Meal Prep + Toddler Food

I have posted similar things before in the past but since the kids ages & tastes are always changing, our menu is as well so I thought I would elaborate a little bit on what we are up to in the kitchen. With life much busier now, making meals quick & easy is super important, but I also want to make sure that the kids are getting a good balance of healthy foods. Because we never say no to pancakes & ice cream around here.

For reference, Harper is 3.5 & Eloise is 16 months, but she has been eating all of this since she was 12 months old for the most part. Also, out of nowhere, Eloise seems to have developed some sort of strawberry allergy. She used to eat fresh strawberries at least once or twice a day, but while she was cutting her recent teeth we stopped giving them to her because she was getting such bad diaper rash. Her face turned really red & blotchy about three weeks ago after eating a strawberry yogurt pop, and again two weeks ago after eating strawberry ice cream. We decided to not give her any strawberry flavored foods, thinking maybe it was something artificial causing it, but sure enough, she had another reaction this weekend after eating a fresh strawberry. So currently cutting strawberries out of her diet until we chat with the doctor.

Below is a rundown of our basic menu that we rotate through during the week, I usually save new recipes or more complicated stuff for the weekends. And I don’t make all of this stuff ahead of time, just a few meals a week is a huge help.

Breakfast

Pancakes that I can make ahead on weekends & freeze, easy to pop in the toaster or in the microwave, top them with bananas & blueberries.
French Toast, I find this to be a pretty easy breakfast using a large iron skillet so you can make them all at once, it’s one of the girls favorite things so we make this often.
Freezer waffles, I still swear by the Kashi 7 Grain waffles, we love them with peanut butter or almond butter, or my favorite, Nutella!
Overnight Oats
Granola Bars or cereal & yogurt, especially if we are trying to get out the door quick to go somewhere, this is a quick & easy breakfast. 
The girls also love scrambled eggs, but I usually don’t make these during the week because they are messy (I also hate cleaning egg pans) so we save egg & bacon breakfasts for the weekends. 
Lunch
Grilled Cheese (add deli meat like ham or turkey)
Pasta (we love spinach & cheese tortellini with tomato sauce for an easy lunch)
Hot Dogs with mac or a veggie. I love hot dogs, but have never given them to the girls until finding these applegate ones with a not so scary ingredient list. I also get nervous about choking on hot dogs so I cut them into really tiny pieces. They love steamed edamame or green beans with them.
Chicken quesadillas (using shredded chicken made ahead of time) + avocado
Soup, crackers & cheese cubes
Fish sticks/filets with rice or a veggie. My girls LOVE this, they will probably ask for it more than any other lunch. This is my favorite breaded fish recipe & can be made ahead of time to freeze.
Snacks at Home
Apple slices & peanut butter or almond butter
Carrots & hummus (Harper’s favorite!)
Yogurt or frozen yogurt bars (fun to make our own!)
Mini pretzel sticks with hummus or peanut butter
Bananas (we seriously go through 20 bananas a week in our house) 

Snacks on the go (we use these little snack containersto minimize the mess)
Cheddar Puffs (my kids are obsessed with Pirates Booty!)
Animal crackers or Annie’s bunny grahams
Goldfish
Dried Fruit (bananas & apples are their favorite)

Dinner
Chicken Noodle Soup (chop veggies during meal prep, use shredded chicken made ahead of time)
Lasagna (make sauce during meal prep, use no-boil noodles & freeze, all you have to do is throw in the oven)
Chicken Fried Rice (I use this recipe, but I use shredded chicken that I have cooked ahead of time)
Homemade Pizza
Carnitas or BBQ Pulled Pork (crockpot)
Maid-Rites (ground beef + can of beef consomme soup, make ahead in crockpot, serve on hamburger buns, here is another recipe, a bit more complicated but also tastes amazing!)
Chicken Tacos, Fajitas or Enchiladas (chop veggies during meal prep & use shredded chicken made ahead of time, make homemade taco seasoning in bulk to add when cooking OR use crockpot to make the entire meal that day by throwing chicken breasts, salsa, seasoning & beans into crockpot & cooking all day until the chicken can be shredded with a fork). I love this oven taco recipe.
Ham & Cheese Sliders (recipe)
Stuffed Peppers (make meat, rice & sauce ahead of time during meal prep & freeze)

