Half-Ass Meal Prep With Me: A Tired Mom’s Guide

Half-ass meal prep pinterest graphic

I Don’t Do Mason Jars

I don’t want to meal prep. We have what realtors call a “cozy” kitchen; it’s too small to house all the glass containers that meal prepping requires. I’ve always hated clutter and that is what having a bunch of little glass containers sounds like-clutter. We don’t have a microwave to reheat these carefully pre-portioned meals in anyway. But meal planning has so many advantages: it can save time, help track calories and nutrients, and make healthy food readily available. So how do I meal prep without having to actually…meal prep? I decided to snack/staple/condiment plan. Eating as nonprocessed as possible is more important to me than not having to cook dinner, so replacing our store-bought pasta sauce, hummus, and some snacks made more sense to me than precooking whole meals. Compared to the other plans I’ve seen online, I’m pretty sure what I do is just half-ass meal prepping.

Meal Prep Ish Mom
Little A is perturbed by his first taste of solids

Only Change Is Constant

The boys and I had gotten into a lovely flow. I gave a bottle to Little A then prepared Big A’s lunch. I would push Big A’s high chair up to the kitchen entryway and make myself a giant salad for lunch while Little A played on the floor. Once the boys were down for their nap I would make and eat a salad. Once Little A started eating solids this all went out the window. My salad making time now had to be spent feeding Little A. I found myself hurriedly gulping cereal and other “convenience” foods. The scale (which had been steadily falling) began to creep up. I battled bloat and other digestive issues. I’m setting myself up for failure in regards to my weight loss, overall health, energy, and mental clarity if I can’t easily eat nutritious food. I need to meal prep.

Meal Prepping Ish Mom
Our meal plan, front and center on the fridge

First, Plan

What are your health and eating goals? Is there a certain nutrient that you are trying to get more of? Plan meals with  that aspect in mind first. Are you trying to cut processed foods? Focus on a frequently bought processed snack that you can make yourself. You’ll plan on purchasing the ingredients and making that snack during your meal prepping. Next, what’s going on this week? Are some days busier than others? Plan your meals accordingly (don’t serve some complicated dish when you know you’ll be working late). If you are still having trouble deciding what to serve, theme nights like #TacoTuesday can help take some of the pressure off. How’s your money situation for the week? If it’s tight you may want plan to eat a lot of rice dishes or breakfast foods. You can free hand a list and chart (or use this one!) to write down all the meals and snacks for the week.

Meal Prep Ish Mom
Smoked paprika chips are surprisingly delicious

Shop Your House

Shop your house before writing down the week’s meals and snacks. Pull out all the food that could be used to prepare meals this week. Are some potatoes about to go bad? Add Potato Carrot Bake for a meal. Do you have a lot of flour? How about some Vegan Biscuits and Gravy this week? Try to find the sweet spot between your nutritional, spending, calorie, and time management goals and what is already present in your home. It will take several tries to get this right. I’m always buying something I don’t need, or forgetting some pivotal ingredient for a meal that week.

Meal Prep Ish Mom
Veggies Galore!

What I Prep and Why

I consistently (every 1-2 weeks) prep granola bars, chips, hummus, marinara sauce, mashed cauliflower potatoes (both boys will eat some for lunch throughout the week), purees for Little A, chips, energy balls, vegetables for salad, and organizing snack/lunch foods

  • Granola bars are expensive: between lunches and snacks we were going through two boxes a week. And they’re packed with high-fructose corn syrup. I started making them myself; it’s a no bake recipe, and the bars are an easy vehicle to provide Big A with healthy seeds like chia, hemp, sesame, and sunflower.
  • Hummus: expensive and eaten by the gallon around here. Also, where have their beans been? We have a food processor, you press a button and voila!
  • Marinara sauce: we eat homemade pizza once a week and were just ruining it by spreading store bought sauce on it. There’s as much sugar in store bought marinara sauce as there is in a can of soda.
  • Chips: so much cheaper and easier to control the sodium content if I spray some tortillas with olive oil, cut them into eighths, sprinkle some crazy spices on them and bake them.
  • Energy balls: just like granola bars but smaller
  • Vegetables for salad: If I don’t prepare my veggies and salads ahead of time I am not going to eat them. Period.
  • Mashed cauliflower potatoes and puree: there is less stress around the boys’ mealtimes if I know what they are going to be eating during lunch and if a portion of it is already prepared.
  • Organizing snack and lunch foods: the unsung hero of meal prep. I pre-portion some of the packaged food snacks we have (like nuts and dried fruits) into individual baggies. This makes it easier to pack lunches and stops me from eating 700 calories worth of cashews in one sitting.

That’s the rhyme and reason behind the meal prepping in our house. Some details may change by the week, but if I stay consistent, meal times and their preparation are more relaxed. It’s easier for me to eat and feed my family healthy foods, making my own health and fitness goals more attainable.

Meal Prep Ish Mom
Its a big deal when I put candy in the energy balls

The Process

On Sunday we put music on and meal prep for 2-3 hours. I like to multi-task as much as possible. So i chop vegetables while the oven is preheating and make granola bars while the chips are baking. It takes practice, of course. Meal prepping can seem like a pain in the ass, sequestering yourself in the kitchen when there’s a new season of Ozarks out. You can take your phone with you and binge while you prep! The reduced stress around meals and their preparation and the ease in which healthy snacks are available makes it all worth it.

What are your biggest goals when it comes to meal prepping? Comment below! Share this article-nudge yourself to try meal prepping this week.




Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.

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