I went from convenience foods 2-3 times a week to preparing complete healthy meals for the entire work week. I have learned many tricks over the years that I am going to share with you. This will make meal time less hectic, healthier and help you save some dough in the process.
Sounds good? Let’s get to it!
Stock up on Containers:
Containers are key. Stock up on some BPA-free containers of various sizes and ones that have separate sections. This will help keep your food fresh and is essential when you take a meal to go.
Schedule, schedule, schedule:
Its time to take scheduling seriously, it helps tremendously! It may seem daunting but it’s the key to success. The solution to making a schedule is to SCHEDULE A TIME TO MAKE THAT SCHEDULE. All it takes is a half our once a week. Your schedule should include:
- What your meals will be, including a grocery list
- Date and time for your grocery shopping
- Date(s) and time for meal prep
Prepare Whole Grains:
Whole grains such as brown rice, and quinoa are a fantastic base and are nutritious but sometimes they can take a while to cook. Cook them ahead of time, they store wonderfully in the fridge and can easily be re-heated to pair with meals such as curried vegetables, fried rice or a veggie stir-fry.
Frozen or prepared Vegetables:
No one wants to come home a cut up a ton of vegetables. Pre-cut veggies and store in containers to save time, alternatively, keep frozen vegetables on hand.
Wash and prepare fresh leafy vegetables immediately after bringing them home from the store, leafy vegetables can wilt quickly, by prepping them immediately you not only have them ready to consume immediately but you reduce the risk of food waste.
Make Breakfast a Breeze:
Trying to come up with a nutritious yet quick breakfast can be difficult. Here are 4 quick options:
- High fiber, low sugar cereal paired with a fruit
- Smoothie: Pre-portion some frozen fruits and vegetables to throw in the blender with some nut milk.
- Overnight Oats- Take 5 mins the night before to grab a mason jar and make some overnight oats, there are many different combinations that are all delicious and nutritious. Use 1/2 cup of oats as a base, combine with ingredients such as berries, peanut butter, maple syrup, cocoa powder and finish it with nut milk. Stir it all together, put the lid on and pop it in the fridge. In the morning top with some nuts, seeds, vegan yogurt, coconut flakes etc.
- Oatmeal- instead of the quick oat packs at the store that are loaded with sugar and other unnecessary ingredients you can make your own at home in 5 mins. Add 1/2 cup of quick oats to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, add to a bowl and top with ingredients such as bananas, berries, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and a sweetener such as a maple syrup and you have yourself a quick nutritious breakfast.
Mason Jar Salads:
You can easily make 4 or 5 days worth of mason jar salads for your lunches, they keep well and can be customized.
What to include:
- Salad dressing: tahini and avocado-based dressings are always a good healthy option, avoid too many oil-based dressings.
- Grains and protein such as quinoa, tofu, chickpeas, black/brown beans, and edamame.
- Other vegetables such as shredded carrots, cabbage, bells peppers, avocado cubes, asparagus and sprouts.
Keep in mind some fruits and vegetables keep better than others, for example, avocado turns brown quite quickly and is best kept separate, or when used in a dressing add lemon to preserve freshness. Always make your leafy greens the last item in the mason jar to avoid wilting or sogginess- always place dressing at the bottom of the jar or store in a separate small container to add afterwards.
Always have snacks on hand. Snacks help to curb cravings and ensure you are getting enough energy and nutrients throughout the day.
Low hassle snacks include fruits such as grapes, berries, apples, bananas, and pears. Nuts and seeds, crackers/vegetable sticks with hummus, pre-steamed edamame beans in the shell with a dash of salt and these easy Nut Butter Energy Bites.
Lastly, you can plan a couple of your weekday meals as leftover meals. You should only make your meals a maximum of 4 days in advance as most meals don’t keep well much longer than that. For example, if your meal planning is Monday- Friday you can pre-make meals from Monday- Thursday but make Thursday nights dinner in a large batch so that meals for Friday can be leftovers. Alternately you can make a large batch dinner on Sundays and Wednesdays for your lunches throughout the week. Large batch meals that keep well include lasagna and pasta dishes, stir-fries, potato dishes, Shepards pie, bean salads, stews, soups, chili etc.
Learning how to stay on track with meal planning differs from person to person based on lifestyle, do not to give up or be hard on yourself if you do not master it right away. Take it slow, try different things and most importantly- make it fun!