To make these meals easier, I will make shredded chicken for the week on Sundays in the crockpot (8 chicken breasts + one box of chicken stock for 6 hours) & then put it in the freezer to use one meal at a time. I plan for lasagna & stuffed peppers in the same week so I can cook the ground beef & sauce all at once, then split it for the two meals. Ham & cheese sliders and homemade pizza can be prepared the night before, or even at naptime, and kept in the fridge until it is time to cook. All veggies & fruit are cut during meal prep & stored in the fridge, and I try to make meals that use a lot of the same ingredients so nothing is wasted, like using chopped celery for both chicken noodle soup & chicken salad.

I mentioned before, there are a ton of resources for meal prep & planning out there, especially on Pinterest or blogs that are dedicated to this topic. This is just a quick rundown of how we do it (sorry it is so long!) but hopefully you can find something a little bit helpful! πŸ™‚ And as always, be sure to share your tips, tricks or recipes, I love hearing what others have on their meal planning menu! XO
20

53 Comments

  • Reply
    Amanda @ More Like Me
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My mom friends and I just started a Facebook group to share meal planning and recipe ideas. I am going to share this!

  • Reply
    Allison Cooley
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    I love maid rites. My dad is from Iowa so we had these all the time growing up. We used a fancy double boiler thing to steam the ground beef. Also have you heard of FinBites? They make cutting food into bite size prices super easy.

    'Tis Our Life Blog

  • Reply
    Erica @ Whimsical September
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this! My daughter is 21 months old, and we've had the hardest time lately getting her to fill her belly. I refused to give her junk just to get her to eat, but it's so tough when she goes to bed with little in her belly. I appreciate some of these suggestions and am going to save this post for when I got to the grocery store next. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Jenny
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Thanks for this post! My 3 year old is about to start (5 mornings a week!) preschool & I'll be there too, working in another classroom. Which means I need to get my meal prep shit together.
    I had a similar strawberry allergy as a child (no anaphylaxis, but red blotchy hives). Luckily, I've outgrown it as an adult, so there's hope for Eloise!
    Also, kashi waffles are amazing, I need to try with Nutella!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Wow! This is awesome and so helpful! Meal planning is REALLY where I struggle. I have a 3 yr old and an almost 2 yr old (both girls). They just started daycare FT and are fed breakfast and lunch there, thank goodness. Dinners are salads, frozen pizzas, chicken and rice, shredded bbq chicken sandwiches, ham and cheese sliders, pasta, etc. All easy stuff. I'm trying to get more creative and your post was super helpful!!

    Thanks! Hope three is treating you well!! I struggle with two LOL but…I do want more! πŸ™‚

    – Sarah http://www.thefrugalmillionaireblog.com

  • Reply
    Ria B.
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Can you please tell us how do make your shredded chicken?

  • Reply
    Allison Walls
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    My kids love tortellini with pesto sauce. So easy, just like with the red sauce!

  • Reply
    Am
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Some great ideas here, thanks! Definitely going to try that fish stick recipe.

    I recently bought these for my little guy: http://www.amazon.com/FoodWorks-Silicone-Maker-Molds-Popsicle/dp/B00D9HQ30W

    We mix whole milk plain yogurt (less sugar than the flavored kind, just our personal choice) with any diced fruit sitting around – especially any about to go bad – and pop them in the freezer (overnight for frozen solid, an hour or so to make it slightly icy but still pretty squeezable). It's basically homemade GoGurt and he loves it for breakfast : ) .

    He loves any frozen fruit or veggie straight from the freezer (just cut up small if it's in bigger chunks) when he's teething too. Peas and mango are really popular right now. Gotta love anything no-cook, right?

