Tips For Prep Day

April 22, 2014

Prepday

We’ve been rockin’ the Sunday prep day since January when we dove head first into Cook Smarts. It has improved our family dynamics on the weeknights so much! More than just the time saved, I love how we have condensed the dishes we have to wash from multiple cutting boards, knives, colanders and things to just the cooking dishes each night. Washing the cutting board is one of my least favorites!

On Sundays we prep everything we can for the Cook Smarts recipes, but obviously you can do this if you do your own meal plan too. We do everything from vegetable chopping to garlic pressing to pesto, sauce and salad dressing mixing. We only leave the actual cooking for the weeknights. If it can be prepped, we do it in advance.

After a few months of prep days, I have learned a lot about improving the flow of things and have a few tips to share that have made our experience even easier.

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1.  Buy a set of glass prep bowls. (Or put the ones you got for your wedding to use!) These glass bowls didn’t get much use before now because we have a heavier duty set of mixing bowls we use for most kitchen tasks. I’ll admit I almost gave them away last year. I’m glad I didn’t because they now get used every week! We use every single one and fill them with everything from garlic to chopped vegetables. They can be microwaved if need be and are dishwasher safe, so they’re as multipurpose as they get. Also the glass makes spotting the right ingredients from the fridge door easier.

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2. Have a plastic wrap station. We used to toss the plastic wrap around the kitchen and it would get lost in the shuffle. Putting wrap on a bowl needs a good amount of space, so we’d also struggle to find a clear space to put our bowl. We now keep the plastic wrap on the edge of the counter and covering dishes is so much easier. If you don’t use plastic wrap, organize your food storage containers before you get started – not during!

3. Write yourself notes! Whether that’s on top of the plastic wrap itself or a piece of tape on your container lid, if you’re supposed to save some of the ingredients for the next night, a reminder will save you. I have made this mistake a few times, and now these notes help me remember when the next night’s recipe isn’t on my mind.

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4. Buy a rice cooker. Seriously, SO convenient! I love how hands off it is, and by the time we have finished all of our chopping the quinoa, rice, millet, farro, etc. is ready. We have this one and I have zero complaints. The timer feature is also super handy if we do wait until the day of to cook a grain.

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5. Embrace the garbage bowl. Rachael Ray made the garbage bowl popular, and we now use one on prep day. While I didn’t find it worth it for a single dinner, when you’re chopping a week’s worth of veggies at once, the tossed bits add up. Better yet – it makes taking the scraps out to the compost a piece of cake.

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6. Use your food processor strategically. And your cutting boards and any other cookware you’ll need to reuse. This is to minimize washing between steps! For example, this day we had to shred cheese, carrots, cabbage and make a pesto. We sliced the veggies first since they were easily dumped out with minimal residue, then we grated the cheese (which wouldn’t interfere with the the pesto going in next) and finally we made the pesto, which would obviously impart the most flavor into anything that had to go in next.

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7. Chop and freeze herbs for later. This is more a general cooking tip, but if your recipe calls for 1/4 a bunch and you have lots leftover, freezing pre-chopped herbs for later has worked well for us! {Note this just had parsley inside…I just had fun with the label.}

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Three bloggers who do an amazing job at prep day are Lindsay, The Lean Green Bean, Gina, The Fitnessista and Tracy, Shutterbean . Lindsay is an RD and her prep day inspiration photos are amazing! She not only preps ingredients but also cooks a bunch of things too. Gina features her prep days in her meal prep posts that she writes on Sundays. I admire how she makes snacks (like her Amazeballs!) from scratch and saves money on store-bought bars. And Tracy takes gorgeous photos and makes an impressive amount of food for the upcoming week!

Lean Green Bean // Fitnessista

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Please share your own prep day tips and photos!

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{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jackie April 22, 2014 at 7:32 am

I need to prep more! My boyfriend does it all on Sundays and it is so convenient!

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2 Ali @ Peaches and Football April 22, 2014 at 7:40 am

I definitely need to be a better prepper too. I have that rice cooker on my wedding registry and I hope I get it!! :-)

I think having a menu planned is also as important as prepping because you can better leverge ingredients and it saves time coming home from work and poking around the fridge and cupboard trying to find something to eat. That’s been helping us a lot. Plus, then I can plan meals that will utilize all the ingredients I buy because I hate using only half of something and seeing the rest go to waste.

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3 jenn from much to my delight April 22, 2014 at 7:44 am

Ditto on the rice cooker! I do batches of quinoa and brown rice on Sundays too. It’s also great for making quick, lump-free polenta, and then I just saute whatever veggies I’ve prepped and put them over the polenta for an easy and filling dinner. I always roast a big batch of chopped and seasoned sweet potatoes and boil an organic chicken, and just pair those up with various bits and bobs (avocado, scoop of greek yogurt pureed with garlic/herbs). Prep days save me during busy weeks! Terrific post!

