Meal planning/prepping is my number one tip for staying on track and on budget when it comes to eating healthy.
Maybe you have self control, but if I don’t meal plan, the occasional quick fix of organic rice pasta and lemon butter turns into ‘when the hell did my pants get this tight‘! (Not that I advocate for never indulging, but you know..)
Planning ahead lets me stock my kitchen with clean ingredients and prep healthy meals and snacks for weeknights when I’m in a rush. And I’m always in a rush.
Meal planning gives me a place to start so I’m not like WTF am I going to make for dinner this week. It also stops you from grabbing whatever looks good in the store only to go home and find that you don’t have half the ingredients to make it. I’m also super type-A personality, so the idea of not planning my meals in advance just sounds ludicrous.
Anyway, I have a lot of food sensitivities, so my grocery list looks almost the same each week. I know what doesn’t make me feel like crap, and I stock up on it weekly. Things like homemade granola and yogurt, smoothies, veggies and hummus, and avo toast are quick, nutrient-dense meals or snacks that take literally next to no prep time at all.
Dinner is where most of my prep actually comes in handy. Dinner is important to me, because it’s really the only time my husband and I have together without distractions; having the labor-intensive part of dinner done leaves us that much more time to enjoy our meal together (and watch Netflix after!). We eat together almost every night, and I usually cook five nights of the week, with one day built in for take-out/eating out and one day to use up whatever’s left.
I actually really, really enjoy cooking and trying different recipes, but I have a general formula that I work with each week to figure out what I want to cook without getting ahead of myself and wanting to make a thousand and one things (<- like I said, type-A). There’s usually one meat and one fish-centered dish, one pasta or rice dish, one super healthy salad night, and one hubby’s really been in the mood for this dinner. It’s like a little grid I fill in so I don’t have to think so hard.
Here’s what’s on the menu this week:
- homemade yellow rice with black beans, chorizo, and veggies (rice)
- sesame crusted swordfish with rice and zucchini (fish)
- BBQ chicken drums with veggies and potatoes (meat)
- Mediterranean chickpea salad (salad)
- grilled cheese with oven dried tomatoes (hubby’s choice)
On Sunday, I’ll prep the black beans, marinate the chickpeas, make the tomatoes for the grilled cheese, and probably make the rice. I also always chop up a bunch of fruit and veggies and make hummus and granola to have for the week.
Some other tips I have for meal planning and prepping, cause I like to consider myself some sort of expert on planning ahead:
- Even if you don’t have food sensitivities, research has shown that people tend to circulate their favorite meals weekly without having a lot of variety. This keeps grocery lists short, affordable, and easy to manage. Be realistic about what you’re going to eat and stick with it.
- Find ways to remix the same ingredient twice. Otherwise known as tricking your husband into eating leftovers. Make a whole chicken one night, and turn it into a giant taco salad the next. Your husband won’t even know.
- Build in a night or two for leftovers or take out. Without fail, something always comes up and I hate when I’ve prepped an entire week’s worth of food and only need 5 days of it. I always always always build in one day for take out/go out/attempt to be spontaneous once in a while and one day for throwing whatever hasn’t been used up into some type of acceptable dinner.
- Write it down as soon as you run out of something. Picky husbands hate when there’s no Cholula…even if it’s their fault it’s gone! I’m guilt of forgetting to do this with spices and I always end up needing whatever I just ran out of. Good thing my mom lives upstairs!
- Be flexible, but stick to your list. Okay, I’m all for sticking to the list for budget reasons…but if something like brown rice or quinoa is on sale, just grab it and save in the long run. However, just because the chips are $2 doesn’t mean you need 6 weeks worth. Look for sales on your pantry staples, not excuses.
- Think about your plans for the week, like barbecues and birthdays. Consider the fact that you might not have to cook dinner that night. Also consider that it’s probably rude not to show up with something and plan accordingly.
- Plan for something healthy in every meal and make sure it’s on your list <- also known as tricking your husband into eating vegetables!