  • Reply
    Sara
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    I thought I was pretty good at meal prep but this is a whole new level!! Thanks for the great ideas!

  • Reply
    Amanda Klein
    August 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Awesome ideas – thanks for sharing! For the eggs, have you tried a ceramic non-stick skillet? My MIL introduced me to them – I have a tiny one specifically to make little man's scrambled eggs. No sticking whatsoever (I also use a little bit of butter in the pan) and it goes straight to the dishwasher after. Easy peasy πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Tiffany Sewell
    August 13, 2015 at 1:56 am

    Thank you for sharing!! I'm trying to get better about freezing meals and cooked meat ahead of time to make things easier with two. We got my husband a Big Green Egg for his birthday/Father's Day and he will roast 6-7 whole chickens at a time for me and then we'll shred them and freeze them. I also keep a list of our most loved meals (25-30 tried-and-true meals) on the fridge so that I always have something to fall back on! Do you have a deep freezer or do you manage to fit all of this in your kitchen freezer?

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks SO MUCH for posting this, Jessica! It never hurts to see some fresh idea for my 21 month old. I appreciate it and I'm glad to hear you're doing well and hanging on to that sanity! πŸ™‚ -NG

  • Reply
    Meghan Splawn
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Ella, my 3.5 year old, is obsessed with hummus too. She also loves to snack on plain cooked chickpeas or crispy chickpeas we roast in the oven. I just discovered Biena chickpeas at Target, and we all love them!

    I love your breakfast ideas – we are pretty burnt out on eggs at our house! Ella loves what we call waffle pizza – which is basically a Kashi waffle with red sauce and cheese toasted under the broiler. We also do pancake sandwiches (like pb & J but with pancakes instead of bread) once a week.

    We also do 'snack dinner' about once a week – which is a really great way to avoid cooking and use up any leftover meal prep from the week. I do this most often on a night when my husband is working late…

  • Reply
    Julie Lauscher
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I love seeing what/how other people eat & meal plan; Its good inspiration! So thank you for this!

  • Reply
    Bethany Michelle
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! I'm currently in the process of making my make-ahead meals list for when I go on maternity leave and this is a major help. The fish sticks sound heavenly and are definitely on the must try list.

    Bethany
    LantanaLiving.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    lifearmywifestyle.com
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    We love the Kashi waffles too. I just tried to incorporate cream of wheat into our breakfast rotation, but so far my son (15 months) is kind of weary of it. I will keep trying. I also finally tried overnight oats after you mentioned them, and my son LOVED them. He giggled after his first bite, I kid you not.

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    She did say: 8 chicken breasts with a box of chicken stock for 6 hours on the crock pot.

  • Reply
    Darby
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    What is the link to this group? I would definitely be interested in joining!

  • Reply
    kristina
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    So great thank you! My oldest went through the same thing with strawberries around Eloise's age and lasted about a year then she went back to normal. Strange! Thank you for sharing your life with us! We love you!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    The kids love the Applegate maple chicken sausage links found in the health food section. They are the bomb! πŸ™‚

    Noodle

  • Reply
    Priscilla - The Wheelchair Mommy
    August 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Fantastic list!!! (and congrats on #3!! I have 3 BOYS!!)

  • Reply
    leeann Austin
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I've been in a meal slump lately so thank you for your details!

  • Reply
    StaceyWalden
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    This is great, thanks for posting! I have an 18 month old and I'm always trying to find new ideas to switch things up with her. Curious-when you meal prep veggies and fruit how do you store them? I find if I cut up fruit for the week and put in tupperware in the fridge, it gets soggy by the end of the week? Do you store the veggies in water? Thanks!

  • Reply
    Lindsay at Lindsay'sSweetWorld
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Those ham and cheese sliders will definitely be eaten in our house next week! They sound divine!

