You want to eat healthier, but you’re super-busy. There never seems to be enough hours in the day and you’re always scrambling, especially by the end of the day. What do you do? Eat out, drive thru, dash to the grocery store, frozen dinner, pizza, Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, cereal, toast, popcorn? If you’re reading this, you probably realize that there must be a better way.
You want to improve your health. You want to eat better. And you want to save time and money.
I get it!
So, as a nutritionist, I am here to help you.
I have a simple strategy that I’m more than happy to share with you. It will help you to plan and prepare healthy meals for the week.
This doesn’t mean that you need to completely abandon occasional meals out with family and friends. You can use my strategy to incorporate more healthy meals at home while still leaving room for dining out. It’s all about finding a balance that works for you.
As with any lifestyle change, I recommend starting gradually so you can build consistency. The key here is to make it easy, doable and rewarding enough to do again and again.
Let me walk you through my simple meal prep system, and how this can work for you.
PLAN MEALS FOR THE WEEK
I prefer to do my meal planning on the weekend. I’ll flip through my recipes and choose some dinner recipes that I’d like to make in the upcoming week. I’ll even look at our family calendar and pick which days to have which meals. If there is an evening when everyone is getting home late or it’s a particularly hectic evening and someone needs to “dine and dash,” then I’ll plan a slow cooker meal. While I’m selecting the recipes, I will bookmark the page, add it to a file on my laptop or print it out and add it to my binder of family favourite recipes.
Once I have all my recipes selected, I create my grocery list. I take a quick look in my fridge, freezer and pantry, and list the recipe ingredients that I need to buy.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to add healthy snacks to your grocery list: nuts, seeds, seasonal fruits and veggies that you can cut up to enjoy with hummus.
Another thing to consider is doubling the recipe(s), so you can prep and cook once, but have twice the meal at the end. The extras can be taken for lunch, or frozen to pull out the night before a busy day, so you just need to reheat when you’re ready to eat.
Pro Tip: If you’re doubling a recipe, don’t forget to double the amount of ingredients for that dish on your shopping list.
Once you have your handy-dandy grocery list ready, hop on over to the store and pick up your ingredients. If you don’t have enough food storage containers for your meals, now’s the time to pick up some of those too. I prefer glass containers so I don’t need to worry about chemicals leaching into our food.
Need some tips on grocery shopping? This guide, Grocery Shopping Made Easy will walk you through exactly what to buy and what to avoid, so you can shop with confidence and efficiency.
Pro Tip: If you’re not a fan of washing and chopping produce, then consider buying them already pre-washed and pre-chopped, or even frozen. This can make your meal prep even easier if you don’t mind spending a couple of extra dollars.
PREPARE MEALS FOR THE WEEK
Since you’ve already chosen your recipes and have your groceries, let’s get started on prepping some of the ingredients. Sometimes just washing and chopping produce and putting it in containers is a huge time-saver for weeknights. Or, you can go through and make a whole meal, and divide it up into portions and refrigerate or freeze. It’s really up to you, and the more you do now, the less you’ll have to do when you’re hungry on a busy weeknight.
During the week, I always like to look ahead and see what’s up next on our meal plan. If there is something that I can do the evening before, I do. I usually do this while we’re cleaning up the kitchen after dinner or even while our dinner that night is cooking. It might be as simple as pulling something out of the freezer or taking some ingredients out of the cold cellar or pantry. Remember, the more you can prepare ahead, the less stressful your meal preparation will be. Sometimes I will whisk together a marinade or a salad dressing or chop up vegetables for a stir fry.
AWESOME MEAL PREP TIP
There is one meal that is easiest to plan and prepare in advance. It’s one that’s also often the most difficult to eat at home if you’re busy.
Planning some Easy Blueberry Overnight Oats is a great start to any day. You simply combine the ingredients the night before and refrigerate overnight. In the morning you can quickly heat them up or even eat them cold (the oats will have absorbed the milk). Top with some blueberries and slivered almonds and BAM — breakfast to go!
With a little planning, you’ll be able to eat healthier while you save money and calories.
This may take some getting used to, so if I can be of help, please reach out and let me know.
Yours in health,
LeeAnn Cruz, CNP