10 Meal Prep Tips For Busy Parents

From sleep deprivation to juggling school drop offs and after school activities, being a parent is hectic, exhausting and often overwhelming. You watch other mums seemingly take it in their stride and marvel in their ability to get dressed immaculately as you are forced to drop your own child off to daycare in your PJs and uggs. You are trying your best to stay on top of their needs, whilst your own wellbeing takes a backseat. Let’s look at ten ways to move YOU back into the driver’s seat and feel in control again.


1. Plan Meals

Being able to prep and shop with a plan in hand can save you from trying to work out what you’ll be having for dinner after a challenging day. Pop your Meal Plan up on the fridge so the whole family can see what’s on the menu for the week!

2. Pre Chop Vegetables

Vegetables like carrots, celery, snow peas, beans and capsicum can be kept for a several days in a container with water. Vegie sticks make great snacks for kids, especially when combined with hummus or tzaziki. At the end of three days, toss any leftover vegies into a wok for a fast stir fry.

3. Delegate

Work out everyone’s schedules for the week and share the workload. If your partner is home early on a Thursday while you are at swimming lessons, ask them to get dinner started. If you have an older child or a partner, get them to organise lunchboxes in the mornings while you manage morning nappies or dressing.  All households are different, but there’s always something to be done, so delegate tasks. If you are a single parent, check out the next tip!

4. Friend Meal Exchange

For some parents, a ‘Meal Exchange’ is a great way to have a variety of meals on hand. The idea is you cook up a double batch of a family meal and share one batch with a friend in exchange for a meal from them. Casserole style meals that just need reheating work great for this. If you can get a few parents involved it can be a brilliant solution for several nights each week!

5. The Night Before

Before you crash on the couch or head to bed, have a think about any jobs you can do to get ahead in the morning. Whether it be getting lunches sorted or clothes ready, think of all the jobs you do in a mad rush in the morning that can be done calmly the night before. Soak some oats in yoghurt to make some bircher muesli, polish the kids’ shoes, empty school bags, straighten your hair – the list goes on!

6. Do a Cook Up

Time and time again, we hear the benefits of a weekend ‘Cook Up’. Prepping meals ahead of time or for the freezer can certainly be a welcome rescue if a family member falls ill, or you are held up at work or soccer training! A back up meal for times when chaos rules supreme is always a blessing.

7. Shop Online

Save time by ordering your weekly shop online. There’s nothing worse than facing a busy shopping centre with a few kids in tow. Certain shops offer a pick up service if you cannot afford delivery, whereby you just drive to the supermarket and pick up the bags of groceries you’ve ordered. Ask your local supermarket what they offer in your area. Even regional supermarkets have systems in place.

8. Fast Meals

Everyone has a meal they can make in ‘auto pilot’. An omelette, a basic stir fry, spaghetti bolognaise, pita pizzas, risotto, grilled salmon and salad, one pot meals, etc. Have a list of these meals on hand to include in your week and slot them in on days that are especially busy or tiring.

9. Emergency Stash

There are times when you need an emergency stash of food at work so you are not lured to the cafe for banana bread and a mocha. Foods like bean mix, minute brown rice, tinned salmon and some olives can be combined quickly to make a delicious meal. Have some nuts and fresh fruit at work for snacks.

10. Hand Food

Who doesn’t love food you can eat with your hands? Meals like homemade (healthy) burritos, pizzas, burgers and tacos can be made quickly if everyone gets in and helps. Get someone on the grater, someone on the stove top and someone setting the table. Put all the ingredients out and individuals can help themselves! It’s a win-win, and perfect when people are getting home at different times, too!

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Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu
Lisa is the Lead Dietitian for 12WBT. With a Masters in Nutrition & Dietietics as well as a Bachelor of Education, Lisa is keen to help all 12 Weekers understand how to achieve health for life. Lisa studied Sports Dietetics at the Australian Institute of Sport and has a keen interest in gastrointestinal health. A highly regarded communicator, Lisa is a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, the ‘Dietitian in Residence’ at the University of Canberra and a lecturer at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She has also been an expert on ABC Television’s Ask the Dr Series.

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