Summer time cooking in Phoenix is tricky. It’s hot, like really hot, and the idea of even turning on the oven literally makes me want to just eat cold cereal until September. Lately, I have gotten really into cooking just once and eating it throughout the week. I am not one that loves to make a full meal to eat on the daily. Truthfully “leftovers” aren’t really my thing. I’d rather prep all the cooked ingredients I need for various meals throughout the week. It feels a lot less like left overs, and more like smart planning.
Protein: Lately the grill has been my go-to. I am not really a beef or pork person, so we mainly stick to chicken and turkey. I love to simply seasoning the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder (occasionally smoked paprika if I am feeling crazy), so it is flavorful, but neutral enough to eat with everything. I throw it on our grill (about 6 minutes per side until 165F). I let it cool on the heat and either cut it up or leave it whole.
The Veg: I try to feed my family seasonally whenever possible. For starters, shopping in season is more economical, it tastes better and I truly believe it is better for your body to eat what is in season for your climate. In the summer, zucchini, tomatoes and sweet peppers are usually what I go for. I like to prep them with salt and pepper, a little spray of avocado oils and toss them in the air fryer. Pro tip, let them cool before putting them in a container, it keeps them from getting mushy. Again, it is simple, healthy and doesn’t require the oven.
I also like just making sure everything is ready to go, even raw. Cut up onion stored in a glass jar in the fridge, broccoli florets and carrot sticks cut up and ready to go, etc. It really helps in easing the stress that dinner time can bring after hot summer days and makes easy snacks that even my two year old can grab himself.
Grains and Fillers: Brown rice and quinoa are usually on the menu. Both of which I either make in bulk in the InstantPot or buy frozen—aren’t those frozen bags a life saver?! I also like cooking up sweet potato as a base. Stuffed sweet potato had come to be one of my favorite work lunches. I also live for sweet potato drizzled with almond butter and cinnamon. YUM!
Meal Ideas: Now that we are all prepped, what do we do with everything?
- Enchiladas: Combine chicken and veg and fill corn (or flour) tortillas. Top with your favorite red or green enchilada sauce…topped with cheese if that is your thing. Add a fried egg on top for an awesome breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Pasta: One of my favorite ways to get extra veggies into my little is blend up my prepped veg with spinach and add it my favorite pasta sauce. They will never know it’s there and I can feel like a mom rock star.
- Salads: I feel like am I all about the light lunches in the summer. I love topping romaine with a little olive oil and lemon juice, add prepped chicken and veg, a little feta and pine nuts…add salivating emoji here.
- Buddha bowls: Pick your base -I usually go for quinoa or sweet potato. Add chicken, veg and all the toppings: Hummus, sour kraut or kimchi, lettuce, seeds, avocado…the possibilities are endless. Makes for a delicious, healthy lunch or dinner that is also beautiful.
One of the things I love about meal prepping is the sense of accomplishment I feel when everything is done. Knowing that I have set me and my boys up for a successful, healthy week really sets me off on the right foot. In the long run it helps me save both money and time and really allows me to nourish my body in a way that makes me feel happy and strong.
What are your go-to meal prep items? I’d love to get new ideas! Happy cooking mamas.