Saturday night while winding down for the evening I made a Wish & Accomplish list to make my Sunday a productive one. A huge part of my Sunday responsibilities included grocery shopping, meal planning and food prep – all things I enjoy and have been making a better effort to manage in the new year.
I have always been an advocate of having a plan in place, but sometimes even “go to the cafeteria” was considered a plan. Sure, I’d always make the healthy choice and hit up the salad bar with fresh veggies, but I was making selections on what was available at the time, not what was always best. As I’ve grown up I’m more aware of how my nutrition impacts my workouts and energy levels. I find myself wanting to be in control of my day and what I’m feeding my self with – especially with the sometimes limited resources during work hours. It gives me a lot of confidence to pack a breakfast, lunch and snacks
and extra emergency snacks every day so that if I get pulled into a meeting, don’t have the time to get away or just simply forgot my wallet in another purse that day – I’ll still be fed well.
There are many ways to get into the groove of planning and prepping your meals and I feel like I’m still figuring it out. I’ve put together a list of steps that I’ve found to be helpful when another week goes by and it’s time to do some more prep!
Look at what you already have and make sure to check the expiration dates. You might remember that you bought some broccoli a few weeks ago or that dozen eggs was meant for a brunch that never happened – just make sure that you are aware of upcoming dates and especially know stock of your non-perishables just in case there’s a door-buster sale on your favorite soup!
Look at a Calendar
I try to make lunch plans at least once every two weeks and maybe even keep them once a month… (sorry for all of my re-schedules lately). You probably get to step away more often than I do – so make sure that you’re not overcooking if you don’t have to! For example, this week Dan and I have a voucher to use at Thailand in Beaverton over lunch so I had the foresight to only prep enough for my four lunches. No haste – no waste!
Make a List – Check it Twice!
Okay, so we’ve already taken inventory – now what do you need in your pantry and fridge that will make your week complete? Dan and I always find ourselves in need of more apples, bananas, greek yogurt and frozen chicken breasts so those are constantly on the list. You probably have your family staples too that you need to have a successful week, make sure that they are on your list so you don’t leave the grocery store without them.
Focus on Fresh & Versatile Ingredients
What are some of the items I can always use over and over in different variations? Quinoa, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, chicken, veggie medley and more. I learned a trick from my mom that one can add volume to any meal with the right veggies laced within the main ingredients. If you like quinoa you’re already 3 steps ahead because it’s one of those healthy staples that cooks quickly, cooks well in mass quantity, holds well in the refrigerator and can be heated up in minutes in addition to a perfect balance of protein and vegetables.
Buy in Bulk (when possible)
If you can, I urge you to buy in bulk. It really helps you to have the ability to prepare a week’s worth of food at a time and also save a few dollars here and there due to the volume. I have a Costco membership and somehow manage to always go at the busiest times, but wouldn’t dare do my shopping any other way for the things I know I’m going to use over and over. The benefit and savings outweigh the extra time in this case. Remember, this series is called “take the time”.
Find Durable Tupperware
A Christmas present that Santa
Dan and I got us was a brand new set of tupperware from Amazon. It’s been the MVP in my mission to prep meals. I can consistently fit the right portions into the containers, trust in the airtight lock and put them through the ultimate wear-test of the microwave and dishwasher. Without a trusty set like this, you may not find cooking for a week as pleasant of an experience.
Set Aside Some Time
I like to do most of my mass cooking on Sunday nights, but it could be different for you and your schedule. Between running all the burners, chopping the veggies and separating the portions I spend close to an hour and a half in the kitchen – more time if photography is involved!
I always start out with the basics:
- 3 cups of dried quinoa
- 5+ grilled chicken breasts
- 5-6 cups of frozen veggies turned edible
- Yogurt + fruit combinations (blueberries, mango, blackberries, kiwi)
- Another small portable snack – like a ziplock bag of cranberries, granola bars or carrots & hummus!
Keep it simple until you get the hang of it – and make sure that you’re not cooking while you’re hungry for dinner. It could be instant sabotage!
Take Photos, duh!
It’s not as fun if you don’t take photos of the process and your finished product!
Have fun prepping and let me know some of your keys to success! If you’re wondering – Dan prefers a sandwich for lunch and can be found carefully crafting it at 5:45am each morning. The planning is wearing off!