Spaghetti and meatballs. Perhaps this is one of the meals you chose for this week’s dinners. Maybe you’ve decided to save money and buy spaghetti in bulk to eat for dinner the entire week.
Or, this could be the meal your child chose to make for their assigned dinner this week, and you’re trying to plan out what you’ll need to buy and how to best teach them how to prepare it.
Or this could even be irrelevant to your specific food choice for the week and just an excellent example of how to meal prep!
Whatever the case, read on to learn how to prepare spaghetti and meatballs as part of your meal prep for this week. We’ll also discuss meal prep tips for busy families, reasons to meal prep, and more!
What Is Meal Prep?
Meal prep is preparing your meals in advance, in a few hours of free time after grocery shopping, when you make all of that week’s meals at once and store them for easy access throughout the week.
With meal prep, you don’t have to worry about food throughout your busy week because it’s all in containers in the fridge, ready to be pulled out and reheated at a moment’s notice!
Quick and efficient meal prep needs to plan your week’s meals in advance.
Meal Prep for Spaghetti and Meatballs
Create Your Shopping List
First, you’ll need to plan out what exact ingredients to buy and how much of each to buy.
For spaghetti and meatballs, typically, you’ll need the noodles, sauce, and meatballs.
You’ll want to have some vegetables mixed in or on the side to hit all the nutrition and food groups you need daily (at least two cups of vegetables a day).
The specifics of each food item are all up to you – if you like plain flour pasta noodles, buy those, or if you like chickpea noodles, soybean noodles, or black bean noodles for the extra protein, get those instead!
You can get standard marinara pasta sauce, pesto sauce, or fettuccine sauce.
The meatballs can be either homemade from ground meat, onions, and spices or premade from the supermarket freezer.
(You can see the serving sizes on the packaging at the store.)
Prep the Meal
Now that you’ve planned out your menu precisely and bought the ingredients with enough for each person to have a daily serving, you can begin cooking.
Spaghetti and Meatballs Meal Prep Instructions:
- Boil water in a pot, add the pasta, then cover and cook for as long as it needs to soften.
- Mix meatball ingredients, shape and bake your meatballs, or follow the instructions for heating your frozen meatballs. If you’re using premade meatballs, we recommend cooking/reheating them the way the package indicates during your meal prep, so they are ready to go when that dinner comes.
- Prepare your veggies any way you need to – slicing them, steaming them, or cooking them.
- Leave your sauce in the jar so it can be fresh the day you eat.
- When everything is finished being cooked and prepared, store the spaghetti and meatballs in one container, the vegetables in another, and the sauce in your pantry.
When the time comes to eat, all you’ll have to do is dish out servings, put sauce on the top of the spaghetti, and microwave it, and your meal is ready to go in under five minutes!
Reasons to Meal Prep
College students often criticize the stereotypical “starving college kid” image, saying that the reason they’re starving isn’t that they can’t afford food but because they don’t have the time to make it.
Parents may feel the same way, with crazy days full of errands and activities or full-time job schedules, feeling that they don’t have time to eat breakfast and they’ll have to go out during their lunch break.
They may bring home takeout for dinner because they have no time to make a meal for their kids.
This is a potentially unhealthy lifestyle and should be prevented at all costs!
We want to discourage resorting to fast food meals every other day, getting your lunch from vending machines, or just going without eating simply because you don’t have the time.
Or, perhaps you are dedicated to the idea of your children eating home-cooked meals but are extremely overwhelmed and stressed about your weekly tasks and responsibilities, especially because you need to make time to feed your kids.
You may be okay with skipping a meal or two, but the idea of your children going hungry is one you cannot stand. Yet you don’t have the time, and that fact is freaking you out.
How are you supposed to juggle providing for your family by being away from them and making sure that they are taken care of while you are working? This may make you sacrifice essential time you need to care for yourself, such as sleep or your meals, to make sure your kids have food to eat.
How will you be able to take care of your kids if you don’t take care of yourself? Because if this keeps going on, you’re going to burn out eventually, and then what happens?
That’s what meal prep is all about.
How Busy Families Can Successfully Meal Prep
Enlist the Help of Your Kids
Why put the whole meal-making process on your shoulders? Have your kids help with meal prep!
It’s a great way to teach your kids how to cook, which will help them learn to be self-sufficient and give them cooking skills that will be essential in the future when they’re making food all on their own.
Cooking doesn’t have to be tedious and painstaking – while you cook, you can talk, listen to music or an audiobook together, or watch TV! You could even have one person read a book while the others cook.
Let Your Kids Choose a Meal to Prep
You can further your kids’ sense of leadership and responsibility by letting them choose a meal for the week.
They can each pick what dinner they want to have that week, write out the ingredients on your grocery list, and then make it when you return from the store. (Or they can come with you and have a little treasure hunt in search of the ingredients they need for their meal!)
This type of responsibility can be exciting, as they get a say in what they eat during the week when typically they have to eat whatever their parents choose. This can also make them proud when everyone eats and enjoys the food they chose and prepared.
More Tips for Successful Meal Prep
Assign a Specific Meal for Dinner
It would be best if you made sure each day of the week has a specific dinner.
That way, you know exactly what to buy at the store, exactly what to make when you are meal prepping, and the kids know exactly what to pull out on Monday night for dinner while you’re at work.
If your kids don’t know that it’s spaghetti for dinner on Monday, they may begin to dip into whichever dish they think looks good and mess up the meal plan for the week, eating too much too early or leaving leftovers no one wants to eat.
Everyone’s having spaghetti tonight. That’s it, no questions asked!
Use Leftovers for Lunch
Breakfasts and lunches don’t necessarily have to be new meals.
You can do muffins or cereal all week for breakfast and sandwiches or dinner leftovers all week for lunches. But you’ll want to make sure that they are both healthy and something that can be easy to pull out and eat at a moment’s notice.
If a meal has to be made the morning of for it to taste good, you’ll want to think of something else. But, if it has a high sugar content and no nutritional value, you’ll want to reconsider that option too.
It’s all a balancing act and an ongoing experiment until you find which foods your family likes best, which ones are the best to meal prep and store, and which are the healthiest but still taste great!
Only certain kinds of cereals can be trusted to have the nutritional value you want.
Homemade granola eaten as a cereal or with Greek yogurt would be your best option, homemade muffins with whole grains, flaxseed, and a fruit component (blueberry, apple and cinnamon, pumpkin, banana).
Rather than sweetening your food with granular sugar, opt for natural varieties such as raw honey or pure maple syrup. And even with natural sugars, you’ll want to use as little as possible. Sugar is sugar!