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4 Anele @ Success Along the Weigh April 22, 2014 at 7:58 am

Great tips! Will have to incorporate when I have more elaborate meals the put together for the week.

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5 Angela Gilmore April 22, 2014 at 7:59 am

This is very inspiring! We are terrible at prep and it really makes a difference when we take the time to do it! Thanks for the tips!

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6 Melody April 22, 2014 at 8:04 am

Have you, or any readers, had success freezing cilantro or green onions? Those are probably the two fresh herbs I use most often yet also waste the most. Would love to wash, chop, and freeze when I get home from the store if the quality would still be good. Thanks! :)

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7 KathEats April 22, 2014 at 8:20 am

I think both would probably do well! Most herbs freeze well

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8 Chantal April 22, 2014 at 5:12 pm

I’ve frozen cilantro and it works if you’re going to cook it later… It comes out a little dark and wilted so it’s not great for a pretty garnish, but the taste is fine!

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9 Shannon April 22, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I use a tonne of green onions and parsley or cilantro….and found I was chucking it out too. Instead of freezing it though (which is an awesome idea!), I put green onions in nearly everything we make until they are gone…scrambled eggs in the am, sautéed meats for lunch, pop them into the stirfry, throw them into the cauli rice. Same with the cilantro although slightly more carefully since it has a stronger flavour. I’ve been getting to the end of the week lately with no green onions and only the stalks left of my bunches of parsley and cilantro.

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10 Nicole April 23, 2014 at 8:40 am

The method I use that works wonderfully is to chop the herbs, divide them up in an ice cube tray, and cover with water or olive oil. Then one they’re frozen, move the herb cubes to a freezer bag. Then they’re automatically portioned for cooking, too! I’ve done this with cilantro, basil, parsley, chives, etc….I think it would work fine with green onions, too. Freezing basil with olive oil makes it so you can make fresh pesto anytime.

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11 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats April 22, 2014 at 8:06 am

I try to utilize tools similarly so I only have to wash them once, makes it a lot easier especially when I have a tiny sink and no dishwasher. Since I pack lunches for the week I usually make that meal on my prep day and portion it out into containers so that I can just grab it in the morning and go!

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12 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More April 22, 2014 at 8:13 am

I notice a HUGE difference when I prep on Sundays. Even if it’s as simple as chopping celery that I can eat as a snack throughout the week. For whatever reason, grabbing a few stalks, washing and cutting them seems like the biggest pain in the butt come snack time but when I do it on Sundays, it takes me 2 minutes and I’m set for the week!

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13 Lauren @ The Highlands Life April 22, 2014 at 8:19 am

I totally need to make Sunday a prep day but Sunday’s are always so crazy with my husband being a worship pastor that we all sort of veg that afternoon. But I know it would be so worth it to get things prepped to save time the rest of the week!

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14 Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean April 22, 2014 at 8:26 am

great tips! Thanks for the shoutout!

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15 Shel@PeachyPalate April 22, 2014 at 8:33 am

Great tips! I live and die by using my food processor strategically!

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16 Becky@TheSavedRunner April 22, 2014 at 8:37 am

Great tips! Since my husband and I got married last June I have been doing food prep ever since, and I have improved in many ways over the last ten months. I do many of the same things you just mentioned you do.

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17 Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio April 22, 2014 at 8:39 am

Thanks for sharing these tips!! I’ve noticed a huge difference when I at least prep my vegetables on Sunday.

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18 Kate April 22, 2014 at 8:57 am

This newly wed-to-be so appreciates this post! Meal planning is something I feel a bit nervous about.

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19 Ali April 22, 2014 at 8:59 am

Sunday food prep is a lifesaver. It does make weekdays so much better. I don’t know what it is about washing the cutting board but I hate that job too. I also really dislike washing the food processor, so making big batches of food definitely lessens these tasks.

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20 Marie @ My Personal Finance Journey April 22, 2014 at 9:00 am

I usually go to the supermarket every Sunday and it’s also my prep day! That making a notes is so cute, I should try that one too!

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21 Marjie April 22, 2014 at 9:32 am

I start things off by filling up the sink with the hottest water possible because I wash as I go. I also clean out the refrigerator the night before I shop that way I not only have an organized space for the prepped food but I also know what is left over that can be used the following week. Same goes with my pantry. I hate starting my food prep only to realize that I am 1 teaspoon short of a spice!
Garbage bowl is definitely your friend and your gardens too- easy to take those scraps to the compost pile!

