Food prep and meal planning can be a positive addition to our busy lives. It can help eliminate stress on sorting your meals for the week, stick to healthier meal choices and save time. When planning my meals for the week, I stick to a similar guideline week to week based off my work schedule. I plan my meals for the week Monday through Friday. Planning Monday through Friday allows for some meals to be used as leftovers and keeping the weekends open for meals with friends. Planning this way will also help eliminate any time wasted come the end of the week where you can sit and wonder what to eat, give up on cooking and go for a quick, unhealthy meal.
Food planning should be your number 1 priority. You need to know what you’re going to eat for the week and what ingredients you need for your recipes. Along with planning your meals, you need to prep them so they are ready to be cooked and consumed through out the week.
My meal planning days are Sundays before I head to the store. I plan my meals based off my weekly schedule. What nights will I be home late with no time to fix dinner or what nights do I have time to cook a healthy meal. Based off my weekly schedule, I put together a meal plan. Your meal planning day might not be Sunday. Maybe Wednesday or Saturday is your day off. That’s ok! Find a day that you can be consistent with and that wont change week to week too often. This will help you find a healthy lifestyle routine and dedicate that day to meal planning and food prep!
For example, I will look for this in my weekly schedule. If I have 3 of the 5 nights where I am going to be late, I make sure I have a quick meal planned or something pre-made in the crockpot. I’ll either cook tilapia, since it doesn’t take long to fry on the stove or bake. Quonia and vegetables that are already prepared from my food prep day. Any crockpot meals for these days as well are great, because they will be ready for consuming when you get home. Chili is a great one in the winter. The other 2 nights, I might plan something less simple since I will have time to prepare it such as, turkey burgers, sweet potatoes, quinoa and a steamed vegetable or even a salad.
Along with my meal planning and finding what nights are late or early evenings, I plan on what I will eat. What proteins, veggies, fruits, “healthy carbs” and healthy fats I’ll consume on which days. (Attached are the main products I buy for proteins, veggies, fruits, “healthy carbs” and healthy fats). I look into recipes based off some of the main sources I want to eat or I find a recipe I want to use and buy products to make the meal. Once I have a list of what foods I’ll consume on which days and how I want to prepare them, I start the grocery shopping! Make sure you have all ingredients for the meals you’re preparing for the week before you head out.
Weekly grocery list can consist of:
(Meats I don’t consume on a weekly basis**)
- Lean ground turkey
- Buffalo burgers**
- Lean ground beef**
- Fish; salmon, tilapia or another white fish
(I like to cut up and have for snacks through out the day**)
(I will also steam these veggies to have for dinners)
- Baked asparagus
- Baked/grilled brussel sprouts
- Spaghetti squash (or other baked squashes)
- Peppers, all colors**
Organic fruits (all these are great to have for snacks through out the day)
- Apples (snack on with almond butter/peanut butter)
Organic healthy carbs
- Sweet potatoes (add cinnamon to them and it changes this into a tasty, healthy desert)!
- Brown rice
Organic healthy fats
- Avocados (add some salsa to it and create your homemade guacamole) great to add on eggs, turkey burgers, buffalo burgers and chicken!
- Olive oil for cooking
- Coconut oil for cooking (cooking your chicken, eggs and tilapia in coconut oil will add an additional great flavor to spice up your dish)
The prepping is something I do after I grocery shop. Depending on my schedule it fits in on most Sunday mornings or evenings. This can be difficult, as it’s time consuming. Finding a time that fits best into your schedule will be beneficial as it will keep the process consistent and successful.
How I prep these items varies on the season. In the summer I make a lot of chicken salads and more raw fruits and veggies. In the winter I make more chicken chilli, squash, sweet potatoes and cooked veggies. Preparing any of these meals and adding a variety of spices, or using different cooking methods, (fry, bake, grill, steam or broil) will keep the meals flavorful and exciting.
Prep based off my grocery list:
- Veggies and fruits;
- peel and cut. Put into separate containers or plastic bags. Mix and match your veggies and fruits for a colorful snack. (only the raw veggies you’ll use for snacking, not dinners)
- chicken, turkey or red meat, cook and store for the week or if using in the longer run, freeze. I cook my proteins in basic flavors, olive oil, oregano, pepper or a neutral rub. This way the meats can pair up well with other veggies, grains you’ve chosen. Keeping them flavorful but neutral allows for more options in the week. If you know you want a spicy favor, dedicate just one protein for that meal as it might not pair up with other items made for the week.
- Quinoa or another choice of grain;
- lasts 3 days. Make a big batch to use for you lunches/dinners for the week
- Sweet potatoes;
- make enough where you will consume them within a day or 2
Here are some of the more consistent things I prep for my weeks.
I am a big breakfast eater. I wake up in enough time to make scrambled eggs with cut up peppers and spinach. If you aren’t one for waking up and making time for breakfast, you can make hard boiled eggs to have on the go. Not an egg eater, whipping up a batch of oats to have for the week is another option for a healthy breakfast. Adding any fresh fruits, cinnamon or honey to your dish. If you have the tools, time and patience for juicing. It’s a great addition for breakfast or a snack.
- Smoothies are an easy on the go meal. You can prepare these the night before and grab and go in the am. If you have the tools, time and patience for juicing, it’s a great addition for breakfast or a snack.
My favorite smoothie ingredients include;
- unsweetened coconut milk
- peanut butter
- vegan vanilla protein
- flax seed
- Chicken and veggies. This is made up in either shredded chicken, veggies, chicken salad with a lot of fresh veggies, kale, spinach or a protein bowl I’ve prepped for the week. Containing chicken, quinoa, celery, carrot and a little olive oil as dressing. You can use any protein you’d like for the bowls or lunch.
- apple and peanut butter, handful of almonds, protein shake, cut up veggies, fruits or any juicing.
- This meal is something I would cook if I had time at home. Grilled/pan fried tilapia covered in garlic lemon powder cooked in coconut oil, steamed veggies, quinoa and sweet potato. A meal prepped from meal prep day would consist of turkey burgers, sweet potatoes and stuffed peppers with quinoa, peppers and broccoli in them.
Breakdown of my prep for the week will consist of;
- Hard boiled eggs (12) -consumed for a snack
- Sweet potatoes (3) – consumed at dinner
- Turkey burgers (6) – consumed for lunches or a quick dinner
- Grilled chicken (3) – consumed for lunches or a quick dinner
- Veggies cut and prepped, carrots, peppers, cucumbers (add peppers to my morning eggs)
- Quinoa (2 cups) – lasts for lunches and dinners in the week
- Smoothies every night for the morning snack
Remember when meal planning, schedule a day to make your meal plan, food shop and food prep. When you dedicate time to the process you’ll find how much easier things can run during the week, giving you extra time in the kitchen but still eating healthy meals through out the week. Dedicate the time to finding healthy recipes, trying new ways to cook your food and open your mind to new foods. Sometimes simple is best! I hope this gives you some ideas on how to meal plan and prep. Everyone is different, what works for one doesn’t work for someone else so find a way that fits your lifestyle the best where you can be successful!