One of the things I love doing most in my work is helping busy moms, dads or anyone really, learn how to meal plan and prep and set up an on going practice of healthy eating. Giving them the tools to plan out their weeks and incorporate healthy homemade meals that they and their families love. Replacing the frozen meals or take out with easy to throw together meals full of wholesome, real foods which provide the body with nutrients, fiber, vitamins and all the good stuff nature provides us. My goal for you is easy: healthy food without the stress or drama of deciding what to cook or eat. So here’s my secret weapon, well not really secret, but my key to easy healthy meals is: Menu Planning and Meal Prep.
These two things I promise you are the key to not only save you lots of time but also money and a whole lot of stress too. It will take out the “what to eat” or “what do I feel like cooking” questions off the table every night. The steps are easy, not intimidating and even turn the non-cooks into meal making pros in no time as all you’ll have to do each night is simply warm up a few things and your meals will be ready in minutes.
Step 1 – PLAN OUT YOUR MENU
Start small, maybe just plan out 2 or 3 meals and go from there. Some weeks I’ll meal prep for the whole school/work week or I’ll prepare Sunday-Tuesday meals on Sunday then do another mini prep night on Wednesday to get me through to Saturday. I always allow one night for leftovers, spontaneous dinners out or something easy like egg on toast, pancakes and bacon or pita bread pizzas.
STEP 2- STRATEGIZE YOUR WEEK
When designing your menu you need to think about what your week looks like. Do have a late meeting Tuesday and will get home later than usual? Maybe plan to have a quick soup or chili that night. Your kids have 2 hours of hockey practice on Wednesday and come home famished? Let’s make that night a lasagna or turkey meatloaf and roast veggies night to fill them up. Think about your schedule and plan your meals around that. Next try to plan your week so that you have some variety so you aren’t having the same type of food several days in a row. Having chicken on Sunday ok, let’s do Vegetarian Chili on Monday and save any left over chicken for Tuesday Chicken Tacitos. Mix it up!
STEP 3 – PLAN YOUR “BATCH” COOK DAY
I do my batch cooking on Saturdays usually after I’ve loaded up on the groceries that I’ll need for the week. I put on my cooking jams and get to work. Hubby often helps up as my sous-chef (French for Obey the Chef!) chopping and dicing away and it’s something we look forward to because we get to catch up, have a glass of wine and cook together. The kiddos too hop in and out the kitchen to see what we are preparing for the week ahead and what they can help out with. Make it fun and relaxing, and put a little love into it! Meals with a little love added in taste the best!
Below is a sample meal plan I designed for one of my clients who wanted to back off from ordering dinners out all the time and come back to making meals that she could cook for her whole family. As a busy working mom juggling work, after school activities and being the primary cook for a family who, as she described it were “picky eaters to the square root”. I helped show her how she could to introduce a few new meals at a time with some options to cater to her picky eaters preferences while still providing them with wholesome, nutritious meals. Remember: baby steps! Start out slow and have fun with it. Put on some of your favorite tunes while you cook and relax into it. Cooking should be fun and relaxing, not a chore.
Sunday – Roast Chicken, Cinnamon dusted Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Garlic Cauliflower
Monday – Hawaiian BBQ Pork Chops, steamed green beans, brown rice
Tuesday – Chicken & Black Bean Tacitos, frozen corn or seasonal corn on the cob, side salad with Basic Vinaigrette (or baby carrots & cucumber for kids)
Wednesday – French Lentils, mashed potatoes, roasted or steamed broccoli
Thursday – Chicken Rice Soup with gluten free crackers or buns
SUNDAY MEAL PREP
- Marinate the pork for Monday’s dinner
- Cook rice for Monday’s dinner, place in container and store in fridge
- Stem and chop green beans, option to pre-steam
- Boil potatoes until soft, drain and place in container and store in fridge for Wednesday
- Prepare Vinaigrette
- Pre-chop the broccoli
- Roast the chicken, sweet potatoes, cauliflower for tonight’s dinner
- Using the carcass from roast chicken, cook chicken broth.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT MINI-MEAL PREP
- Prepare the Marinara or Lentil Bolognese* sauce and let simmer while you continue prepping.
- Chop veggies and grill chicken for Chicken Rice Soup.
- Reheat chicken broth, add in chopped veggies, shredded chicken and rice. Cook until rice is al-dente. Remove from heat and once cooled return to fridge until Thursday night.
- Prepare tonight’s dinner of French Lentils*, steam or roast broccoli and reheat and mash the cooked potatoes.
*Alternatively, the pasta sauce and French Lentils could have also been made on Sunday night and placed in freezer until needed. Recommend using pre-cooked or canned lentils for this dish or allowing time to pre-soak and cook lentils otherwise.