Good nutrition doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and a little time to consistently plan and prepare nutritious, healthy meals. If you are committed to starting a healthier eating plan, I’ve put together some advice and ideas that will hopefully help you.
First of all, planning is key. Without a plan, there’s little to no chance of proper execution. If you don’t have a meal plan for the week, you’ll be more likely to turn to eating out and/or eating junk food. Plan your week around your schedule. I recommend committing the time to put in a bulk cooking session one day per week. Yes, it does take time but isn’t your health worth a little extra time each week?
I have weekends off work so I try to plan for my bulk cooking day to be Saturday. On Wednesday, I make a meal plan for the upcoming week. This gives me a few days to work it out and extra time if something comes up Wednesday and I need another day or so. I mainly plan on dinners since breakfast and lunch are generally the same every day. Plan your dinners to try to utilize any leftovers and remember – the freezer is your friend
We typically do a big grocery shopping day on Friday, so I start my meal plans on Fridays.
A typical week of dinners for me will look something like this (I’ve added some notes)
F – pasta casserole (usually provides leftovers for weekend training lunches or another week night meal)
S – veggie pizza (fun and a good weekend meal)
S – vegetable bowl with greens, a grain, beans, hummus, etc.
M – lentil tacos with a side of roasted potatoes
T – soup of the week (a big pot of soup will feed us for at least 2 weeknight meals, and sometimes provide leftovers for a weekend lunch)
W – leftovers or a stir fry
Th – soup
Does it always work out perfectly? Of course not. Maybe your husband is training for an Ironman and eats all the soup on Tuesday. Maybe those leftovers you were counting on as Thursday’s meal are a little too left over. I like to keep certain staples on hand for those evenings when I need to create a dinner on the fly. Canned or frozen beans are a must, as are lentils. Make a big pot or two of beans on your bulk cooking day and freeze them. Potatoes keep well in a dark pantry and are also good to have on hand. Canned tomatoes come in helpful as do a few boxes of pasta. While we try to stay away from highly processed foods, like boxed pasta, having it once in a while is generally all right. Tofu is processed, but also has a long shelf life. In a pinch on a Thursday night, a tofu scramble and roasted potatoes makes a decent meal.
Another idea for the last night of your “meal week” is what I call a “Hodge Podge Meal” which means I just look at what we have in the fridge and create something. Half an onion, half a pepper, some black beans and some quinoa equals a simple stir fry for dinner.
I also try to plan for snacks and snacky-type afternoon weekend meals. If Coach Jay is out for a 4 hour bike ride on Saturday morning, I know he will need more than a lunch of leftover soup for the afternoon. Other leftovers are always handy, as is salad. Homemade trail mix is filling and easy to make with nuts, dried fruit, some vegan chocolate chips and a sprinkle of salt.
Create your grocery list while making your meal plan. Try to be as comprehensive as possible and pick up a few extra things at the store.
An extra head of cauliflower comes in handy for an afternoon snack. Roast the florets and toss in buffalo sauce. Carrots and pita bread dipped in hummus is a filling snack as well.
As I said above, a bulk cooking day takes time but ultimately saves you much more time throughout the week. On a typical Saturday cooking day I will make/do:
Each week is a little different, depending on what I have planned but by prepping ahead of time, I usually only cook 1 or 2 weeknights a week. Everything else is ready!
Remember, the freezer is your friend. Check it while meal planning to use things before they get too old, and use frozen leftovers for quick weeknight meals. A few weeks ago we had lentil tacos and I froze the leftover filling. It served us well as a quick dinner last night. Plan next week’s soup around this week’s frozen beans. You can even freeze cooked rice to use in future dishes.
Make your plan around your own schedule and I promise the more you plan and implement these strategies, the easier they become.
* salad chop – add a scoop of this on a salad anytime. Mix chopped cucumber, bell pepper (any color), beans (opt.) and add white wine vinegar, a little salt and a little sugar (opt).