Inevitably the question of “What’s for dinner?” comes up Every. Single. Day. It shouldn’t be a surprise, yet very few people plan ahead to make sure they have quality, home-cooked food in their fridge waiting for them at the end of their day. How great would it feel to come home from work and food is already waiting for you in the fridge? It’s even more important when you are trying to change your eating habits to include more plants and less processed foods.
After you’ve grocery shopped for the week, dedicate an hour to prepping some key foods that can see you through the next several days. It will save you time over the course of the week or, better yet, save you from ordering easy take out.
If you are short on time, this is something that can be done together with the kids, your partner, or even a friend over Zoom! You might be surprised how much easier meal prepping is if you schedule a time with an accountability partner. Like going to the gym, it’s a lot harder to skip it, if someone else is counting on you.
Here is how to get started:
I like to begin by creating a list of the meals that I know we will be home to eat. You don’t want to shop and prepare for five dinners, if you’re only home for three. Making too much food can be deflating if you must throw your hard work in the trash at the end of the week.
Go with what you know! Keep it simple and plan your family favorites. Each week you’ll only want to add in one or two new recipes, so that you don’t get too overwhelmed. Starting with your usual menu items is a great foundation.
If you struggle with recipe ideas, make a basic outline for each week like Quinoa Bowls Monday, Taco Tuesday, Chili Wednesday, Soup/Salad Thursday, Fishy Friday. It can make planning easier, and it is always easier to head into dinner prep knowing what to cook. Websites like Pinterest or Forks Over Knives showcase many ways to diversify your recipes each week and allow you to find options that are in your wheelhouse, so you aren’t committing yourself to over-complicated recipes.
Once you map out your selections, list out the ingredients needed, and then look around your kitchen to check off the items you already have in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Now you have your shopping list.
After finalizing your list, designate a grocery shopping day that fits into your routine that can be consistent each week to align with your meal prep day. If you don’t have a ton of time, you can use sites like Instacart or AmazonFresh to do the shopping for you. Even if you can’t get everything, it is still a huge time saver to get the bulk of your list using a delivery service.
On meal prep day, start with foods that need the most time on the stove or in the oven: roasting vegetables, soaking, or simmering beans, making quinoa. Once you have them going, you can tackle the smaller tasks like washing lettuce or chopping fruit and veggies into convenient snack sizes. Having a few “go-to” foods are always good to have on hand for a snack or to add to a meal like nuts and seeds, hard-boiled eggs, or chopped fruit.
After your prep is complete, storing your prepped food in glass or clear containers allows you to see what is in the fridge. You can also pour soups, stews, and broths into silicone muffin tins, freeze them, and pop the pieces into a plastic bag after they harden.
Heading into dinner time with meals ready to go, not only saves time and money, but gives you healthy food at mealtime AND lowers your stress level.
We’d love to hear about your experience, favorite recipe, or meal prep tip. Please leave us your comments!
Written by Liz Curran from Health Navigators