Time is money. Ever heard the saying? Meal planning can help you feel better and actually save time and money.
Each day my life progresses, I swear this becomes more and more true. I wear many hats: mom hat, teacher hat, home cleaner hat, dog walker hat, food blogger hat, recipe writer hat, errand runner hat, friend hat, church goer hat, wife hat, chef hat. You get the point. I am sure you also wear many hats.
Even in “normal life,” there is never an abundance of time. Now let’s work in COVID, back to school (or not) shenanigans, deployments, PCSs, TDYs and who know what else and there literally doesn’t feel like there is time for anything. If you’re like me, besides the hat wearing thing, on many days you absent-mindedly grab a piece of half eaten pizza crust that has been sitting on the counter for three hours, a string cheese or even a partially eaten piece of fruit. It is not an ideal diet, that is for sure, but sometimes it is all I have time for. Slowly but surely, my diet has begun to resemble that of a Ninja Turtle.
Enter meal planning. If your gut reaction is “I do not have time for that,” you may be right, but sometimes taking extra time in the moment, saves time in the long run.
Meal planning is awesome for a few reasons. One, you are going to do a much better job of nourishing your body, which it really does need to run properly. Two, you go into the week with a battle plan, and that brings about a bit a peace, and one less thing to tackle later.
Pick the least busy day of the week, whatever that is, and get it done. I want to share with you a few of my tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal planning. And then I will share with you some ingredients that you can make into a rice bowl, a salad and a wrap. One prep, three meals. Did I mention that all are super drool worthy?
Meal prep tips and tricks
I can only shop twice a week, max, with my schedule. I always reach for the produce in the back and check for the latest possible date. This way, if things get shuffled around, my fresh produce lasts as long as possible.
Frozen or canned is okay
If I purchase too many fresh ingredients they may not last in my fridge for five or six days, and there is way too much waste. I hate throwing out food (on principal) and I also hate wasting money. Many frozen vegetables or fruits are flash frozen for peak freshness. Similarly, many canned vegetables and fruits are canned in season, which makes them have better flavor.
Know your snacks
Having snack set aside is as easy as filling snack bags with grapes or measuring out trail mix into serving sizes. Make sure your snacks have protein and you will feel full longer. Having snacks prepared will keep you from searching the fridge/pantry and eating crap.
Breakfast is key
I am not a breakfast person. Well, that is not entirely true. I love homemade challah French toast with maple syrup as much as the next person, but when I am getting everyone ready for the day, it doesn’t make my to-do list. Studies show that eating breakfast will set you up for more success during the day. I often cook some veggies and some sausage or chorizo, add cheese and seasonings then add those to muffin tins, filling the rest with egg whites. I bake them and freeze them in bulk. So whether you have a favorite protein filled oat meal, or grab some hard boiled eggs running out the door, have a plan for breakfast.
Cook “in bulk”
If I am ever making ragu from scratch, chile con carne, chicken tikka masala or pretty much any soup or sauce, I make A-LOT and freeze it. I portion it off into zip lock bags, so when I am in a pinch I can simply defrost it and cook some rice or pasta. This way I get something satisfying and homemade, but the work is already over with. This is also super helpful when I have overspent my grocery budget some weeks and I need to make the rest stretch.
Ingredients 3 ways
One thing that people complain about with meal planning is how repetitive it is. I see so many posts where someone has boiled chicken, rice and veggies and placed them in 15 Tupperware for a week. I am not judging. If that gets it done for you, then have at it. Good job you. I like to add a bit more flavor and creativity to my cooking. It’s the chef in me. The lots of hat wear-er in me though, doesn’t have time to artfully construct a meal from scratch every night.
Prep in multiple ways
So similar to the cooking in bulk tip, I like to prep certain ingredients and use them in multiple ways. I have this chicken dry rub that is my go to (which can also be made in large quantities). One tip is to put it on chicken, and grill enough to serve the family for three days. I also prep my other ingredients that go with it and use them in varying culinary platforms. So with the same ingredients I make a filling and flavorful salad, a delicious and nutritious rice bowl, and also a hearty wrap. You can of course make any swap outs or substitutions that you wish.
Theme is key
Just try to keep on a theme. I selected a lot of costal Mexican flavors, combined with some more American ones. You can go Greek and use tzatziki, olives, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, etc. Pick all Asian flavors, and Middle Eastern flavors. That way everything comes together, no matter what you are making.
Meal planning recipes
Here are a couple of easy meal prep variations using one staple — grilled chicken. Cook the chicken ahead of time and then make these simple variations to switch up your meals!
For the salad:
Arugula (or green of choice)
Roasted Red Peppers
Oven Roasted Sweet Potato
Dressing of choice (my Honey Lime Vinaigrette– will stay in the fridge for up to 3 weeks)
For the rice bowl:
Rice (or quinoa, cauliflower rice, etc…)
Salsa or “Sauce” of choice for moisture and flavor (my tomatillo avocado salsa)
For the Wrap:
Wrap tortilla of choice
Lettuce (lightly tossed in dressing)
Cheese of choiceRead comments