    For eggs, have you ever tried them in the microwave? I eat an egg every single morning and I never use the stove (because #aintnobodygottimefodat). It's super easy! Crack one egg in a microwaveable bowl, add a tiny splash of milk and a dash of salt and pepper. Microwave on high for 40-50 seconds (depending on the thickness of your bowl and your microwave – it may take a couple of tries before you perfect it) and voila – a perfect scrambled egg, already in a bowl and ready for you to eat! My babies both love eggs, so when they're being picky and not eating the dinner that I cook, I know I can always whip up an egg for them in literally a minute so they have something nutritious to eat! :o)

  • Reply
    Mandy
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Any easy tips on shredding chicken, Jessica?

  • Reply
    Kristin
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I'm testing out onceamonthmeals.com this month to give it a shot. Have you heard of that?

  • Reply
    Joyce
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I, too have a toddler. Thank you so much for this post as it gave me some idea on what to serve him. Anyway, as for egg pan, this one will change your life. πŸ™‚ It's non-stick and the egg just glides… http://amzn.to/1f9UhTD

  • Reply
    melissa
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    My daughter loves Pirate Booty also. Do you have Trader Joe's by you? They sell a version of Pirates Booty that tastes the exact same but it's like $1.69 for a giant bag. With the switch, I think we've saved enough to pay for her college education. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    The Delightful Life
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Love your blog so much! I can't wait to see Claire's nursery and newborn photos!

  • Reply
    twinsandtails
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    OMG thank you! I have been so lost on what to give my twin boys (13 mo. old). I literally just went to Target yesterday and stared at the snack aisle to find new ideas! I have two questions for you, if you wouldn't mind?

    1- Soup… how do you feed Eloise that? Do you just plop the noodles/veggies out of it onto her highchair tray? Or can she eat with a spoon unassisted already?

    2- Carrots & hummus. Do you give Eloise raw, uncooked carrots? I am terrified of my boys choking but love this snack idea. How do you feed her this exactly, I guess I am asking?

    Thank you so much for the amazing ideas! I am so buying those hot dogs & making these recipes! Amazing! πŸ™‚

    – Jen

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    great post! quick, useful tips that will make tackling dinner every night easier. thank you!

  • Reply
    Carrie
    August 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    This is great! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Chelsey
    August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    Use a mixer! Seriously the easiest thing ever! I boil my chicken, but i'm sure them being cooked in the crockpot is the same. Just drain the water/chicken broth so nothing hot splashes on you, and use the mixer~ shreds it in like 30 seconds

  • Reply
    Ryan Strobolakos
    August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    My husband is allergic to strawberries and he randomly developed the allergy as well! Be careful with other berries (esp raspberries and blackberries). They make my husband's mouth tingle and his skin sometimes get itchy but he's never had a true reaction to other berries like the strawberries. Dont want Eloise to feel the same way! Hope she outgrows it! Berries are too good to be allergic! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Kyle.Katie O'Connell
    August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    The Fresh 20 is a LIFESAVER! It's super quick, super cheap, super healthy and super yummy! It takes all the hassle out of meal time. Check it out here: http://www.thefresh20.com

  • Reply
    Mary Vincent
    August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    Thank you for this! My son is a few weeks older than Eloise and I am in my first trimester with #2. Meal planning and prep has been a joke for us lately. I'm sure my husband will appreciate the benefits of this post πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Lisa
    August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    I make scrambled eggs in a glass bowl in the microwave, which is super quick. Crack an egg, add a bit of milk, stir and cover. Heat for 30 seconds, stir and heat for another 25-30 seconds. Almost as tasty as real scrambled eggs and way quicker and easier. My daughters love eggs so we do this a lot when we are in a rush!

  • Reply
    Cara@HomespunKitchen
    August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    Awesome tips! I did a meal planning post a couple months back…

    http://www.homespunkitchen.blogspot.com/2015/06/dinner-time.html

  • Reply
    Danny Plant
    August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    I have to share one of my favorite time saving tricks, if you don't already know this one.. After your chicken is cooked and still very hot, throw it in your kitchen aid mixer on medium speed for seriously less than a minute and it shreds it perfectly!!!

