We’ve made it to mid-January, that crucial time when people are either going to stay on track with their goals for the new year, or are abandoning them (or perhaps they never got off the ground). My intention of doing this NEW-trition Goals series this month is to continue to give small goals and motivation that can be worked on over the year, not just this week or this month. So if you haven’t had a chance getting to last week’s goal of Cook More at Home, then good news – you’ve got plenty more weeks and days in the year to make it happen. Remember- even one more day of doing something positive can make a difference. This week’s goal is one that many people have on their radars for 2018: MEAL PLANNING AND PREPPING
If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, then you know I’m a stickler for planning and that it truly is the key to success when it comes to health and nutrition goals. After all, you can’t PAVE the way to success without a PLAN. So if you goal is to do MORE meal prep this year, you gotta have a plan in place to make it happen, right?
New-trition Goals for the New Year:
#2: MEAL PLANNING & PREPPING
This week the focus is on meal planning and prepping. I’m sure thank to social media, when you hear meal prepping you’re immediately envisioning something like this:
I’m not going to lie. That image frightens me. Like A LOT. I’m all about prepping my meals and getting myself set up for the week. But when I see things like that it makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong because I choose to spend time out and about with Mr E on the weekends instead of in the kitchen. Instead of scaring you away from meal prepping, I’m going to share some tips for a sane approach to meal planning and prepping. To help get you started, download this helpful Weekly Meal Planner & Grocery List.
WHEN WILL YOU EAT THIS WEEK?
You’re probably thinking this sounds like a silly question. You’re going to eat several times a day every day, right? But the first steps to meal planning is knowing:
- When you are going to eat, and
- How many of those meals you’re actually responsible for making
Having this info is important because you don’t want to buy food you won’t wind up making. Nor do you want to plan on making an elaborate meal, only to realize you have late meetings all week long and no time to cook at the end of the day. Prevent this from happening by, pull out your calendar each and take note of how meals will fit into your schedule. Mark off the days when you know you won’t be home for meals at all. If you have meetings, social events, or any other occasions during mealtimes, make sure to cross off those days so you know you don’t have to worry about those meals. Don’t forget to account for date nights or traditions like Pizza Friday!
On the flipside, you’ll also want to take into account days when you need fast meals to prepare, or have leftovers ready to heat & eat. I like to star those days on my calendar so I can plan my other meals accordingly. That way I know if I need to make extra to have on hand for another meal or need to have items on hand to make a 30 minute or less dinner. Need some help with finding fast meals to prepare? Download the Wildtree Meal App to find fast meals in the Recipe Database.
Now know the days you have time to actually make meals. Now comes the fun part – write out the meals you’re going to make and plug them into your calendar. Then hang that calendar somewhere prominent, like on the fridge, so you and your significant other are on the same page with meals you’re having for the week. But wait, you’re not done yet. On to the next step!
WHEN WILL YOU GO GROCERY SHOPPING?
Having a written plan is only the beginning. Now you need to make sure you have the resources available at home to actually make those meals. Avoid a common mistake of daily grocery shopping to “get what you need for that night”. Not only is this is huge time waste, but inevitable you’ll wind up overbuying as well. Instead, plan what day you will go shopping, make a list based on your meal plan, stick to that list, and nothing else (except for, you know, important things like toilet paper and toothpaste). Helpful tools like the Wildtree Meal App will take your meal plan and generate a grocery list automatically for you. Mr E and I are also big fans of AnyList, which allows us to share a synced grocery list between the two of us and organizes the list by aisle of the grocery store.
And if you prefer home delivery services like PeaPod or FreshDirect, make sure you’re planning your delivery days accordingly to when you will make meals and when you’ll be home to receive the delivery.
WHAT CAN YOU PREP IN ADVANCE?
You don’t have to wait for the days you plan to make meals to start your meal preparation. These are a few of my favorite ways to set myself up for weeknight kitchen success:
- Unpack & Prep: before you even put groceries away from the store, go ahead and wash, peel, and chop fruits and veggies accordingly for easy use on cooking days
- Batch Cooking: certain foods take time to cook, like whole grains, legumes, and potatoes. Rather than making these for every meal, cook up a batch you can use for the week. These will keep up to 5 days in the fridge. Even longer in the freezer. Heat and eat when needed. And don’t forget to dress them up in different ways so you don’t feel like you’re eating the same side dish 5 days in a row.
- Season Before Freezin’: since I started offering meal prep workshops, this has by far been one of my favorite time saving hacks. Rather than freezing raw protein and waiting for it to thaw before preparing it, save yourself a step. Portion out your meat into freezer-safe Ziploc bags, then add any seasoning or marinade of choice. Date the bag and label with any additional instructions before putting away in the freezer. Not only will it have time to marinade as it freezes, but it will also get additional flavoring time as it thaws. Its pretty freaking brilliant and everyone needs to try it!
- Night Before: making dinner? Why not take care of lunch or breakfast while you’re at it. Portion out your meal for lunch the next day (AND avoid the urge to go back for seconds). Or use prepared veggies to make a quick breakfast the next morning (like my 2-Minute Microwave Breakfast Mug).
WHEN & HOW WILL YOU COOK?
Based on your meal plan, have you determined which days you’ll actually be making meals? Don’t forgot to choose the method that works best for you based on your schedule. These are my go-to cooking methods:
- Crock Pot/InstantPot: there’s a reason I’ve named my CrockPot “Mom” – dinner is hot and ready when I get home at the end of the day. There’s nothing better than throwing a prepped meal into the CrockPot in the morning on the way to work, and having dinner done when I get home. And in case I forgot to time out my meal accordingly, there’s InstantPot to help make dinner in a pinch!
- Broiler:nothing easier than taking a piece of fish (or your protein of choice), having it seasoned and ready to go, and throwing it in the broiler for a few minutes to make dinner happen in a flash.
- Oven: have you discovered the magic of sheet pan meals yet? Place your prepared main protein and side veggies together on one lined sheet plan, put it in the oven to roast, and you have a whole meal done in under 30 minutes
- Grill: want a quick meal with as little mess to clean as possible? That’s where the grill comes in. Take your prepared protein (and maybe veggies!) and place it on the grill for a meal with no mess
SIDE DISH HACKS
Sounds great, but what about some of the sided dishes? If you didn’t have time to prep fresh side dishes, don’t forget to stock up or make frozen veggies, fruits, grains, beans, and legumes for quick to heat sides. Frozen plant products are equally nutritious (sometimes more!) as fresh, so don’t overlook them because you think they’re “processed foods”. Just make sure you’re avoiding items that comes in sauces or syrups. You can also grab those prepped veggies you made when you unpackaged your groceries for a quick salad or side. And don’t forget you already got those grains ready to go to too!
Does meal planning and prepping still sound scary? How will you and your Significant Other start your meal planning and prepping journey this year? Make sure to hang up your meal plan in a prominent spot and that you’re BOTH on the same page with your plan.
If you need some inspiration, check out my Recipes for some meal ideas. Don’t miss out on my Meal Planning Website and App for even more simple meals to make at home. And if you’re a Jersey Shore Local, make a date to visit one of my Meal Prep Meet-Up Events. Not local? Order a Meal Prep Kit for yourself to DIY at home and bang out 10 meals in under 2 hours!
HAVE YOU GOTTEN IN THE HABIT OF MEAL PLANNING AND PREPPING YET?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PREP AHEAD MEAL?
SHARE YOUR WEEKLY MEAL PLAN BY TAGGING ME (@mandyenrightRD) ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND USING #NUTRITIONNUPTIALS!
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