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22 Catherine April 22, 2014 at 9:49 am

Very helpful tips, Kath. My fiance and I started using Cook Smarts but really need to utilize Sundays as a prep day. We’ve both had to work later recently, and getting home from work at 8:30 is super late to start cooking from scratch. But having things prepped ahead of time will definitely save us some time during the week. Thanks!

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23 Alex @ Kenzie Life April 22, 2014 at 10:16 am

Thanks for this, Kath! I love posts like this. I’ve been getting better at prepping and meal planning this year. Since I cook only for myself, I try to find ways to get two meals out of each one that I prepare. If I make some almond-crusted tofu, I’ll eat them chicken-finger style with ketchup and BBQ sauce one day and then have it on top of salad or pasta the next. Not the most earth-shattering idea, but finding ways to get variety out of one dish has been helpful for me.

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24 KathEats April 22, 2014 at 10:30 am

Those sound delish!

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25 Becky April 22, 2014 at 10:33 am

I simply cannot function in a kitchen without a garbage bowl.

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26 Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit April 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

I love these tips, especially writing on the plastic wrap, that’s so smart!!! Meal prepping on Sunday is actually one of my favorite things to do – I find it therapeutic!

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27 Sarah April 22, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Great tips! But don’t veggies and fruit lose nutrients when cut up so much in advance?

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28 KathEats April 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Not significantly. Just found this article that cites some research and is a good explanation.

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29 KathEats April 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm

{Good concern though!}

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30 mary @ minutes per mile April 22, 2014 at 1:16 pm

instead of wasting $$ on saran wrap, i started using these permanent sticky bowl covers: http://www.amazon.com/Norpro-529-Silicone-Stretch-Covers/dp/B00AFPU21C
they wash pretty easily and are huge time savers, too!

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31 KathEats April 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm

those are cool!

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32 Mary April 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Awesome tip about freezing the herbs. I hate that we’re always wasting fresh herbs. What about basil? Does that do alright in the freezer?

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33 KathEats April 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm

I haven’t tried it, but I think if you’re going to cook with it it would be fine. Less ideal for garnishing tomatoes and things.

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34 Lori April 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm

This is great! I can imagine how much time it saves every night. However, it’s just not something I could get in to. I do my grocery shopping on Sunday and typically have some prepping/cooking to do for my weekday lunches (I work outside of the home), and if I want to make some granola or bars or something, that usually happens on Sunday, too. Between all that and not to mention cooking and cleaning up from breakfast and lunch, I feel like it’d tie up my whole day! It’d be dinner time by the time I got all of that done. I do plan all of our meals though, and have been for about 10 years, and that really saves my sanity, $ and time. Before I meal planned I was at the store all the time

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35 Cassy @ On The Inside April 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm

When I prep, I like to make sure I have prepared at least one thing in every macronutrient group. That way, if I need to throw stuff together in a hurry, I know it’s balanced and healthy. So, if I make salmon that will count towards my healthy fats and protein. Or my roasted broccoli will count as my carbohydrates.

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36 Elaine April 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm

I always dread the weekend prep, but they always make such a difference during the week! Thanks for the tips!

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37 Stacey April 22, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Curious if I’m the only one having problems seeing your new blog posts? I don’t use any readers, as everyone is just bookmarked. When I go to your website each day it will show a previous post and then boom one day 4 will be on here. I was just reading Caitlin’s HTP blog and she mentioned your Prep Day post so I clicked on it which is how I got here… Maybe this is a case of ‘operator error’ :)

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38 KathEats April 22, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I’ve had a lot of reports of trouble over the past few months related to caching, so you’re not the only one! But I think we have resolved all of the issues on our side. If you push F5 on your computer it should clear the cache and reload the page. You could also check your browser settings to see if you can change it so it doesn’t save as much in the cache. If you’re still having issues, please let me know!

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39 Tonya April 23, 2014 at 9:17 am

Yep. Shift F5 a couple of times usually does the trick!

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40 jen April 23, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I’m on a tablet, so no f5 button, and I’m still having this problem. Any tips for me?

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41 KathEats April 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I’m not sure how you clear the cache on a tablet – anyone know?

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42 Alexa April 24, 2014 at 2:35 pm

I’m having the same issue on my Mac. No F5 button, and this is the last post that shows from the site.

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43 KathEats April 24, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Can you manually clear your cache in your browser? I know Google Chrome has this option.

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44 Shannon April 22, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I definitely use a food-prep system, couldn’t get by without it. By Thursday after work I have the whole next week’s menu planned (from Sunday to Saturday) and can work in any after work events or on call shifts. I do all groceries on Thursday, defrost anything frozen on Friday night and then cook for NO MORE THAN 3 HOURS on Saturday. If there are any little leftover bits to do, they get done on Sunday.

I try to cram as MUCH prep into three hours as possible…and if all the meal prep wouldn’t fit in that time, I revise the menu in advance so that it does. I cook EVERYTHING that I can in advance….and usually only spend 20 minutes making dinner each night.

