Keys to Successful Meal Planning
To successfully prep and plan for a week of healthy eating, you do need to set aside a little bit of time, but the payoff is huge as you will free up time later in the week. Additionally, you are less likely to make poor food choices as you will have food prepped and ready to consume. Meal planning and prepping are great steps to take, especially if you’re starting out on a lifestyle change involving food. Not only you will you end up eating and feeling better, you are likely to save money as impulse buys will be greatly reduced.
Here are my easy to follow steps:
1. SET ASIDE 3 HOURS
Let’s be realistic! If you only give yourself an hour for this task, it will always feel like a chore you hate because you will never fully complete it. If you are new to cooking or don’t know your way around the grocery store, it may take you even longer initially, but with time you’ll appreciate the value of meal prep in the overall scheme of your busy life. You will eventually get faster, as you start to nail down your go-to recipes, but I still set aside 3 hours when I do it all on 1 day. One of the best things I’ve done to help is finding websites/bloggers that will email me a weekly planning menu. Here are a few I subscribe to:
Maybe you don’t have kids or don’t have evening events, you can still cook each meal daily with your ‘already prepped’ ingredients for a fresher, non-leftover meal. Whatever your situation, plan it out!
3. GROCERY LIST
If I am making egg muffins then I will get the pan out, turn the oven on and start mixing. As soon as they are in the oven the next recipe is being tackled. Have an InstaPot? I love mine! I will have it out before I go to the store and throw brown rice in it for the week. When it is done, I dump the rice in a big container and immediately reuse the Instapot make hard-boiled eggs. Of course, while those foods are cooking I will be seasoning meat, cleaning and marinating chicken if need be or prepping the ingredients for the next thing that will go in the oven when the egg muffins are done.
I like to make a batch of overnight oats. Super easy and quick. I lay the jars out and make all 3 at once, stir put the lid on and into the fridge they go. Between those and the egg muffins, my breakfasts for the week are done. Kids can eat these items too so ask them. Maybe have picky kids try yours. I say that picky kids get to HELP PLAN and PREP to not only take some ownership of their choices but to see how hard you work to feed them!-On prep day have your meat cleaned and in a ziplock bag. IP recipes are usually just a throw-in and turn on type thing so this is an easy one. If I’m short on time I buy the frozen bag of riced cauliflower. I might even prep measuring out the spices into a small container so on cooking day, I just dump it in.
Red meat of choice, I usually get a grass-fed tenderloin or other “loin” cut. With uncooked meats, plan on cooking the raw meat by Tuesday, then use the cooked meat leftovers. If I prep on Sunday, I’ll cook raw meat by Tuesday and use leftovers in my eggs or in lettuce wrap tacos for lunch on Wednesday. I’ll serve the steak with baked sweet potatoes already made and a veggie or if I’m not having a starch at dinner I’ll make steak salad! YUM!
-Side dishes like sprouted rice, diced baked sweet potatoes or quinoa are made/ placed in containers.
-All meat either grilled or marinated/seasoned and bagged for cooking later in the week.
-Veggies cleaned and cut up. Some grilled and some raw for a snack with hummus.
-Any soups or chilis made or prepped to go in a crockpot later. Consider doubling a batch and freezing one for later. Too hot for chili? Make a big batch of chicken salad from skinnytaste!
-Snacks planned-maybe PBJ balls or a protein shake but make sure you know according to your schedule what you are going to do so there is zero decision making at snack time.Below are some of my favorites for meal planning:
–Egg Muffins -bagged in 2’s or 3’s depending on the meal plan, add a piece of fruit or avocado if you feel you need a little more sustenance.
– 3 -5 Overnight Oats ready in the fridge, for days when you need the carbs from the oats for post-workout purposes.
-1 lb cooked weight chicken for chicken salad, use your recipe on try this one from skinnytaste.
Grill the chicken, cook the eggs, have dressing ready (I used bottled Tessamae’s brand)
-1.5 lbs chicken thighs or breast for Instant Pot Butter chicken with cauliflower rice:
If you don’t want so much chicken, try this recipe: Shrimp Fajita Bowls. I ate it for 3 days and it was just as good on the 3rd day!
Inevitably I will have something to do 1-2 nights a week so I will make 3 meals with enough for leftovers or I will have something I can pull out for dinner with a moment’s notice, like scrambled eggs with veggies and avocado.
I tend to eat salad, eggs, chicken salad made with leftover rotisserie chicken or just leftovers in general for lunch.
One last bit of helpful advice. I always offer clients this valuable tip: