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Do you struggle packing daily lunches or cooking family meals and need a system for weekly meal prep? Do you have about a hundred different plastic containers, all different sizes and mis-matched lids, taking over your cabinets? Over the years I’ve tried lots of meal prep systems, striving to find one brand of plastic container to consolidate my collection, but the brands change their designs year over year and I still had mis-matched lids and unstackable containers.
Now that I pack 10 lunches a week, 5 for me and 5 for the Girl, I was on the hunt for a new container. My requirements: interchangeable lids, options for small sections inside the container, and easily stackable containers for weekly prep and fridge storage. Oh, and a combo of glass and plastic since I like to microwavemy food in the same container I bring it in to work.
I finally found the perfect system that solves it all: Snapware!
The System that Makes Weekly Meal Prep A Breeze
Snapware comes in both glass and plastic and has a variety of sizes. Some of the sizes have interchangeable lids, and the square 5 cup version has a plastic insert, giving two small sections for portions.
I have the 18 piece glass set, containing interchangeable lids. But the real secret to this whole operation is the divided trays! I purchased three of these Snapware 14 Piece Total Solution Plastic Sets to make meal prep even easier for our family.
Managing Meal-Prep Each Week for Everyone
For myself, I pack five containers with cheese and salami or some packable entree. Plastic for the cheese and crackers and glass for anything that needs to be warmed. I also always cook three or four servings of an entree to warm up for dinners during the week.
I like to order in on Friday nights just for a treat, but if I don’t make some dinners to warm up during the week, I end up ordering in just because I don’t want to cook. This plan prevents a lot of ordering in.
Part of the way this plan works is that I don’t mind eating the same thing lots of times during the week and I don’t like spending time cooking. If you love cooking and need variety, you might make a different plan.
Weekly Meal Prep for Kids
I have a toddler whose food preferences could generously be described as “tapas.” Basically, a few blueberries, one almond, one egg, and one piece of cheese. A nightmare of plastic containers and ziplock bags.
Now for The Girl, I pack five of the 5-Cup Snapware containers for the week. We’re small-time egg farmers, so every day she has a hard boiled egg that I place in a little silicone cupcake liner with a pinch of salt on top. With the liner and the tray, that gives me four distinct sections. They snap together great, and I can stack them all in the refrigerator. We grab one every morning and throw it in her Crocodile Creek lunchbox (which I love because it comes with a cute matching water bottle and you can put it in the dishwasher every week.)
Since I’ve been packing her lunches this way, it’s easier than ever to make them all on Sunday night at one time. I LOVE a batch process. Because I don’t have to pack lots of little containers, it takes less time and we lose fewer containers at school. She eats WAY more of her lunch each day, and it also ensures that when she all of a sudden decides she hates cheese this week, it’s only one-quarter of her lunch.
What Makes a System Effective?
The main features of any good meal prep system are consistency, batch processing (meaning doing it all at once), and minimalism. Here are my main tips:
- Buy multiples of one kind of container. If you need to pack five meals a week, get six or seven of thecontainers you need. That way, you don’t have to strategize about fitting the same meal into different containers or scrounging around the cabinets to find just what you need.
- If it doesn’t fit the system, get rid of it. Make sure you have a few containers that are big enough for Thanksgiving leftovers and then throw the rest away. The presence of any odd containers encourages the hoarding of more odd containers. Get ’em out of there.
- Do it all at the same time. If you hate cooking (like I do) then you’re better off spending two hours in the kitchen on Sunday night (or whenever) to take care of the whole week. I have planned to do the rest of the prep on a Tuesday, say, only to get home exhausted and unmotivated. Take-out sushi, here we go.
- Find a simple way to keep track of your recipes. If you have a need for variety, fine. I don’t. But I still keep a catalog of my favorite recipes. Otherwise, I’d forget my favorites and it’s always easier to choose from a list than to choose from memory. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on recipe collection!
I’d love to hear how you manage your time and energy around meal prep, especially any lovely systems you use to make it minimalist, functional, and enjoyable!