If there’s one thing that all moms have in common, it’s the fact that they’re all busy. As a mom, whether you work in the home or have a paying career, have one kid or ten, chances are pretty good that you spend a good portion of your day being a nurse, driver, teacher, cleaner, coach, negotiator and — of course — chef (among a hundred other things), leaving you with little time to spare. And let’s face it, that last job — chef — is often the first duty that falls to the wayside when other crises pop up — like homework, skinned knees or World War III erupting in the living room when the Xbox isn’t properly shared. Preparing food is time-consuming and frequently monotonous, inducing angst in moms who would rather be doing a million other things instead. That’s why meal prep can be a huge asset for busy moms. Take a look at our ultimate meal prep manual to help you get dinner on the table in no time flat:

Step One: Create a Meal Plan

Meal prep involves dicing and slicing, measuring and mixing. In other words, it’s making ready the ingredients you need for a meal. A meal plan, on the other hand, is merely a list of the meals you intend to make over a certain time period. Before you can begin prepping your meals, you need to know what you’re going to make, after all! Thus, the first step in our meal prep manual is to create a workable — read: “simple” — meal plan. Now’s not the time to try to emulate Julia Child,” since the goal is to spend less time in the kitchen, not more!

Step Two: Make a Grocery List

Next up in our meal prep manual is figuring out the ingredients you already have on hand and those you need to buy for the meals you plan to make. A well-stocked kitchen goes a long way. If you don’t already have a stash of common ingredients (such as various oils and vinegars, rice, pasta, canned tomato products, spices, etc.), put them on your list, along with the specific ingredients needed for the upcoming week’s meals. You’ll eventually notice that your lists shorten as you learn to keep an adequate inventory of essential pantry staples, leaving you only with a few main and/or perishable foods for which you need to shop each week.

Step Three: Find Time to Shop

Now, head to the store. Meal prep is about saving time, so make sure you get everything on your list. You don’t want to waste time going back for something! And if this is your first foray into meal prepping, don’t forget to buy meal prep containers. You’ll need bowls and dishes (along with air-tight lids) in various sizes to store your meals once they’ve been cooked.

Step Four: Prep Your Ingredients

With all the necessary ingredients at hand, you can now begin the actual meal prep. Wash, peel and cut your produce. Make your rice or grains. Season and roast your vegetables and meats. Depending on the complexity of your dishes, this usually takes two to three hours, but once you’re done, you’re done for the week!

Step Five: Assemble Your Meals and Store

Most food can last three to five days in the refrigerator. Therefore, if you only wish to meal prep once a week, some of your dishes will probably need to be frozen. Think about your schedule and determine how often you want to set aside time for meal prepping and then make sure your fridge and freezer are big enough to accommodate the meals you prepare. For some people, it makes sense to place each type of food (meat, veggie, starch) into separate containers, divvying a portion of each to individuals throughout the week. Others prefer to place portions of the meal into divided containers, allowing each member of the household to pull a complete plate out when needed. How you choose to store your prepped meals is really up to personal preference and the amount of storage space you have available.

Step Six: Enjoy.

Now, sit back and enjoy your meals, as well as the extra time you have to spend on all those other motherly duties!

An Even Better Alternative: Lean Kitchen

While you can certainly benefit from a meal prep manual like this one, an even better alternative is having someone do the meal prep for you! At Lean Kitchen we offer all the advantages of meal prep without any of the hassle, leaving busy moms with even more time to enjoy their families and their lives. In addition to being delicious, all our meals are healthy, including the perfect balance of lean proteins, fibrous vegetables and complex carbohydrates so that busy moms know their loved ones are getting the nutrition they need. Please contact us to learn more.