raise two kids, one of whom eats like a horse.
I hand wash a lot of dishes.
Like, seriously a lot.
My hands are constantly dry and battered, and a few weeks ago when I went for a manicure, the manicurist peered down at my hands, with their cracked skin and nicks and cuts and raggedly nails, and then gave me a funny look.
“Your hands are in rough shape,” she told me. Yeah, thanks for that.
Over the years, especially my years without a dishwasher, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to mitigate the overwhelming-ness of my sink:
- I listen to podcasts or books on tape to make the time go faster.
- I buy nice-smelling dish soap.
- I get the good sponges. (these are legitimately amazing)
- I clean as I go.
Basically, I do #allthethings that cut down on my time spent at the faucet, elbow deep in sudsy water.
But you want to know the one thing that cuts down on my dishwashing throughout the week?
Spending 60 minutes on the weekend, busting through a meal prep power hour.
I first talked about the meal prep power hour around this time last year, when Caroline from a Butterful Mind guest posted here (with this post) and I wrote about my meal prep secrets over on here site with this post.
I also dive deep into the Meal Prep Power Hour in my ebook, The Weeknight Dinner Survival Guide.
The working mom’s meal prep routine is a huge timesaver, that much is true. But its secret superpower is how it cuts down on your dirty dishes throughout the week.
When you’ve already prepped for the week, you’ll only have your storage items and plates to wash after that- no pans, knives, cutting boards, pots, lids, etc. You don’t have to worry about bleaching down your countertops after you’ve prepped raw meats.
See those cute little storage containers? They’re crazy easy to clean and dry. No funky corners or baked on grease. I’d rather zip through cleaning these guys than a million pots and pans on a busy Wednesday evening when I’d rather be curled up with my kids watching Boss Baby for the zillionth time.
Here’s an example: my meal plan for this week. I write it out in the margins of my Happy Planner because I’m mega Type A and that works best for me.
I’ll also add as an aside, this week was an odd meal plan for us (pizza bagels, I know!), because I’m in the middle of a recipe testing project for Peapod, and some of the items I’m testing have made their way onto our dinner table so I can make sure they work time wise.
So here’s how I broke down my Power Hour last week:
In 60 minutes, I:
- Formed 2 pounds of burger into patties for hamburgers
- Sliced 4 sweet potatoes into fries
- Combined the seasonings and liquids for Beef Stroganoff, since it’s a crockpot dish, and set aside (the meat had come already diced)
- Seasoned and cooked the sausage for Stuffed Peppers
- Combined panko and parmesan in one container, and egg wash and mustard in another, and chopped fish into fillets Roasted broccoli in a hot oven
- Roasted green beans in a hot oven and then tossed them with slivered almonds for a side
Guess how many pans and post and containers I skipped washing?
Like, a million.
Okay- I skipped the big pots and pans, to be fair. So many it wasn’t a million.
At the end of the week, in reality, I had washed only plates, silverware and cups/glasses, plus 2-3 daily containers.
I mean, I’d say that’s not too bad, right? No cutting boards, no pots, no sheet pans- they were all used and then washed in a big push on Sunday afternoon.
You can do this, too! Meal prep is a hassle- believe me, I KNOW THIS. But when you can push through and get it on your schedule and get it done, your tired ass self will thank you a thousand times over throughout the week. To come home to dinner made or mostly made- that is a good feeling.
And if you’re stuck on meal prepping and where to start, check out my free prep sheet worksheet download by leaving your name and email below!