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45 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs April 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Great tips! I definitely need to get back into prep day — I’ve been slacking… :)

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46 Leah @ goodnightcheese April 22, 2014 at 8:21 pm

I can see why this would be such a time-saver. I’m trying to at least get into a habit of washing and chopping a few heads of lettuce to make salad prep easier.
Just an FYI, your bottom ad is McDonald’s. Thought I’d let you know since it doesn’t seem to fit with your blog’s theme.

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47 tracy April 22, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Thanks for the love, Kath!!! I love your idea of writing notes on top of a plastic wrapped bowl. Genius! xo

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48 KathEats April 23, 2014 at 6:17 am

: )

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49 Polly @ Tasty Food Project April 23, 2014 at 1:27 am

I have the same rice cooker in black! I agree, it is so convenient to have when you have tons of other food to prep and chop!

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50 char eats greens April 23, 2014 at 8:22 am

I JUST got back into meal planning and prepping is my next step. I was actually just thinking about it the other day and realizing how much time I spent chopping individually each day. It’s silly! I want to spend more time with my baby girl, so I’m totally going to start prepping one day a week, so I can spend less time in the kitchen!

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51 gina (fitnessista) April 23, 2014 at 9:50 am

thank you so much for including me in the roundup! i love these prep tips :) we’ve gotten a bit out of the habit since the move, but i’m excited to get back into it
hope you and your fam have a great week <3 glad little M is feeling better
xoxo

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52 Danielle April 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I would love to do a Sunday Prep but have found that by the end of the week some of our foods are not the freshest. Have you had this issue or do you have any tips that you could pass along to get everything tasting great even on Friday and Saturday? Thanks!

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53 KathEats April 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I haven’t had this issue, but we use everything by Thursday. I imagine if you went a whole week it might get worse over time.

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54 Rebecca April 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I am such a strong believer in prep day!! It saves so much time and makes evenings during the week so much more enjoyable and relaxing. I love the garbage bowl idea and making notes to yourself. My other prep day tip would be that if I am making a pot of soup or a batch of veggie burgers I always make extra and and keep them in the freezer for next week or whenever you need it. This is also a huge time saver for me!

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55 Amy April 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Hello,
Great ideas for Prep Days!
I want to definitely ask you something though…what BRAND of Prep bowls do you have. I looked on Amazon at a few different ones, but I particularly like yours. Can you contact me to let me know?
Thanks!
~Amy

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56 KathEats April 23, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Mine are Crate and Barrel

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57 Amy April 23, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Hello Kath,
Thanks for letting me know! I will check out Crate and Barrel then, as well as checking out Amazon and some of my local stores, too.
Thanks again!
~Amy :-)

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58 KathEats April 23, 2014 at 8:21 pm

: ) good luck!

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59 Nico April 30, 2014 at 1:57 am

Amy,
You should check out Pyrex bowls. You can get sets of them most anywhere (even my local Costco stocks them!) and they’re perfect because they’re glass AND they come with secure lids. More economical than using saran wrap all the time (though you’ll have to write on a post-it if you want to use Kath’s tip re: prep notes). They will probably be more reasonably priced than Crate and Barrel bowls, too. ;-)
-Nico

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60 Alana April 23, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Prepping on Sunday makes our week run much more smoothly! Hey, could I ask you a quick question about how you added the text to the first picture on this post? Are you doing that in lightroom or some other way? Thanks!

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61 KathEats April 23, 2014 at 4:03 pm

In photoshop elements. Try pic monkey too!

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62 Jo April 24, 2014 at 7:24 am

I also do prep day on Sunday, started back doing it since first of December. It definitely keeps me on track! I also have list on counter of meals/sides to choose from each night when I get home from work. And I keep list of snacks there too so that when I go into the kitchen and not sure what I want, I can look at the list and choose something healthy. This system works really well for me – have lost 27 pounds since December!

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63 KathEats April 24, 2014 at 7:34 am

Wow Congrats!

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64 Ttrockwood April 26, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Why are the broccoli stems in your garbage bowl????!
They are delicious! Peel off the outer fiberous layer and slice the stem into coins to rat raw or chunks to cook with the rest of your broccoli

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65 John @ Garage Gyms April 29, 2014 at 8:10 am

I just had to say that I have that rice cooker, and it makes the best damn rice ever. Listen to Kath, every kitchen needs one of these, prepping or not.

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66 Andrea @ pencils and pancakes April 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Great tips! Especially the food processor one!!

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67 Clancy Cash Harrison MS, RD, LDN May 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm

I really need to get a rice cooker. We also love to plan on the weekends- it helps reduce the stress during the busiest weeks. I am enjoying your blog and a new follower!

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