  • Reply
    Danny Plant
    August 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    I have to share one of my FAVORITE time saving tricks on shredding chicken ( if you don't ready know ) : after its cooked and still very hot, put it in your kitchen aid mixer at medium speed for seriously less than a minute and it shreds the chicken perfectly!!!

  • Reply
    Chelsey
    August 14, 2015 at 1:58 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply
    Theresa
    August 15, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    thank you so much for this post! as i was getting my twin girls down for their nap a few minutes ago i was thinking how i needed to get on pinterest to look for toddler meal and snack ideas, and then lo and behold i scrolled through and saw your post! they just turned one so this is perfect πŸ™‚ love reading about you and your little ladies, keep on keepin on mama!

  • Reply
    ALLISON PUMMELL
    August 15, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    I had the exact same reaction to fresh strawberries when I was young child and grew out of it by the time I was school age… don't worry too much, she will come back around to starwberrits!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    August 15, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you for this! Did any of your girls go through a picky eating stage? I look at your toddler meals and would be ecstatic if I could get my 2 year old to eat them. She's really picky and refuses to try anything new. It's been a real struggle and I dread mealtimes now.

  • Reply
    Kelly
    August 15, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Meal prep saves so much time and really does help stay on a fitness track – and some of these options would be great for me!

    xx Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

  • Reply
    Chelsey
    August 15, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Great tips! I have three kiddos also. 5 1/2, 3 1/2, and 16 months! My 5yo just started Kindergarten so i'm always looking for ideas for him, and then also the younger 2 at home πŸ™‚ I saw a few posts back that you shop at Sprouts. My husband is convinced that you shop at his store because of the produce setup. So if you are ever at the Sprouts in John's Creek and see Billy (Store Manager), tell him hi! And i'd love to meet you for coffee sometime if you ever want anymore mommy friends (even though i'm sure you have a ton)!

  • Reply
    Kelley @LoveLikeCrazy
    August 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Oh my gosh – this is so helpful. I love reading other quick recipes that mom's are using. It gives me so many more ideas! I really need to revamp my meal planning and get back on track. Plus, it makes school lunches easier. Read this, and it will change your egg making for life. It takes 1 minute. Seriously. Just soak the mug in water so you don't have a hard clean up. http://kelleyanddan.blogspot.com/2015/02/super-quick-and-healthy-toddler.html

  • Reply
    tracy n
    August 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing your menu planning. I'm also into it and it makes my life so easy.

  • Reply
    Brittany
    August 19, 2015 at 1:13 am

    This is great to share! It's kinda difficult sometimes to keep being creative, esp with the very little ones. Keep 'em coming! Brittany @sweethughes.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Ashley @ Life on the Parsons Farm
    August 20, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    This is so great!! I have loosely been meal planning for the past 2 years and it has been such a Stress RELIEVER!!! Now I just need to be more planned out and think of getting items that can last for a few nights and then eventually I might be able to figure our meal prep – that sounds like an amazing idea!!

  • Reply
    Felicity
    September 2, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Thank you so much for the post! I love it! I have a 12 month old & I'm 8 weeks pregnant. Eeeek!!! I swear feeding babies is a full time jobs. I feel like I live in the kitchen!!
    I have been following since you were pregnant with Harper and I can't tell you how beautiful your family has become! Congrats!!!

    Quick question… I know this sounds dumb, but how do you defrost the pre shredded frozen chicken to make meals? Like tacos. Is leaving it out to defrost the only way?? I have no patience for such things… Hoping you have some magic way to go from freezer to tortilla! Lol
    Thank you!!!
    -Felicity & Baby Cal in Ca.

  • Reply
    Babyvenue
    December 30, 2015 at 1:46 am

    i think Chicken Fried Rice is not suit in this period, vegan is best choice

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 26, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    You gave a quick recipe with maid rites in the crockpot but your other blog posts Abt MR are stove top. How do you do the crock pot recipe? Thx

  • Leave a Reply