Meal Prep Plan: A Week of Veggie-Packed Freezer-Friendly Family Meals
Summer break is quickly coming to a close in many parts of the country. For parents like me, that means getting back into the breakfast hustle and school lunch-packing routine while the weather is still warm and the summer produce is still delicious. Stocking the freezer with breakfast and lunch staples now will make for an easier transition when school starts in a few weeks, and is also a great way to get in more veggies while they’re at their peak.
For this week’s Power Hour, I’m prepping a week of easy dinners and focusing the rest of my meal prep time to put some breakfast and lunch helpers in my freezer for our first week back to school. Here’s what I’m prepping in two hours to power our back-to-school season.
My Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: Morning is the hardest time to get vegetables in front of my kids, but with a busy back-to-school season ahead, I’m going to try. I make a few breakfast wraps for myself and smoothie packs for the kids, which lets them grab a cup to slurp down on the walk to school.
- Lunch: As much as I’d love to pack and freeze complete lunches, I’ve found more success with stocking the freezer with a few things that make completing a lunch easier. For example, freezing veggie cream cheese in portions means I can grab a bit anytime I need a quick lunch box sandwich on the fly.
- Dinner: Since most of my meal prep efforts this week are focused on stocking the freezer for back to school, I’m only planning four quick and easy dinners. I’ll chop some of the vegetables for these meals during meal prep.
- Nutritional goals: Our family is omnivorous, but aren’t we all trying to get more vegetables on our kids’ plates? We’re focusing on vegetables first with just a few meaty meals this week.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two weeks of grab-and-go breakfasts and packable lunch staples for my two kids; 4 dinners for my two kids, my husband, and myself.
- Prep Time: About 2 hours
- Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
- Weeknight Cooking Required? Yes, some dressings and vegetables are prepped for dinners, but each night requires about 20 minutes of hands-on cooking or assembly.
My Meal Plan
Breakfast (for the freezer)
Lunches (for the freezer)
Plan on knocking out most of the produce section at the farmers market, if you can. Both the veggie cream cheese and weeknight gnocchi call for red peppers, so either buy a large bag of mini mixed peppers or a few larger peppers.
- Produce: 1 pound (about 8 cups) baby spinach, 2 1/2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, 1 medium tomato, 1 large zucchini, 1 ripe avocado, 2 bananas, 1 (12-ounce) package dates, 1 large mango, 2 oranges, 1 large sweet potato, 1 medium carrot, 1 bunch green onions, 1 head garlic, 1 large shallot, 1 small red onion, 1 large sweet onion, 1 fresh dill sprig, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 bunch basil, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch mint, 1 lemon, 2 limes, 1 (12-ounce) bag mixed baby bell peppers or 3 medium red bell peppers, 1 medium English cucumber, 1 (12-ounce) bag broccoli slaw, 6 ears corn
- Meat & Seafood: 1 pound ground pork, 1 pound ground chicken
- Dairy: 1 dozen large eggs, 8 ounces feta cheese, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 1/4 cups whole milk, 12 ounces cream cheese
- Dry Goods: Olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1 (12-ounce) jar whole pimento or roasted red peppers, 1 (12-ounce) jar quartered and marinated artichokes hearts, 1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- Bakery: 4 whole-wheat tortillas, 1 loaf soft French bread (not baguette), 8 soft corn tortillas
- Freezer: 1 pound fresh, shelf-stable, or frozen potato gnocchi, 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen beans
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
- Get Sweet Potato & Parmesan Muffins in the oven. These need to bake and cool before being frozen, so start with these hearty muffins.
- Scramble eggs and cook spinach for Spinach Feta Breakfast Wraps. Just like the muffins, the filling for these freezes best if it has plenty of time to cool before wrapping and freezing.
- Mix up garlic cream cheese for Summer Sub Sandwich. Game plan: Use the food processor once to quickly mix up both cream cheeses. That way there’s no need to clean the machine in between uses.
- Make Veggie Cream Cheese and freeze in 2-tablespoon squares. After mixing up the veggie cream cheese, put into a gallon zip-top bag, seal and roll or press the bag flat (to make a thin, even layer), then use a skewer or offset spatula to press a grid of 2×2-inch square in the plastic wrap. Freeze flat and then you can break off ready-to-spread squares of cream cheese as needed.
- Assemble and cook Mini Thai Pork Meatballs. These pork meatballs will become grab-and-go lunchbox fodder, so they need to be cooked and cooled before freezing.
- Make smoothie packs for Mango-Orange Smoothie & Super Greens Smoothie The best way to get a bunch of smoothie packs done quickly? Set your bags (or jars) out assembly-style. Add the greens and bananas for both packs at once, then add the fruit and other ingredients to customize. These can go right into the freezer.
- Slice onions and peppers for Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies. A tiny bit of dinner prep that will make tomorrow night faster.
- Chop vegetables and assemble Succotash Salad. This salad (with the feta) only gets better in the fridge!
- Assemble breakfast wraps. I’m wrapping these in paper towels and then foil to make microwave reheating less soggy.
- Wrap and freeze Sweet Potato Muffins. Tightly wrap each muffin in plastic wrap for the longest freezer life possible.
A Back-to-School Jump-Start
- Monday: We pulled out smoothie bags for the first morning back to school and both kids drank their blended smoothie on the way to school.
- Tuesday: I had a veggie breakfast wrap, but both kids ended up with quick scrambled eggs this morning instead.
- Wednesday: Smoothies again. Why didn’t I think to stash the freezer with these sooner?
- Thursday: Instead of microwaving the egg wraps this morning, I pressed them on our panini press and that seemed to be the ticket for both kids — crispy always wins.
- Friday: We ended the week with more smoothies, this time partnered with toasted bread topped with veggie cream cheese.
- Monday: I forgot that the first day of school still required packed lunch even though it’s a short day, so veggie cream cheese on whole-wheat to the rescue!
- Tuesday: My daughter was so happy to have meatballs as her second-day school lunch because the return to routine had her so hungry by lunchtime.
- Wednesday: Monday’s dinner leftovers were requested as lunch this week. I dressed the gnocchi with a little extra olive oil, since they’d be eaten cold in the cafeteria.
- Thursday: As part of “breakfast for lunch” I pulled sweet potato muffins from the freezer and sent a hard-boiled egg and some fresh fruit alongside them.
- Friday: The last of Thursday night’s dinner went into both kids’ lunch boxes, along with money for PTA popcorn sales.
- Monday: Thanks to the weekend’s slicing and dicing, Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies only took 20 minutes of oven time to pull together. We partnered it with a simple green salad.
- Tuesday: Easy Chicken Tacos are one of my favorite fast weeknight dinners and my kids even ate seconds of the broccoli slaw.
- Wednesday: Succotash Salad served with grilled bread is one of my favorite summer meals, and the perfect motivator to get us through the last little bit of a busy week.
- Thursday: Summer Vegetables Sub Sandwich with Garlic Cream Cheese came with us to our city’s first Thursday downtown, where we watched a band and then biked to ice cream after our picnic.
- Friday: Most of the week’s leftovers ended up as lunch box meals, so we ended up with delivery pizza, as is often our family tradition.
Having a variety of breakfast and lunch staples for the first week back to school meant that we were all well-fed during a pretty hectic week. And there’s still plenty left in the freezer for us to pull from in the future.
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Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.