If you follow me in Instagram, then you know I pack my breakfast every morning (lol that my first class of the day knows what I eat for breakfast and that I’m a creature of habit) and I pack our lunches too. Since we are on a budget, we don’t eat out a ton, and I cook 95% of our meals. The past two years I have streamlined this process so it’s not too much of a hassle each week. The key is planning your meals! Today’s post is all about tips I have learned to help make meal planning more manageable.
Tip #1: Plan out your week on Sunday (and knock out a grocery store trip too)
Every Sunday, I go ahead and plan out what we’re eating for the next five days! I write out what we’re eating for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner Monday-Friday. I usually leave a little wiggle room for the weekends (pro tip: make sure you have SOMETHING in the fridge for the weekends though or else you’ll make a bad food choice out of hunger. Boiled eggs, deli meat, and salad mix are great to have on hand). If you go into the week knowing what you are supposed to eat each day, you make healthier decisions throughout the week. I go ahead and go to the grocery store for the week too on Sundays, so we are set all week!
The weeks that we make the poorest diet decisions are the weeks when we were traveling and I didn’t have time to plan out our meals and run to the grocery store on Sunday. Before we know it, it’s Thursday and we’ve made poor diet decisions all week. That’s why I’m a firm believer and making this a habit on Sundays. We actually try to get back on Sunday’s relatively early now if we do have to travel, just so I can get some healthy food choices in our fridge for the week.
Tip #2 Get in the Habit of Leftovers
I know, some of you are cringing as you read the word “leftovers,” but GIRL this has saved me SO much time and sanity during the week. Since Brandon is in medical school, much of the housework falls on me. Don’t get me wrong, Brandon seriously is an amazing husband, and he helps whenever he has time. But let me tell you, medical students don’t have time for anything other than studying. So naturally, cooking falls on my shoulders. Thankfully, Brandon is the least picky person on the planet, and he will eat whatever I make him. Something that has helped me tremendously is cooking dinner for two nights. This means, what I make Monday night for dinner, we will also have Tuesday. By doing this, I only cook on average 3-4 nights a week. Not only does this save me time by not having to cook every night, but we also have less dishes to clean (which Brandon actually cleans the dishes for me since I cook, seriously the best thing ever). Some things we like to have as leftovers are mozzarella stuffed turkey meatballs with zoodles, blackened salmon with avocado salsa and steamed veggies, walnut roasted pork tenderloin and roasted veggies, turkey burgers with baked sweet potato “fries, seafood + homemade pesto + spaghetti squash, and baked chicken parmesan (encrusted with gg crackers of course)!
I also make us the same thing for multiple days for breakfast and lunch… which brings me to the next tip!
Tip #3 Meal Prep… Kinda
I can’t get on the meal prep bandwagon where you cook EVERYTHING on Sunday and nothing during the week. I love food too much to have the same thing every day lol, which is why the leftovers for dinner trick is helpful in saving time, but also giving us variety.
For breakfast and lunch however, I’m a little more mundane. I typically will pack breakfast and lunches for 2-3 days at a time. So this means we’ll have the same thing for lunch 3 days in a row, and in the middle of the week I’ll pack something else to get us through the rest of the week. Typically I pack variations of salads for lunches. Not the most exciting thing in the world, but considering I have 20 minutes to eat (life of a teacher) and Brandon typically is shoveling food into his mouth between patients (life of a med student), it works for us. We don’t have time to enjoy lunch, so we’re okay with being a little boring here.
So on Sunday, I’ll go ahead and prep breakfast and lunches through Tuesday or Wednesday, then in the middle of the week I’ll prep again for the rest of the week.
Tip #4 Base your meals on your Week Schedule
This tip is important and affects all of the previous tips mentioned. I personally make decisions about what we’re eating, when we’re eating leftovers, and when I’m making lunches in the middle of the week based upon our schedules. This sounds like a no brainer, and it is, but when you’re first getting started on the meal planning kick, it’s easy to forget to consider this.
I look at our week, and identify the evenings I know are going to be busy. For us that means when Brandon works late, when I have school meetings, am meeting up with friends, have church small group, etc. This is especially important to consider if you’re a mama and have to consider the kids’ schedules! I then plan to cook the days I know I have time, and then plan leftovers the other days. This seems simple, but it really does help the family stay on track with eating healthy if you know the days you’re cooking dinner and meal prepping.
Tip #5 Use Similar Produce Throughout the Week & Keep Frozen Veggies on Hand
The last tip I have for you is to use similar produce throughout the week. I try to use similar veggies in lunches and dinners throughout the week for several reasons. First of all, it helps ensure you’ll eat your produce before it goes bad and saves your money in terms of not wasting food. But it also helps with prep and saving time. For example, if I want us to have a salad for dinner the next few days (which I always do), when I’m making that salad the first night, I’ll chop extra veggies (cucumbers, peppers, onions, etc) and put them in a container in the fridge. The next few days when I need to whip up a salad for dinner, all I do is put lettuce in a bowl and dump my chopped veggie container. It’s a super easy way to save time!
I also keep frozen veggies on hand just in case I don’t have time to cook a side during the week. I like to keep frozen broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower rice on hand. I actually learned this from my friend who is a Registered Dietitian (I am hounding her to start a IG or blog because her tips are SO realistic and helpful) and it has saved me so many nights when something unplanned happened during the day and I don’t have as much time to cook as I thought I would have.
Here’s hoping these tips help you stick to a healthy eating plan in 2019! Are you going to give any of these tips a try? Let me know in the comments!