If you came to the page for tips on how to spend your Sundays making the exact same meal for 7 days in a row and cheat death on getting e-coli or dying of food boredom….you’re going to be disappointed. That just isn’t my jam. I *do* have some tips for you to do some of the work in advance, to make your life a little smoother, without having to eat chicken and rice and soggy veggies for a week straight.
- Plan bento box meals around dinner leftovers. Less food waste, and easier to plan
- Make most of your bento box lunches at night (I add crackers/chips etc in the mornings to keep them crisp and preserve freshness) – this allows you to get going a bit smoother in the mornings
- Practice eating “cold meals” (think chicken ceaser salad) to orientate your kids to meals that don’t require being heated up at school (as most schools don’t offer this)
- Plan/Prep for YOUR situation. If you’re a single mom who works full time and has literally NO time, everything I’ve shared can be done by one person in one grocery store. No time to go to Costco or Bulk Barn? No worries. Do what you gotta do.
For meal planning purposes, I tend to work on a 3 or 4 week menu rotation. Just our set of tried and true fave meals, switched out, so we don’t get tired of them. If I have the time and energy, I test new recipes to add to the pile. I tailor weeknight meals to things that can be adapted for bento lunches (ex. salad and tortellini is super easily packed for a bento box and eaten chilled), and then just choose the fresh produce and snack items to accompany it in the bento boxes.
When my husband is away for long stretches, I have my own set of “Sunday Prep” items to help my week go smoother:
- I cook 2 or 3 packs of bacon at once. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil, put a cooling rack on it, and lay bacon upon the rack. Then you simply bake it (the fat drips off onto the tinfoil) and you can do multiple batches at once. Bacon is delicious cold in a bento box, BLT sandwiches for supper, and is a school safe form of protein that even the pickiest eater enjoys.
- I boil a decent amount of nugget potatoes. In the mornings when the womb trophies are losing their minds and you just want a hot breakfast, slicing up the boiled potatoes and frying them up with an egg takes 5 mins and will fill you right up. Take the bacon you already prepped and toss it into your hash for 30 seconds to have a delicious hot breakfast in 8 mins flat. Add a bit of fruit and an avocado and you’re basically a foodie influencer on Instagram now.
- Hardboiled eggs. I make 6-12 at a time, and again, GREAT for bentos or breakfasts or snacks. I love having them readily available during the week.
- Sweet potato peeled and sliced. Toss with olive oil and spices, bake in the oven for 30 mins, and then top with a fried egg for the most delicious thing to ever enter your mouth hole. You can cook the sweet potato slices in advance and just crisp up in a frying pan when you’re ready for them.
- Lastly, I like to cut and prep some fruits and veggies. Carrots and celery don’t dry out or go mushy if cut in advance. Same with things like cantaloupe, honeydew melon, grapes, or watermelon. I like to have these things ready in the fridge so when the hangry moments hit, the kids have lots of “yes foods” to choose from while I get the normal meal cooked.
Is it “easier” to make entire meals in advance? Maybe. But once you factor in using an ENTIRE day to make them, and having to eat the exact same food every day, AND risk getting bored of the same old and binging on something more exciting? It just doesn’t make sense for me and my family. That being said – everyone’s likes/dislikes/capabilities/budget are different. So are everyone’s dietary needs/preferences. I have the privilege to be able to stay home with my girls and work once they’re in bed, giving me the time needed to make different food decisions than parents who work outside the home and commute.
We’re all so different. I don’t give a fork about organic produce, but fuck buying no name Kraft Dinner. I LOATHE eating the exact same thing every day. I prefer to prep some things in advance and make other things fresh. You just need to find your food groove. My life motto? You do you.