Planning your meals can make your life so much easier. Work, kids, games, church, exercise, classes, and family can make life hectic. The first thing to get pushed to the side is food. Food is always the excuse. There are about 10 fast food choices you can make driving from work to school and back home for the night that may seem to make that part of your life a little easier.
Fast food is not real food. Sure, you may be able to grab it and go. You can eat it quickly in your car or at the ball game. You can even order ahead and have it waiting for you when you arrive at the restaurant. Does it have nutritional value? Will it help you stay healthy and give you the energy you need to make it through the rest of the night? The answer is NO. Those foods will give you the high you need to make it the next event, but the long term ware on your body is not worth the cost.
Meal planning is your life saver. I promise you that a little bit of planning will completely change the way you and your family eat. By creating a list, building a food budget, and setting aside 3-4 hours ONE day a week, you can solve most of your food problems. You will also be shocked at how much money you save by not eating out and cooking at home.
The list above is what I planned to cook for the week. Just in case you can’t read my writing, here it is:
Blueberry flax seed muffins (recipe coming soon)
Chopped kale, red cabbage, carrots, and broccoli
Roast chickpeas and sweet potato
I prepared all this food in three hours and we now have enough food to last us one week. This includes snacks, lunches, and a base for dinners. Everything is portioned out and meals are created in advance to accommodate our busy schedules. My schedule has slowed down so I am home more to cook, but I would usually prepare complete meals for breakfast and lunch as well as any meats we would eat for dinner. This is a light week for us, but you get the idea.
Everything is pictured here and now all I have to do is throw some things together and make a meal. Turkey burgers can be paired with any side for lunches. Rice will be used as a side for dinners. Boiled eggs will be eaten with rice cakes, tuna fish, or oatmeal and grapefruit for breakfast. Candied walnuts will be toppings for salads, yogurt, or oats. The raw veggies will be eaten with the edamame hummus or chopped again and fried to go over rice. There are so many options here, and you can find the best one for you and your family.
Here are three simple steps to get you started:
Create a budget. Set a realistic budget of how much money it would take to replace your fast food trips, snack runs, and pizza nights and feed your family for one week. Shopping weekly allows you to buy more fresh foods and less processed. Setting a budget lets you plan exactly how much food you will need and only buy that food.
At the end of the week, your food should be gone. This creates less waste and saves you money long term. For example, if you eat out twice a week with a family of four, you will spend $30 per trip on average. More or less depending on where you go. You just spent $60 on fast food meals. If you set a budget of $100 per week for food, you spent more than half of your budget on two meals. $100 can buy you A LOT of food. You can feed your family of four for less than $20 a day if you learn how to shop and prepare your own food. I am talking about eating five meals a day, not one.
Make a list. I am a list maker. I write everything down in a notebook. They are all over my house, in my car, my purse, and my gym bag. I like having something I can check off. It makes me feel like I accomplished something and I can see it. I can also see what I need to move to tomorrow’s list.
The same thing should be done with your food. Make a list of what meals and snacks you want to prepare, find your recipes, and make a list of ingredients and grocery items you need to make it happen. It’s pretty simple, write it down, make a plan, shop, and prepare.
Pick a cooking day. I get it, your busy. You have things to do and life gets pretty crazy. Everyone has at least one day when they have a slow period. It can be any day of the week, my day was Tuesday this week. I didn’t have a hectic day and I made time to cook. Now, the pressure to create meals is gone for the rest of the week because it’s already done. Find your day, set aside time, and figure out an efficient way to cook all that food.
Let me break down a typical cooking day for you. Using the list above I am going to walk you through how you should prepare those food items to make the most efficient use of your time.
I wanted to roast my chickpeas, garlic, and sweet potato, so I started by preheating the oven to 375 F. I lined a sheet pan with parchment paper for the chickpeas and sprayed a glass baking dish for my sweet potatoes.
I prepared my rice next and while that was cooking I drained and rinsed my chickpeas, removed the skins and dried them.
While the chickpeas were cooking I candied the walnuts, chopped sweet potatoes and boiled the eggs.
I put the sweet potatoes and garlic in the oven and washed, dried, and chopped all my vegetables for the week.
When the eggs were finished I moved them to an ice bath in the sink, and blanched the edamame for my hummus.
I prepared hummus and chia bites next, removed the sweet potatoes and chickpeas from the oven and used the chickpea tray and parchment to cook my turkey burgers.
By the time I was finished with the chia bites and clean up, everything had cooled and I put it all in tupperware containers and into the fridge for the week.Meal prep is easy. It took me three hours to prepare all of that food. It may take you longer in the beginning, but you can get your kids or spouse involved and make it a family event. Get everyone in the kitchen together and cook your meals as a family. This should be fun. It should be something you look forward to each week and once it is done you can rest easy and not have to worry about where your meals are coming from.
If you have questions ask me. I am here to help and I want to help. Nutrition is such a big part of my life and I want to help you make it a part of yours as well.
Next week try some meal prep. If it’s easier for you, pick one meal and prepare it. You have to start somewhere, don’t get overwhelmed and never take the first step.