One of the most common concerns & requests I receive from my peers is HOW TO MEAL PREP?! Let's face it, we can all benefit from saving more time & energy when it comes to eating healthy.. or when it comes to anything, really. For those of us who have a demanding weekly schedule, have a family to look after, or are just looking for simple ways to eat right with less effort, this post will benefit you greatly!
Welcome to my Beginner's Guide to Meal Planning!
IT'S IMPORTANT TO KNOW that meal planning is a habit that takes time to form. Initially, it might not seem like you're saving much time by doing all the prep work. However, during the week, when you only have 5-10 minutes to snack on something in between the constant demands your day brings, you'll thank yourself for putting in the effort. Meal planning will save you from many fast food or convenient store binges, will give you awareness about the foods you choose to feed yourself, & of course, will save you from all the time & hassle that home cooking each meal from scratch can be.
MEAL PLANNING saves time!
MEAL PLANNING saves money!
MEAL PLANNING provides you with awareness about healthy food choices!
First, we need to go over a couple of tips that are useful when starting out on this venture. Below is a checklist of what you need to be prepared for integrating this into your already existing routine.
1. Find 1 OR 2 DAYS PER WEEK where you will have sufficient down time for food prep. Food prep shouldn't take longer than an hour at a time.
2. A WHITEBOARD, a notepad or paper that you can clip somewhere in your kitchen - easily seen when entering the room.
3. SEVERAL TUPPERWARE CONTAINERS. I would recommend having at least 12 small to medium sized tupperware containers to use for portioning out your meals.
4. SUFFICIENT FRIDGE/FREEZER STORAGE SPACE to keep your prepared meals throughout the week.
Alright, now that you have what you need, how exactly does this whole "meal planning" thing work?
Here comes the creative part: you get to decide what you want to eat! The possibilities are endless. A great tip when starting out is to take a look in your fridge before anything else & ask yourself: what can I make out of the ingredients I have at home? Leftover rice? Tortilla wraps? A stir-fry that you took home from that restaurant the other day? Bam! Rice & veggie wraps that you could stretch over at least 2 days.
If your fridge is empty & there's not much to go on, then think of some fun meal ideas that you can make a ton of & store easily. Grains, soups, & pre-chopped veggies are simple to prepare ahead of time & freeze or refrigerate until you need them. Canned beans are extremely convenient & you can add them to just about anything to get an added boost of fiber & protein.
Once you know what meals you would like to make, write them down on your whiteboard or notepad. If you feel it's necessary, write down the days of the week you'll be making the meals for. Additionally, make a list of the ingredients you'll need for these dishes. This way you can make sure to include them in your weekly grocery shopping!
As far as food storage goes, it's important to know that certain foods store better than others. I recommend doing meal prep twice per week to maintain the freshness & taste of your food. It may also start to get boring eating the same thing for the 4th or 5th day in a row.
Cook once & eat 2, 3, 4, or 5 times! Now that's what I call efficient. Get comfortable making ultra large amounts of food at a time. If you're meal prepping for more than one person, take that into account as well. Essentially, you will have your 2 or 3 food ideas, & however long you intend to make it stretch, cook that many times more. For example, If you want to meal prep for Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday, then you will need to cook 3 times as much food.
Now that your mouth-watering food is all prepared & ready to go (don't eat it all right away), bring out the Tupperware containers! I highly recommend investing in glass Tupperware as they are better for the environment, last longer, & are safer to use in the microwave compared to plastic Tupperware (boooo, plastic). Portion out the dishes you've prepared into these containers, so that there are equal amounts set aside for each day that you'll be eating them. When done, you can store them away until you need them! Simply grab & go on your way out to school or work in the morning!
Now you have your meals planned & prepped for the next couple of days! How cool was that?! You can use this technique for breakfasts if you're not a morning person, lunches if you're out & about all day, or dinner if you don't get home until late or are simply too exhausted from the day to put any effort in the kitchen (I feel you on that one). Meal prepping a whole day's worth of meals can get a little tricky, but if you're up for the challenge then I commend you!
The most important rule of thumb when saving money on groceries is to ensure you are using up all the food ingredients in your home. Sometimes we think we may be out of food, but there's still half a bag of rice in the pantry, or some crushed tomatoes in the fridge, etc etc.
Making enough food for leftovers is a huge help in meal planning. The leftovers can simply be taken for a meal the next day, or be incorporated into anything else you decide to make. It's up to you to be creative, but get used to cooking food in large quantities every time. This will save you so much time & energy in the long run, so you have more time to do the things you enjoy!
1. Prechop fruit & vegetables (or buy frozen) & bag them up together according to your favorite smoothie preferences! When it's time to make one, all you do is pop your pre-bagged mix of delicious produce, add water, & blend away!
2. Soups generally keep really well if you freeze them, so they can go a long long way if you have the storage space. When you want to eat, just pop 'em in the microwave & you're good to go!
3. Pre-bake some healthy flax seed muffins or sugar free oatmeal cookies for the whole week (or two). These can also be frozen & are excellent as an on-the-go snack!
4. Keep an eye out for instant (whole & intact) grains! These should be the bulk of where your energy comes from. Instant oats, instant rice, instant quinoa, & other great fill up foods like canned lentils can be found pretty much anywhere & are super convenient.
5. Save recipe idea's & other food inspiration on your phone, computer, or keep a list down somewhere in your home. When you feel unmotivated, glance over at your list of favorite things & become inspired!
I hope this was helpful for you! I encourage all forms of feedback. If there are any cool meal planning tips that I missed or you think I should know about, tell me! I would love to learn from you. Much love,
Ps. The below sample meal planner can be implemented into your routine, or can be used as a reference guide. I have included links to recipe's for these meal options, so please use this as a guide & be creative!
SAMPLE 1 WEEK MEAL PLANNING - Breakfast & Lunch
SUNDAY ~ 6-7pm prep (Mon, Tues & Wed)
WEDNESDAY ~ (b) Overnight Oats ~ (l) Chickpea "tuna" & Leftovers Stir-fry ~ 6-7pm prep (Thurs & Fri)