It's the beginning of a new year and like most of you, I am thinking about ways I can better myself in 2018. The beginning of this year has been a little different from past ones. I didn't make a list of resolutions like I have done previously, instead I am focusing on a few major intentions I've set for myself. Since I'm all about transparency, let me share these personal intentions with you so you can help hold me accountable.
1) Invest more time into loving myself (key word: ACCEPT)
2) Worry less, enjoy more (key word: RELAX)
3) Spend time making nutritious food (key word: MEAL PREP)
4) Treat my body with respect and keep working towards better health (key word: RESPECT)
5) Love and care for those around me with intentionality (key word: LOVE)
The truth is, when I put myself first and take care of my needs by showing self-love, taking more time to relax/play, and devoting time to bettering my health through eating well, working out, sleeping more, and listening to my body, I have more genuine energy to love those around me well. Like me, I am sure some of you have chosen to focus on eating more nutrient dense, wholesome foods or maybe you've chosen to cook at home more often and eat out less. With this in mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to break down how I meal plan and prep on the weekends to help set myself up for success.
Step 1) PLAN
I know it sounds obvious, but without a plan you're going to spend a lot more money and time buying and preparing food. A lot of people simply head to the grocery store and think they will be inspired by the produce they see or simply try to "wing it", but that leads to higher grocery bills, little motivation, and vegetables rotting away in the refrigerator a week later. You see, meal planning is a crucial step to eating healthier on a budget! Here's my advice:
- Take inventory of what you already have on hand. Look through the refrigerator and freezer to see what produce and/or meat needs to get used up. This will help reduce waste and save money.
- Dedicate a certain block of time each week to browse your favorite websites, cookbooks, or Pinterest for recipes and/or ideas.
- Choose 4-6 meals for the week (depending on the size of your family). Choose at least 1 breakfast option, 1 lunch option and 2 dinner meals that you'll have leftovers from. A time saving trick when planning meals is to factor in at least two meals that use the same meat. For example, plan to slow cook a pork roast and use the pulled pork for tacos as well as served on top of sweet potatoes. Also, you don't always have to follow a recipe; simple meals are often better for people new to cooking. For example, lunch may simply be some grilled chicken with steamed broccoli and a baked sweet potato topped with coconut oil. Since I'm a nutritionist, I feel obligated to say something about seafood. If you like seafood try to aim for 2 servings of fish a week. There are some major nutrients in seafood that we don't get from other meats and it's important to keep variety in our diet. Otherwise make sure you're taking a quality cod liver oil supplement 3-4 times a week (the ones from generic stores aren't well sourced and could be doing more harm than good).
- Write out your grocery list. Multiple any recipes that need it in order to accommodate your family size; remember to bank on at least two leftover dinner nights. Break your list up by departments in the store (produce, dry goods, spices, dairy/eggs, meat, and freezer) to save time from running back and forth. I like to use the list app on my iPhone for groceries so I can check off that I've put the item in my cart and not have to carry around a pen and paper in the store.
- Next, formulate a plan for prepping your meals. Some tricks I generally use: If something needs to bake, start that recipe first so it can bake while you work on another recipe. Chop or dice all your vegetables (from all recipes) at one time and use designated prepping bowls. You'll save time by washing and chopping everything at once. If you have a slow cooker or Instant Pot recipe chosen for the week that you want to wait to make, prep as much as you can in advance, and store it in a large container or plastic bag so that you can easily start the slow cooker before work or cook the meal the evening of. Also, you don't have to prepare all your meals in advance. It's nice to save 1-3 dinner meals so you don't feel like you're eating leftovers every night (that is if you have time to cook during the weeknight).
- Set a date with your kitchen to meal prep. If you tend to get burnt out from grocery shopping, maybe it's best to shop and meal prep on separate days. Do what works best for you!
- Double check that you have the proper storage containers for your meals.
Step 2) TAKE ACTION
This is the part where most people stumble. You've made a plan and now it's time to execute it! You can do it! I promise the more times you stay true to your plan and follow through, the easier it becomes.
- Go shopping! Either physically go to the store and purchase your items, or shop online using the many online grocery shopping features.
- Start chopping, dicing, cooking, and baking! Follow the plan you formulated and use the designated time you've set aside to prepare your meals.
- Store meals in ready-to-go containers so you have less to deal with in the morning. If you have breakfast and lunch already portioned out you're more likely to actually eat it, and you'll be less frustrated when you chose to hit the snooze button in the morning.
This may sound like a lot at first, but I promise you that it gets easier! Remember if eating healthy and nutritious meals is a priority of yours, meal prep should be a blessing not a dreaded chore. If you've chosen to meal prep more often this year, I'd love to hear how it's going. Comment below or email me any questions you may have.