Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Meals with the Kids’ Help
Cooking with kids can go way beyond cookies and cupcakes. In truth, a Meal Prep Power Hour is the best time to bring kids into the kitchen, and it may surprise you how fun and helpful it is to have them by your side. With the goal being meal prep, not meal consumption, you can take time measuring and mixing, rather than rushing to the table. This week’s menu is full of kid-approved recipes, and because they’ve helped, they’ll shout — with forks full! — “I made that!”
Cooking with kids is all about choosing the right recipes and kitchen tools to stretch their culinary muscles, no matter their age — though their skills might even surprise you. You’ll need two hours to prep a week of family-friendly meals, though if your sous chefs are on the younger side, allow for the extra time it takes to assemble ingredients. The time-saver for this plan is the Kenmore Ovation Stand Mixer. It allows you to multi-task — a key skill for a successful meal prep — and its Pour-In Top is safe for little hands who are learning how to cook. Let’s get started.
My Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: A make-ahead breakfast to fuel kids for busy school mornings (5 days).
- Lunch: A new (and easier!) way to serve sandwiches paired with fresh fruits and veggies. Lunch this week is guaranteed to be a cafeteria hit (5 days).
- Dinner: Fresh and fun kid-made dinners the whole family will love (5 days).
- Nutritional Goals: This family-friendly meal plan is all about having fun with your kids in the kitchen. Meals are full of kid-friendly flavors and balanced for growing bodies
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two kids for breakfast and lunch, and two adults and two kids for dinner.
- Prep Time: 2 to 3 hours
- Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
- Weeknight Cooking Required: Moderate. Dinner elements are prepared so it takes a little light cooking to bring meals together each night.
My Meal Plan
- Ham and Cheddar Lunch Box Muffins, fruit, and vegetables
My Shopping List
These are the ingredients I bought or used for this meal prep plan. I always check the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for ingredients I may already have on hand, especially spices, sauces, and long-lasting vegetables. I also rely on staple ingredients including olive oil, vegetable oil, kosher salt, and black pepper
- Bakery: 6 kaiser rolls
- Dry Goods: 1 ¼ cup granola, 1 small bottle barbecue sauce, 6 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal, 12 dry lasagna noodles, 1 small jar marinara sauce, maple syrup
- Meat: 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 ½ pounds ground beef, 8 ounces ground pork, 24 slices pepperoni, 8 ounces diced ham
- Produce: 6 ounces broccoli slaw, 1 large onion, fresh chives, 3 cloves garlic, green beans, 1 jalapeno (optional), 1 sweet potato, 1 ¼ cup seedless grapes, 3 pounds russet potatoes, 2 shallots, fruit (e.g., apples, mandarin oranges, berries), vegetables (e.g., carrot sticks, edamame in pods, cherry tomatoes)
- Dairy: 1 ¾ cups buttermilk, 2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, 1 ¾ cups grated Parmesan cheese, 12 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, 12 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 5 large eggs, 4 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, 1 cup ricotta cheese, 18 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 ½ cups whole milk
- Frozen: 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
- Pantry: Kosher salt, black pepper, vegetable oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, active dry yeast, baking powder, baking soda, dried dill, dried parsley, dried thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, dried onion flakes, dried chives, Italian seasoning, granulated sugar, dried breadcrumbs, vanilla extract
Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done
I have 2 to 3 hours set aside to prep meals for the week. Two hours is plenty of time to prep this plan on your own, but if the kids are helping every step of the way, it will take extra time. I used the Kenmore Ovation Stand Mixer to do a lot of the hard work like kneading the pizza dough and even shredding the chicken. I start meal prep right after grocery shopping because all of the ingredients are on the counter.
- Prep and cook Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken. Start Power Hour with slow cooker ranch chicken because it takes the longest to cook. Kids can measure ¼ cup buttermilk into a liquid measuring cup, and then pour into a slow cooker. Making a DIY ranch seasoning gives little hands practice using measuring spoons. Scoop the seasonings into a small bowl and mix to combine. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the seasoning over the buttermilk. Use tongs to nestle the chicken into a single layer in the slow cooker. Kids can scatter cubes of cream cheese over the chicken. Cover and slow-cook on high for 1 to 2 hours, or until a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165oF. Make the dressing for the slaw in a lidded jar. Twist the lid on tight then kids can shake to mix. Refrigerate the dressing.
- Make Pizza Dough for Muffin Tin Pizza Bombs. Use this recipe to mix the pizza dough. Dissolve the yeast in warm water in the bowl of the Kenmore Ovation Stand Mixer. Once the yeast foams, turn the mixer on low, and add the flour and salt through the mixer’s pour-in top. Use the flat beater attachment to mix the flour, water, yeast, and salt into a shaggy dough, then switch to a dough hook and knead until the dough forms a smooth and tacky ball. Lightly coat the dough in olive oil and refrigerate in a lidded container.
- Bake Sweet Potato and Parmesan Muffins. Heat the oven to 375oF. Kids can safely add the dry ingredients through the pour-in top of the Kenmore Ovation Stand Mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment, mixing gently on low until combined. Kids that aren’t agile with a knife can use a box grater to help during meal prep (though they still need supervision!). Grate sweet potato, then add it through the top of the mixer to coat. Keep the mixer on low speed, pour in the milk, oil, and a beaten egg, and mix just until combined. Divide the batter into greased muffin wells and sprinkle the tops with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tin, and grease but do not wash the pan.
