Melissa: A Meal Prep Queen

Between long days at work and kid friendly vegetarian meals, Melissa meets every cooking challenge with a smart meal plan. Find out how she does it!

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • September 1, 2020

Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Melissa is a true meal prep queen and Kitchen Hero! When she and her husband plan a whole week’s worth of meals ahead of time, they are able to accommodate their 7-year-old vegetarian and only schedule dinners that take more than 30 minutes for the weekend. Keep reading to learn more about Melissa’s cooking habits and tips!

1. Melissa, you’ve been a part of our cooking community for so long! We’re truly happy to have such a supportive Kitchen Hero. How long have you been a member of Cook Smarts’ meal plan service and how did you first hear about us?

Since September 2014 — wow, 6 years?! Time flies! I remember seeing something about Cook Smarts from a mom group I belonged to and here we still are.

2. In your last post, you shared that your biggest cooking challenge was not being able to throw a quick, tasty meal together just by looking at the ingredients. Is this still one of your cooking challenges? What new challenges do you face in the kitchen?

I am first and foremost a recipe follower at heart but this has gotten better as I’ve grown as a cook. Having staple ingredients on hand in my pantry and freezer help combat the “what’s for dinner” scaries for sure!  

When I first joined Cook Smarts, our son was 1 and ate anything we put in front of him . . . then he turned 3 and slowly started refusing to eat meat. Here we are now and at 7, he is a self-declared vegetarian (carb-aterian, per my husband!) – which makes meal planning a bit more challenging, but I’ve learned to deconstruct most meals to allow for some items he likes / will eat and not stress too much over it as he is growing and healthy (and loves fruit and many vegetables, so I count that as a win!).

3. Now let’s give our readers a peek into your cooking routine. What is your daily / weekly cooking routine like? How do you tackle shopping, prep, and leftovers?

We (my husband and I) have an ongoing meal plan (aka spreadsheet) that I fill in using must-make recipes from our favorite places: Cook Smarts, Smitten Kitchen, Sweet Peas & Saffron, and NYTimes Cooking. Every Friday, we consult our calendar for the upcoming week and figure out how many meals we need and pull from our recipe list to fill in the number of meals we need for lunch and dinner. We shop as a family after our son’s swim class on Saturday mornings and prep over the weekend. A big help to us is that most of our cooking that requires more than 30 minutes is done on the weekend.

“Having staple ingredients on hand in my pantry and freezer help combat the ‘what’s for dinner’ scaries for sure!”

4. If there was one tip you could give to any parent who wants to make nutritious meals for their family despite their hectic schedule, what would it be?

Prep, prep, prep! We have more availability to cook on the weekends so I take advantage of that and it can be more relaxed than scrambling at 6pm after a long day of work. 

We prep most fruits and vegetables as soon as we get home for easy access – this helps keep snacks at the ready in the event dinner is a bit delayed. (Minor suggestion: obtain a partner who equally likes to cook!)

5. What is one of your favorite dinnertime memories?

The first time I made Thai Chicken Peanut Noodles, our son (who was still confined to his highchair) gobbled them up with such gusto and then kept smacking his lips and clapping. When we started clapping with him, he stopped, looked us right in the eye, and proceeded to put the remaining sauce on his head! And laughed!!! Such silly fun.

6. Is there anything else you would like to add to give our readers a better snap shot of you in the kitchen?

Give me a good playlist and a glass of wine and I’m in my cooking happy place.

7. And finally, what are your top 3 favorite Cook Smarts meals?

Picking just 3 is hard! I guess we’d say: Thai Chicken Peanut Noodles, Slow Cooker (or not) Chicken Adobo, and Salmon Burgers.

Melissa, thanks so much for giving us an update on your cooking experiences and providing a window into your organized meal planning practices. We are truly grateful for having your family in our cooking community for the past 6 years and look forward to your involvement for years to come!

To join Melissa and cook meals like her favorite Thai Chicken Peanut Noodles, Slow Cooker (or not) Chicken Adobo, and Salmon Burgers, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!



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