Keys To Successful Meal Planning and Prep

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:

Tessamae’s (also love their dressings),  Skinny Taste  and Real Food Dietitians   

Shopping and prepping don’t need to be done on the same day, but should be done on consecutive days. For example, shop Saturday afternoon or evening and prep on Sunday.  Once you get to prep day, allow yourself this time by turning off all distractions, like notifications on your mobile, put on some upbeat music, even pour yourself a glass of wine and get ready to prep!!

 

2. PLAN

Look at the calendar and see what you or your family has going for the next week.  Once you have this you can organize your recipes.  Download my free meal planning template and DON’T overthink it.  Start by looking at a recipe or a main ingredient everyone will enjoy and then look at how long the recipe says it will take to mak.  Keep it short and simple, especially when you’re starting out.  Another tip: pull recipes during the week when you have time to play around on your computer.  I have all of my recipes pulled and my grocery list made BEFORE I get to PREP day (usually Sunday afternoon).  Sports and extracurricular events in the evening?  Plan a crockpot meal everyone can grab as soon as they walk in the house. The time it takes to go through a drive-thru is the time you can just drive home and eat because it’s ready!  Increase your health and that of your kids too!
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

This is easy and a grocery shopping MUST DO!  Keep your grocery list focused on meal prep and not other household items. groceryshoppingIn theory, you’ll be shopping less as you increase meal prep days. Meal prepping also helps you consider your pantry inventory. We all have pantry items which need to get used, maybe plan a dish to get rid of them (those 6 cans of tomatoes that were on special months ago and you planned on making grandma’s spaghetti sauce and never got around to it…sound familiar?). Here is a FREE grocery planning template for you to get started.

4. SHOP

Grab your bags, your list and go.  Make sure you don’t go hungry to avoid temptations, and try to go alone (sans small kids) so you can get in and out.  If you see a friend, tell them Hi but you need to keep moving and you hope they have a great day!  I have clients tell me it takes them SOOOO long in the store but with some prodding, I find out they are dragging it out because of their kids, social conversations and not knowing their way around the store. If this is too overwhelming, consider using your market’s click and pick up service or use Instacart and have your groceries delivered.

5. PREP & COOK

Come home and immediately start dealing with your groceries.  Wash all fruit and veggies right away. Recruit your children and/or spouse to help. Kids can group and wash, a partner can grill items such as veggies and meat. I take all my ingredient and lay them in groupings on my countertop with each recipe.  I will already know which one is coming first in the week, which recipes I am making that very day and which I just need to chop veggies for.
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!

 

            By the end of the day you should have the following:

 

            -Breakfasts either made or prepped-A fresh scramble is quick when veggies are ready to go!
-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. Meal Prep Fridge
– 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:

BEFORE YOU GO TO BED AT NIGHT, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE EATING THE NEXT DAY!  Maybe you get the crockpot out of the cabinet and lay it on the counter so all you have to do the next morning is dump your zip lock bag of pre-prepped ingredients in and turn it on!If you have a meal plan use it!  If it’s outdated or you don’t have one at all, contact me to create one that meets your individual goals!

Be Well,
Christy