How many times have we all come home and had the dreaded thought, “What's for dinner?” and had no idea, no plan, or just didn’t feel like cooking? I know what happens to me. I either pick at the food that’s around, eating like an unsupervised nine year old or I order take out. Neither of these choices keep me on track to reach my fitness and nutrition goals. And in general I will not feel great afterwards. My solution to this is to prepare meals ahead of time and have them in the fridge ready to go. This can be made as simple or as complicated as you like. I am no Iron Chef so I keep my plan simple as can be or follow recipes. Other people I know are great cooks and their meal prep is much fancier than mine. Either way works, as long as it works for you. No matter how you do it get food made ahead of time and it will save you time, energy, decision making effort, and keep you feeling great.
In my mind there are two main ways to accomplish this, if you have more ideas let me know. I love hearing about new ways to get tasks done. That being said, let’s jump into how to do this.
1. Pick a day and cook all your meals for the week.
2. When you cook a meal you make extra specifically to eat later.
My favorite is #1. I look ahead at my upcoming week and think about how many meals I will need and what I’d like to eat. Sometimes I generalize and sometimes I plan actual recipes out of one of my cookbooks. Either way, I then check the pantry and make a grocery list. This saves me time and money at the grocery store. I’m focused and can get in and out faster with less wasted time and money. I then come home and prep everything. I cut up all the veggies and fruit, so even if they won’t be cooked they are ready to be eaten. I then either cook the recipes as prescribed or get all the meat in the oven or crockpot. Then it is time to cook the veggies. I have a large wok that I use for stir fry type dishes or I chop everything in large pieces and roast them in the oven at the same time the meat is cooking. The roasting of everything at once frees me up to do other things while the food cooks. I like this on weeks when I am trying fit a lot into my day off. When everything is cooked I portion it all out into containers and put them in the fridge. Next time I need a meal I pop a container in the microwave, and done.
Number 2 is also very effective. Just this week we made a meal and simply made extra and now have 7 additional meals. The entire meal cost about $35. We cooked pork loins, mashed potatoes, and green beans with bacon pieces. Delicious, nutritious and it made a total of 10 meals. If your family tends to sit down together for a meal every night this option may work best for you. This way lunches are a no-brainer or if there’s a night you can’t cook a fresh meal it is already done.
I have found that the trick of coming home from the grocery and cutting up all the veggies and fruit right away has seriously helped me to waste less food and eat better. If I just handle it all at once then when I’m hungry and prone to make poor choices, because I don’t feel like cutting things up at that moment, I can reach for a snack that is already prepared. It seems like a little thing, but trust me it works. Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you. I also utilize the fresh veggies that come in the steam-in bags and frozen ones as well.
If you have any tips or tricks for preparing food for the week ahead let me know in the comments. I love hearing new and different ideas for making eating healthy more successful.
Here is a recipe from Cooking Light’s Gluten Free Cookbook to get you started:
Old-fashioned All-American Meat Loaf (p.134)
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 pound ground beef (I sometimes use ground turkey)
1/2 C finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 C finely chopped onion
1 (8oz.) can tomato sauce, divided
1 (2oz) GF bread torn into 4 pieces (if you’re not GF use regular bread)
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce