Simple Ways to Plan and Prepare Meals Even When You’re Busy
You want to eat healthier, but you’re super-busy.
You eat out several times a week or have takeaways, because that’s what you have to do. That’s what works for you and your family (when it comes to time and convenience).
But you probably realize it’s not working great when it comes to your health and fitness goals.
You want better health. You want to eat better. You don’t want the extra calories and might even be that keen on fast food and junk food as much anymore. And you DO want to save time and money. Let’s face it, every time you eat fast food, you feel bloated and well, yuk!
I get it!
So, as a nutritionist, I am here to help you.
I have a simple strategy that I’m more than happy to share with you. It will help you to plan and prepare healthy meals for the week.
Now, you don’t need to completely abandon your regular meals out. You can use my strategy to help you eat out just one or two fewer times per week. It’s up to you.
As with any lifestyle change, start gradually so you can build consistency. The key here is to make it easy, doable, and rewarding enough to do again and again.
Let me walk you through my simple meal prep system, and how this can work for you.
PLAN MEALS FOR THE WEEK
Method 1: I prefer to do this on the weekend. Use method is if you like to make sure everything is done. If this overwhelms you, check out my other method below. I’ll flip through my recipes and choose a bunch to make that week. I’ll even pick which days to have which meals if I’m feeling overly ambitious, but that’s not necessary if you’re new to this. I’ll bookmark the pages and write my chosen recipes down in a notebook or even a sheet of paper to put on my fridge. I like to have at least one slow cooker meal each week because they’re so easy, and dinner is ready and waiting when you get home.
Then I create my grocery list. I take a quick look in my fridge, freezer, and pantry, and list the recipe ingredients that I need to buy.
If this is as far as you get, then you are still ahead as you are organized and have the food ready to go in the house.
Pro Tip: If you’re not sure you have enough of an ingredient already, consider buying a “backup” one just in case. I’ve had times where the tomato sauce I planned to use was a bit short of what I actually needed. Having to run out in the middle of meal prep can be very frustrating.
Another thing to consider is doubling the recipe(s), so you can prep and cook once, but have twice the meal at the end. The extras can be taken for lunch, or frozen to pull out the night before a busy day, so you just need to heat it up when you’re ready.
Pro Tip: If you’re doubling a recipe, don’t forget to double the amount you buy from the super market.
Once you have your handy-dandy grocery list ready, hop on over to the shop and pick up your essentials. If you don’t have enough food storage containers for your meals, now’s the time to pick up some of those too. Remember if you are really short on time, you can always get your food delivered.
Pro Tip: If you’re not a fan of washing and chopping produce, then consider buying them already pre-washed and pre-chopped, or even frozen. You can make your meal prep even easier if you don’t mind spending a couple of extra dollars.
PREPARE MEALS FOR THE WEEK
Since you’ve already chosen your recipes and have your groceries, let’s get started on prepping some of the ingredients.
I like to book off 2-3 hours one afternoon for this. Get your recipes ready, clear off your counter, and play some music (if you’re so inclined).
At this point, depending on time, I’ll either prep the ingredients, or pre-cook the entire recipe. Sometimes just washing and chopping produce and putting it in containers is a huge time-saver for weeknights. Or, you can go through and make a whole meal, and divide it up into portions and refrigerate or freeze. It’s really up to you, because the more you do now, the less you’ll have to do when you’re hungry.
AWESOME MEAL PREP TIP
There is one meal that is easiest to plan and prepare in advance. It’s one that’s also often the most difficult to eat at home if you’re busy.
Planning some overnight oatmeal is a great start to any day. Simply place ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup your choice of milk, 1 tbsp chia or flax seeds into a container (or make 5 for the whole week). Then place the lid on, shake them up and put them in your fridge. In the morning you can quickly heat them up or even eat them cold (the oats will have absorbed the milk). Top with berries, chopped fruit, nuts or seeds and enjoy.
Smoothies are also great to prepare. Pop your chosen fruit and vegetables into little baggies and freeze them. Then in the morning grab one, add to blender, add spinach, water, nuts and seeds or protein of choice and blend. Done!
Method 2: Now if cooking all your meals ahead freaks you out, or you are happy to cook something fresh every night, then try this. So as above, make sure you plan and shop. That way you are well prepared. Even chop up the veggies and have them ready to go. You can marinate and freeze your protein too. Just remember to take it out in the morning and pop into the fridge to defrost. So, what I do is cook double the protein and have it with veggies for dinner and the extra portion with a salad for lunch the next day. That way you are getting plenty of variety in your vegetables and having different proteins at night, ensuring that your nutrition status is improving. Pretty exciting really. (Well, for a nutritionist anyway)
With a little planning, you’ll be able to eat healthier while you save money and making sure that you are getting plenty of nutrients for your body to thrive.
This may take some getting used to, so if I can be of help, please reach out and let me know.
Please feel free to like this post and ask questions or comment below.
Zita Dixon - Nutritionist