One of the easiest ways to help your family eat their recommended servings of produce each day is to meal-prep vegetables so they’re ready to go. Plus, meal-prepping vegetables can be one of the best ways to reduce food waste. Don’t worry though—it can be quick and easy!
How to Meal Prep Vegetables
I know that many people go all in on their meal prep and cook entire meals for the week. But I’ve found that as a busy mom, I need a quicker method that still saves me time come weeknights. For me, that’s simply to prep my produce. (Or some of it, anyway!) It’s much less time-consuming than cooking full meals ahead!
Cleaning and chopping vegetables can take a lot of time and produce can so easily go uneaten—and to waste—in our fridges each week. But by getting it ready to dump into a pan or pot, you can make it MUCH easier to actually use it up. Less food waste, more veggies for your family, and less of your hard-earned dollars wasted, too!
How to Meal Prep Produce
Here’s a look at the process I use to prep my produce most weeks so it’s ready for me to use in the moment.
- Sort produce by what can be prepped ahead and what can’t. So while I can’t peel sweet potatoes ahead of time since I know they’ll brown, I can chop broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, onions, cauliflower, and romaine lettuce, for example.
- Wash and thoroughly dry produce. Microfiber kitchen towels work best for this.
- Peel and chop the produce so it’s ready to cook.
- Place into airtight storage containers in amounts that work for a meal for your family.
- Plan to use softer and/or moister veggies like bell peppers and mushrooms first in the order of the week ahead.
- Store firm veggies up to 5 days in the fridge.
TIP: Vegetables that brown quickly including potatoes and sweet potatoes should not be meal-prepped.
How can I ensure that my veggies don’t go bad?
The best tip I can share to store your produce efficiently is to make sure it is totally dry. So if you wash vegetables ahead of time, be sure to let them air-dry thoroughly and/or pat them dry as needed. You can also line your containers with thin kitchen towels, cloth napkins, or paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Lining your containers is advised for vegetables like bell peppers, which can give off moisture.
When I store greens or salad in the fridge, I always add a paper towel to the bag to ensure that the leaves stay dry and moisture-free.
What are the best containers to store meal-prepped vegetables in?
I like to use either quart-size mason jars or quart-size BPA-free storage containers. Both hold about 4 cups of chopped veggies, which is a nice amount for a family of 4-5. You can also use quart- or gallon-size plastic or reusable storage bags.
(My Freezer Containers may be useful here, too.)
How long does meal prepping take?
When I prep my produce ahead, it usually takes me about 30-45 minutes to do 4-5 meals worth. I don’t always have that time though, so some weekends I just prep one vegetable for one meal—which I still find to be super helpful.
Any little bit means a little less to do when the kids are home after school and daycare and are hungry, tired, and wanting my attention. And, it’s one less impediment to helping me serve up plenty of produce! Plus, it just makes meals and snacks much easier.
How can I cook my meal prepped vegetables?
Here are my favorite kid-friendly vegetable recipes, which should give you lots of ideas to serve up those veggies. And if there’s anything left at the end of the week, you can always roast them, which is a wonderful way to use up a lot of veggies.
Best Tips for Meal Prepping Success
- When you get home from the supermarket or farmer’s market, add a paper towel or cotton napkin to any bags of produce or greens that have visible moisture. This will help absorb that moisture and reduce the likelihood of spoilage.
- Wash, peel, and chop produce ahead of time to store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Try carrots, broccoli, onions, bell pepper, cauliflower, green beans, and celery.
- Avoid cutting or peeling vegetables ahead of time if they brown easily, such as sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and avocado.
Do you meal prep your produce? I’d love to hear your tips, too, so please comment below to share!
This post was first published December 2019.