Do you want to become more efficient at meal planning? Do you often resort to eating out during the week because you have trouble putting together a healthy meal at the end of a busy day? Is grocery shopping stressful? Without a plan lined up, it certainly can be! But spending only a short amount of time before & after your grocery store haul can save you time, energy, and prevent food waste throughout the busy week.
I’m sharing with you 5 tips to help make healthy meals happen:
1. Plan. This is the most important step, so don’t skip it. Think about any free time that you have each week to spend 15 minutes or so planning for your week (Sunday morning, Wednesday night waiting to pick up kids, or whenever). Use a meal planner or whichever tool you prefer (pencil & paper, meal planning apps, etc) to write down what you would like to eat for the week. It might be helpful to get other’s input if you are cooking for other people.
2. Target trouble areas. Got breakfast and lunch in the bag? Is dinner more of a challenge? Start with dinner first. Account for nights that you will not be home or are eating elsewhere. That way you know just how many nights you need to prepare meals. Write out your meals and create a grocery list based on what you have in your kitchen vs. what you need to buy. Now get shoppin’.
3. Keep it simple. Try not to over-complicate meal planning. You probably have a few go-to recipes, and that’s great. If you want to start being more adventurous, aim for trying just one new recipe each week. A tip that may work for you is to think of “themes” for dinner, that way you can narrow it down a bit (it can be overwhelming with sooo many declicious recipes out there). Think about having Mexican-inspired meals, stir-fry night, breakfast-for-dinner night, etc. Take “Taco Tuesday”, for instance (I know it sounds cheesy, but bear with me). On Tuesdays, you could prepare fish tacos, and the next week is chicken quesadillas, or fajitas. You can keep a stock of salsa, tortillas, and whatever fixin’s you need each week.
4. Prep. Tend to your veggies as soon as you get home…they are notorious for being neglected in the crisper (sorry, veggies). Make a big salad, chop them up for dipping or roasting. Cook a big batch of grains like brown rice, lentils, or quinoa to throw into salads or to serve with the main dish. Prepare proteins like hardboiled eggs, or slow-cook a chicken and shred it to use throughout the week. Pre-portion snacks, such as baggies of homemade trailmix or fruit & cheese.
5. Multi-task. Utilize your kitchen appliances. Slow-cookers are a huge time-saver for roasts, soups…just about anything. Roast some veggies and potatoes in the oven while you are cooking the grains on the stove-top. If you have kids, get them involved and make it fun! Put on some music and put their little paws to work by washing and plucking grapes or making home-made treats. If you have roommates, make it a weekly event while you’re getting ready for your favorite Sunday night show.
The most important thing to do is find a consistent routine that works for you! In my house, I prefer not to prep all my meals on Sunday because I like cooking the majority of the meal the night of. I like to be flexible since my schedule varies, and I usually have some time during the week I can utilize. But having quick breakfast options, portioned snacks, and prepped veggies on hand by Monday is a must.
Are you in need of some recipe inspiration? These cookbooks and websites may be of possible interest:
Skinny Taste: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor by Gina Homolka
Cooking Light: ‘Best Of’ cookbooks
Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals by Ali Maffucci
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen
Thug Kitchen: Eat like you give a —- by (Vegan) *warning: delicious recipes but filthy mouths*
The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon (Vegan)
Trader Joe’s variety of cookbooks