Pushing through the working mom meal prep is, in my opinion, the most effective thing you can do every week.
Want to know why? It’s not because meal prepping saves you time cooking (although it 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.
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, AND 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 bullet journal because my brand of working mom meal prep is big-time Type A and I love it that way.
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 when meal prepping 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 maybe 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! Getting through a stretch of working mom meal prep can feel like too big of a hassle to deal with- 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 during a working mom meal prep- that is such a good feeling.