Simple Meal Prep Ideas
We don't have a lot of time as busy women. It's not the 1950's where we are home all day to clean, cook and wear dresses (but honestly how good does that sound right about now!). But we have a desire to eat healthy. And have our kids growing up in an environment where healthy food is the norm. We don't want them growing up on mac and cheese and hot dogs. And we'd also love it if cooking and eating well came as second nature to us like it does for the people who are fit and seem to have it all together.
In this blog, I'm sharing exactly how I meal prep to help you take that overwhelm out.
I'm not a fan of eating the same exact thing for a week straight and maybe you're not either. Here are my favorite ways to eat healthy during the week and keep an entire family of four happy with the selection in our kitchen.
The very first thing that I do when I begin a meal prep is take out my calendar. I write down what our family's activities and schedule is for the week ahead. There is zero sense in planning and prepping if we are traveling or won't be home for dinner. A later blog will come on that topic for what to eat while eating out. So knowing where you'll be and who will be home is the first step in planning a meal.
The second thing that is always considered is: what does everyone LIKE? I will not be planning and prepping something that no one will actually eat, and neither should you, even if you did see it on Instagram. Consider your own family's taste buds. What's the healthiest thing they'll tolerate? For us, it's chicken and a few vegetables that everyone agrees on. So those are always a part of the plan.
Now, take out a notebook and make some columns and rows. You can also use a meal planning printable like this one. It should be labeled by the day of the week and categories for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
I always figure out my dinners first because they seem the most challenging to me. I start with a protein, come up with a veggie and a complex carb. For example, rotisserie chicken with roasted broccoli and a sweet potato. Simple. Keep going until dinners for the week are filled. I tend to repeat dinners twice, so really you're only coming up with 3 meals to cook. Leftovers are amazing and that is literally where meal prep got it's name. It's just fancy for leftovers, and you were today years old when you realized it.
Do the same thing for lunches, breakfasts and snacks for your week. Keep it simple by repeating and rotating all week long. I don't always eat the same thing every single day but I definitely eat the same things more than once in a week. Don't forget to be a human and plan a treat meal on the weekend! It's one meal per week that you don't have to plan and you don't feel guilty about. Go for it.
Next step is making a grocery list based on your menu. What do you already have in your freezer or fridge that you can use this week? What do you need to buy fresh? Also figure out which day you'll be shopping.
Now it's time for the prep. I hang my meal plan on my fridge and look at my calendar. When will you be able to cook live vs when will you have to have something ready made? Hint: that leftover tip again. Personally, I know that on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I am often my busiest with the kids and patients, I have to have leftovers ready for us. So I typically cook "live" on Mondays and Wednesdays and eat leftovers the other days. That just works for us! Figure out what works for YOU.
So...did you notice that NO WHERE in my meal prepping plan was a full day spent in the kitchen making a million containers full of food that I will likely get sick of by Friday?! That's because that type of meal prepping doesn't work for me and I know so many others dread it, too. I am here to tell you that you don't have to do it that way. Follow me on Instagram (@jennifer_stawarz) for more recipes, meal prep tips and healthy lifestyle vlogging. And if you'd like to be added to my Saturday newsletter with weekly freebies and recipes right in your inbox, sign up here!