I revamped this post from my old blog as I realized it wasn't linked on this one! I am such a big advocate for meal planning, prepping, and organizing and I basically I think it is the keys to LIFE. Even after doing meal planning for the past few years, I still get comments all the time about my organized lunches and healthy packed snacks with people saying “You’re so healthy…” “How do you have time to make your lunches?” “You eat so well.”
My answer is pretty simple. I plan.
Everyday I work until 5:00pm. Most days I workout after that, which means I don't get home until pretty late in the evening. If I left meals up to my husband, we'd be having Costco pizza, spaghetti, or cereal for dinner. Which is fine some nights, but not on a regular basis (for me at least). So I found out a long time ago, that I needed to make a big effort to plan our meals for the week. This takes the time and energy out of my week night meals, which helps so much when I come home and I am usually STARVING.
Maybe it’s a little neurotic, but truly, meal planning helps me keep organized, healthy, and prepared. It is not for everyone and some people feel overwhelmed even thinking of stuff like this. But I'm telling you, once you do it for a few weeks, it just becomes part of your routine and it DOES get easier. It simply takes an hour or so on the weekend or one weeknight to get your entire week ready. It makes such a huge difference.
So how do you get started with this whole food prep thing? You can do several different things. Do a google search on how to plan meals or check out the Lean Green Bean blog - she has amazing tips and ideas on what to prep for the week and she does a weekly post about other food preppers and Instagram has wonderful inspiration with the hashtags #mealprep #sundaymealprep.
What I'm going to share is what works for me, which I know may not work for everyone. But at least I hope this gives you some inspiration to find your own groove.
First, I start with grabbing a piece of paper and laying the entire week out. I actually found this notepad at Cost Plus and LOVE it.
It has a magnet so it goes right on the front of the fridge. It helps my husband see what the plan is for the week and I don't get the "what's for dinner tonight?" questions all the time. I think he's come to rely on it too because he gets to take the leftover for lunch! Putting everything on paper helps me most as I am a very visual person. Mapping it all out gives me a good map of what the week is like. Sometimes I put my workouts on there or add in days when I know I won't be home for dinner so Chris will know he's on his own. Its totally been working for us!
I usually do my food shopping on Sundays so that’s when my week of meals starts. I start by giving the pantry and fridge a good scan to see what you have on hand, what I can put together with those items, and go from there. After I make my meal plan, I make my grocery shopping list. After I make the grocery list, I make a list of what I need to prep for the week. I usually make my meal plans over coffee in the morning and go from there.
I've found it helpful to plan at least one meal a week where we will have leftovers too – one less meal to make. For example, tacos for dinner one night can be a taco salad the next day for lunch. Or making a big stir fry you can have a couple of nights is great. Making extra veggies is perfect for a quick egg scramble or egg wrap for breakfast.
So like I said, after I shop, I prep.
Some basics and ideas:
- Hard cooked eggs, granola, crockpot oats, overnight yogurt oats, sweet potato hash
- Hard boiled eggs make for a quick easy breakfast or snack for the afternoon that I can just through in my bag when I am running out there door
- I make a batch of granola and it lasts for a couple weeks. I just throw 1/2 cup in a bowl with some yogurt and fresh fruit and I am good to go
- Overnight oats: These have become my new favorite I've been making them for when I go to early yoga classes and eating them when I get to work
- I pick 2-3 types of lunches and rotate through out the week, this might include using some leftover from a meal or two. Personally, I do mostly salads during the week...they are my jam.
- Because I snack in the morning and before I work out! I have to have plenty on hand. I pick
- I usually pick a meat to grill for a few meals during the week
- rill a batch of chicken or throw a whole chicken in the crock pot on Sunday – for dinners, salads or quesadillas one night. Broil some salmon or salad
- Marinate foods so all you have to do is throw them on the grill or in the oven
- Soups: make ahead of time and freeze or use it throughout the week. They make good meals for several nights in a row or leftovers for an easy lunch
- Stir fries/bowls: If you want stir fry for one night, cut your peppers and onions ahead of time so they are ready to go into the pan. Add whatever protein you have prepped and you have an easy meal. Same with the grains/lentils/beans – these make great, easy meals
- Make a big batch of quinoa or rice for the week
- Root veggies are great pre-cooked and easily reheat. Cut up sweet potatoes, carrots, beets and roast them until just barely done. When you are ready to eat them for dinner, add them to a hot oven to reheat and cook the rest of the way - that way they aren't overcooked, but just right!
The main thing to remember is that your plan isn't set in stone. This is a flexible guide made to help you get through your week and make your life just a tad bit easier.
Do you meal plan? What's your secret? Please share your tips and tricks!