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Clever food prep tactics that make weekly meal planning a cinch

Liren is the founder and author of Kitchen Confidante that shares everything from simple family favorites to new creative culinary discoveries.

After a full weekend, Sunday afternoon is when my mind begins to shift to the week ahead. It's the time that I begin to consider what is going on in our family's schedule: school events and appointments for the kids, my husband's work schedule and my projects for the week.

This is when I begin to map things out, and review calendars. But there is one more thing I need to map out, all our meals.

Some weeks I am more organized than others; I really admire all you moms out there who are so diligent about meal planning. But at a minimum, I try to plan out at least three meals for the week, along with reinvented leftover meals in between. My strategy is to have a few meals in place, giving me the freedom to let inspiration lead me on the other days, or if it is too busy, have leftovers.

It doesn't take me too much time to get my ducks in a row. Just about an hour is all I need.

1. Start off by boiling eggs

Having a batch of hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator is always a godsend; they go in salads, or make for a quick lunch or snack throughout the week.

2. Prep for a roast chicken

I like to roast a chicken once a week; not only is it simple, but if there are any leftovers, I can do so much with them. Leftover roast chicken can go in soups, enchiladas, pot pies, chili and more. I can even prep the chicken on Sunday so that it is ready to pop in the oven on Monday. Butter the bird, season the cavity, add herbs and spices and truss it up; all the hard work is done. Letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight adds to the crispiness of the skin, definitely a bonus.

3. Prep for a slow-cooked meal

Slow cookers are essential; it's hard to believe I only added one to my arsenal just a year or so ago. Now I can't live without it. I can throw ingredients for a slow cooker meal into a zip-close bag on Sunday so that it's all ready the morning I choose to cook. This week, I went simple with a corned beef. Just add seasonings and seal up the bag.

4. Chop up veggies

Prep work is the most challenging during the week for me, because I am often interrupted during the dinner hour. So when I can take some time on Sunday to chop up veggies, I'm well on my way to an easier week. At a minimum, I prep the trio that seems to go in every dish: carrots, onions and celery. Between the chopped vegetables and leftovers of roast chicken, I've got the makings of a hearty chicken soup.

All this prep took just under an hour, but it was an hour very well spent. It makes my week go by so much smoother, and dinner prep so much faster. And the faster we can get seated around the dinner table, the happier my whole family will be.

Disclosure: This post is part of a collaboration with McCormick and SheKnows.

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