- Prep Smashed Potato Casserole. Kids can peel the potatoes and you can dice them. Add to a large pot and cover potatoes with cool water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender. Drain and transfer the potatoes to the bowl of the mixer with the yogurt and milk. Use the flat beater attachment on low speed to gently smash the potatoes. Kids can add the cheddar, shallots, salt, and pepper through the mixer’s pour-in top. Transfer the smashed potatoes to a broiler-safe 2 ½-quart baking dish and refrigerate.
- Bake Ham and Cheddar Lunch Box Muffins. Use the flat beater attachment to whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, garlic powder, baking soda, and salt together on low speed in the bowl of a mixer. Whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and 5 tablespoons melted butter together in a bowl, then, with the mixer on low, pour the wet mixture into the dry until just combined. Add the cheese, ham, and chives through the pour-in top and mix just until incorporated. Divide the batter into greased muffin tin and bake until brown, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack and refrigerate.
- Make Frozen Grape & Granola Bark. If the kids are old enough to use a knife, have them quarter the grapes. Kids can also measure and mix the yogurt, sweetener, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of the Kenmore Ovation Stand Mixer. Spread the yogurt mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with grapes and granola, then freeze. Once frozen, kids love to break the yogurt bark into shards. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.
- Mix Easy Skillet Meatloaf. Saute onion and garlic until deeply browned, then remove from the heat to cool slightly. Meanwhile, add eggs, milk, and Worcestershire sauce through the pour-in top of the mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment, and mix on low until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the sauteed onion and garlic, beef, and pork, and gently mix on low. Transfer the meatloaf mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Whip cream cheese. Kids can unwrap cream cheese and add it to the mixer. Whip with the flat beater attachment until light in texture and spreadable. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Do not wash the mixer’s bowl.
- Make filling for Muffin-Pan Spinach Lasagna. Kids love flexing their muscles, squeezing thawed, frozen spinach through a clean tea towel. Keep squeezing until no liquid remains. Add the spinach, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, salt, and pepper to the bowl of the mixer, and mix with the flat beater attachment until ingredients are incorporated. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. There’s no need to wash the bowl of the mixer yet.
- Shred Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken. Use tongs to transfer the cooked ranch chicken to the bowl of the mixer. Turn the mixer on low and shred the chicken using the flat beater attachment. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
Frozen Grape & Granola Yogurt Bark: Serve yogurt topped with frosty grapes and granola clusters straight from the freezer for a complete breakfast for the kids.
Ham and Cheddar Lunch Box Muffins, fruit, and vegetables: Ham and cheddar is a classic childhood combination and mixing them into muffins puts you at star student status. Lunches are easy to pack this week — just pair a muffin with fruit and veggie favorites. File these muffins under “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?”
- Monday, Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken Sandwiches: Kids and ranch seasoning are a perfect match (though adults love it too!). Ranch chicken sandwiches are a simple and crowd-pleasing start to the week’s dinner queue. Toss bagged broccoli slaw with the Power Hour-prepped ranch vinaigrette. Gently warm the pulled ranch chicken, then pile it high on Kaiser buns, adding plenty of slaw. I’m skipping the bacon to streamline my dinner routine, but if there are a few smoky rashers lingering from Sunday brunch, stack the slices on top.
- Tuesday, Easy Skillet Meatloaf, Smashed Potato Casserole and green beans: Heat the oven to 350oF when you get home from work. Take the potato casserole and meatloaf mixture out of the refrigerator to take the chill off while the oven heats. Press both into an even layer in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Brush the top with barbecue sauce (or ketchup if the kids prefer). Bake the meatloaf and potato casserole for about 30 minutes, making sure that the center of the meatloaf reaches 165oF. Switch the oven to broil and broil each dish for 2 to 3 minutes until browned. While the meatloaf and potato casserole bake, sauté or steam green beans using this recipe to add color to the dinner plate.
- Wednesday, Snack Platter Dinner: Sweet Potato and Parmesan Muffins with whipped cream cheese, sliced veggies, and fruit: Between PTA meetings, soccer practice, and after-school clubs, there’s at least one night every week where sitting down together at the dinner table is impossible. Snack platter dinner to the rescue! This simple solution starts with the Sweet Potato and Parmesan Muffins made during Power Hour. Split the muffins and toast, then spread with whipped cream cheese that is soft and spreadable straight from the fridge. Finish the platter with fruit and vegetable favorites from the fridge and let your family serve themselves.
- Thursday, Muffin-Pan Spinach Lasagna: Boiling water for pasta always takes some time, so fill a large pot and set it over high heat before you do anything else. While you’re at the stove, heat the oven to 350oF. Cook the lasagna noodles for 2 minutes less than the package instructs. Drain, cool slightly, and help kids practice their scissor skills by cutting the noodles in half with kitchen shears. Show them how to follow the recipe, layering the halved noodles, sauce, and the prepared spinach-ricotta filling in a greased muffin tin. Top with a final spoonful of sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake for a final 3 minutes.
- Friday, Pizza Dough for Muffin-Tin Pizza Bombs: Friday night is always pizza night. Take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator and set at room temperature for an hour. Pull out that muffin tin once again and divide the dough into 12 portions, using a scale is the most exact way to do this, but eyeballing it works just as well. Kids can flatten each piece of dough into a round, then top with a ½ teaspoon marinara sauce, a cube of mozzarella, and a pair of pepperoni slices. Resist the urge to overfill the pizza bombs, lest they explode in the oven! Pinch the dough rounds closed, dip in garlic butter, and transfer (seam side down!) to a greased muffin tin. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning to finish. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve with warm marinara sauce and a family movie.
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.