The most common question that I am asked is how to meal plan and prep. I dedicate a fair amount of time to it. It’s not always easy or fun, but it is very beneficial.
Planning meals ahead of time helps you save money by buying what you need at the grocery store, less impulsive purchases and eating out less. It also helps you to be healthier, eat fewer calories, waste less food and is a huge time saver(in the long run).
I usually spend about 4 hours per weekend making meals for the week. While many of you will say that you don’t have that amount of time, you probably do. I multitask while I cook. If I’m roasting sweet potatoes in the oven, I’ll pop in a 30 minute workout video and do that while they roast. Or do laundry and other household tasks while things cook. Most things don’t actually have to be stood over and watched while being cooked. Does your chicken need to be be cooked 5-7 minutes on each side? Great! Go dust your shelves, come back and flip it. And since I already have my oven on and heated up to 350F, I might as well whip up a batch of baked donuts to throw in the oven after I pull the sweet potatoes out. Another thing I do while stuff cooks is to clean and chop up vegetables, store them in separate containers, so I have them easily available for sides, snacks and to go on salads through out the week. Oh, and use multiple burners on your stove top at once!
My meal plans in this post are a little different than I have been eating. I’ve been trying to cut back on carbs and increase my protein intake. I’ve realized that 150 calories of tortilla chips and salsa doesn’t keep me full like a 150 calorie Greek yogurt. So I’ve been trying to swap out one carb a day for one more protein to be healthier.
My basic approach to meal planning is to make proteins, vegetables and starches. Mix and match in appropriate portions in containers to make meals for the week. Yes, there is some deviation. I am not going to make my salad for Tuesday on the previous Saturday.
So here is what it looks like for this week:
The numbers next to the protein indicates how many servings I have of that protein. For example, I cut a block of extra firm tofu into 4 servings. So I know that I have two full meals for Brian and I out of one block of tofu or 4 lunches for myself.
Then, I plan out what I will combine and what I will eat when. This is NOT carved in stone. If I decide that I would rather have a salad on Monday and not Tuesday, I can always swap the meals.
I already know that Brian and I are going out for pizza and salad on Monday, so I’ve conserved my carbs earlier in the day and went heavier on veg and protein. I always plan in snacks. If I’m not hungry then I don’t eat them, but it really cuts down on the chance of impulse eating and snacking. If I know that I am going to have a late dinner or go to the gym after work, I make sure that my afternoon snack is high in protein. Brian has guy’s night every Wednesday, so I never plan a meal for Wednesday. I usually make a simple supper at home, go out with friends, or stop at Whole Foods after the gym if I go that night. I also make sure I have protein for breakfast! Otherwise I am starving mid-morning.
So, some of the meals for this week:
A bowl of leftovers from making all the meals. Brown rice, black beans, sweet potato, broccoli and a burger:
One thing I make a lot are macro bowls. You can easily swap out starches, veg and protein. They are really to easy to make multiple at one time. Brian’s have brown rice, sweet potato, black beans and tofu. Minor have cauliflower rice instead of brown rice.
A lot of people struggle with having a healthy breakfast. Eggs reheat really well. Make a big batch of a veggie and egg scramble or bake, divide it out and gently reheat in the morning. It’s a super healthy breakfast that will keep you full. You can mix it up my putting it on an English muffin or in a wrap after you reheat it. Or, I make a healthier version of baked goods to keep on hand for Brian. Baked goods freeze really well and don’t take much time to make. Don’t want to eat the same thing every morning for a week? Make two different batches and freeze half of each of them. Like these baked banana double chocolate donuts:
This week, I realized that I overbought on protein. I am going to cook it up anyway and freeze the extra turkey and lean beef burgers. Guess what? I’ll have some of next weeks cooking already done when all I have to do is thaw them! Turkey burgers cooked and cooling to be wrapped in foil then put into a freezer bag.
Another fool proof thing to do is to keep fast meals available. I always have frozen tilapia, salmon, shrimp, veggie burgers and bags of steam-able vegetables on hand. And if I have extra meals made up, I just throw them in the freezer, pull them out a week or two later and reheat. If you can buy it in the freezer section at the store(which is almost EVERYTHING), you can probably make it at home, freeze it and reheat it. Make double batches, freeze, and reheat. Or use your crockpot to make a big batch of something and freeze what you don’t want to eat that week. Save yourself the time!
How do you meal plan and prep for the week?