Hey guys, so as many of you know I’m headed back to work, cue tears…which means life is about to get real hectic. Clint is working full-time, I will be working full-time, I will also be going to school full-time (there’s a little flexibility here), Luna will be in daycare full-time, I will still be trying to work on this blog, and I have 2 other big projects, plus 6 other ideas in queue and we are renovating our house, one little space at a time.
I’m not sure about you guys but when we have a lot going on – we tend to let food slip. We’re busy, tired and rushed so good food slides into no food or crappy takeout way too much. Which means we’re not eating healthy and we often end up wasting so much because the groceries we bought don’t end up getting used and end up garbage. Now when it was just the two of us, I didn’t worry about it too much – it was relatively easy for us to change our routine and get back into the swing of things. But now with Luna things are different. Our habits become her habits, so we are really trying to be conscious of modelling the good ones for her. Food being one of them.
And don’t get me wrong here, I am still a firm believer of everything in moderation – which means, we will have family movie nights filled with making forts out of pillows and blankets and stuffing our faces with treats; it just won’t be every day.
Clint and I decided that we were going to start meal planning/prepping to try to ease some of the time constraints we’ll be facing and make sure we’re eating properly on the regular.
We’re no meal planning masters, we’ve dabbled a bit but this is relatively new for us. Nonetheless I do have some tips and tricks that will make things easier and also help keep things interesting. I sometimes see meal planning posts on Instagram and it’s just like 4 to 8 of the same meal all lined up in Tupperware. I can tell you right now that is NOT what I will be doing. How absolutely boring it would be eating the same meal every single day, ugh. To me that’s literally paving a road straight to takeout. I don’t know about you guys, but I need some variety in my diet!
Here’s the thing….I’m not going to write out recipes for you guys every week; I wish I could but I simply won’t have time to test them, photograph them and post them. So what I’m going to do instead is give you the meal plan for the week, which will include recipe ideas, I will give you the basics of putting the recipes together, and I will give you a shopping list and then you’re going to have to take it from there and use your imagination and creativity to throw it together the way you want and the way it works for you and your family. The recipe ideas are going to be very simple and straight forward, you’re going to see a lot of one bowl meals for dinner, salads and wraps for lunch and smoothies, yogurt, oats and chia bowls for breaky – things that require a little chopping, stirring, roasting, sautéing and that’s about it.
So first thing is first – kitchen staples. There are a handful (ok kind of more like a truck full) of ingredients you should always have on hand that will make life way easier. They are things that make for a quick and easy substitution if you’ve forgotten something, an addition if you want to switch it up or a whole meal on those days when nothing is planned. Here’s my fairly comprehensive list for you. The thing to remember here is we’re not vegan or even vegetarian, so you can make changes based on the way you eat, (for example if I say Greek yogurt, you can substitute vegan coconut/soy yogurt).
- Mixed beans*
- Black beans
- Diced tomatoes
- Crushed tomatoes
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Rice cakes
- Mixed nuts & seeds*
- Almond Butter
- Dark chocolate
- Dried fruit*
- Coconut flakes
- Coconut Milk
- Cottage cheese
FRUITS AND VEGGIES
- Sweet potato
* For the beans, nuts, dried fruit, rice, cheese and greens – grab whatever kinds you like and will use. Are go tos are navy beans and white beans, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and hemp hearts (I know I have cashews and almonds separate and that’s because we use them a lot), dried cranberries, raisins, and apricots, jasmine or basmati rice and a wild rice blend, feta cheese and an aged cheese, arugula, spinach and kale. There are so many great options, so don’t feel like you have to stick with my suggestions.
It may seem like a lot, and in a way it is – but these are items that mostly don’t spoil quickly, and really help on those moments when you need a quick fix but still want it to be healthy-ish and will add to the ease of meal planning/prepping.
In fact, I go one step further and have a few things I like to make on a regular basis and have in the fridge for those days when the meal plan isn’t going as planned.
WHAT TO HAVE IN YOUR FRIDGE
- Chia pudding
- Overnight oats
- Chia jam
- Energy bites*
- Hardboiled eggs
* Store bought ones are fine too, don’t feel like you have to make homemade salsa and hummus every week. Just look for good quality products that don’t have a ton of added sugar and other junk.
These are things that take no time at all to make but can save you on those days when you need a little extra help.
Next up are a handful of rules I am trying to follow (and tips for you) to make things simpler and to help create a bit of a routine.
MEAL PLANNING TIPS
- Have staples in your house, see list above for ideas.
- Focus on two breakfasts, two lunches, two homemade snack foods, and three main meals for dinner + 1 that you can whip up without a recipe using what’s in your house.
- Use at least two to four main ingredients in several dishes.
- Make breakfast foods that can be made ahead of time or done in less than 10 minutes.*
- Repurpose leftovers and snacks into lunches.*
- Always try to double one meal so you have something in the freezer on those nights you just don’t have time to cook.*
- Try to incorporate most of the staple items when you do your big monthly shop and stop by the grocery store for fresh fruit and veggies at least once a week (I prefer twice).
- Always have a grocery list with you when you’re shopping that lists quantities of the items, not just the item.
*Things like overnight oats, chia puddings and smoothies are great breakfast foods that can be made ahead of time and/or take very little time to put together. Repurposing leftovers can be as easy as if you’ve had a big protein bowl the night before you can take the leftovers and put them into a wrap with your hummus and salsa. Meals like pastas, and rice dishes make for great freezer meals – double the batch and help yourself out at a later date.
Last but not least I want to talk about the time…this is a big thing for most people, and I think one of the reasons why people want to meal plan but then also one of the reasons why they stop meal planning. In the long run, meal planning definitely does take less time, but if it’s foreign to you, you’re not great in the kitchen, you don’t like to cook, or whatever else, it can seem like it takes more time than just figuring out what to eat at the moment. I totally get it, but my figuring out what to eat at the moment usually turns into Chinese food or pizza sooooo there’s that. But seriously, I worry about the time too because I already feel like Clint and I don’t get enough quality time together. So here’s a few tips to try to help out with that.
MEAL PREP TIPS
- Don’t feel like it all has to be prepped in one day.
- Choose a day(s) that works for your family. If you work late on Mondays, have hockey on Saturdays, and so on, prepping on those days will probably make things more difficult, not easier. Sundays are generally a good day, but you know what works for your family.
- Meal prep together as a couple or family. This is HUGE. Prepping will take time, there’s not getting around that – but you can use that time to be with your family. If it’s just you as a couple, use the time while cutting vegetables to talk to each other, catch up on the week, reminisce, and plan a date night. If your kids are at an age where they can help out, awesome! Use the time to teach them, talk about school, extracurricular activities, their friends and so on. The key is multitasking that prep day into quality family time.
Before I finish up I also wanted to briefly chat about household items that I have in my kitchen that I think are important and will help make this whole process easier.
- A juicer, which is awesome to use up any leftover fruits and veggies that oyu didn’t end up using during the week. Not only does it help with zero waste – but then you’ve got a good extra dose of vitamins and minerals in the form of fresh juice.
- A stand-up deep freeze, this is great for those extra meals. And it’s also great for frozen fruit for smoothies (which you can pre portion), soups, stocks and so much more.
- A Vitamix or other blender – obviously makes smoothie and soup life much easier.
- A food processor – helps when making batches of hummus, energy balls, and slicing large portions of veggies or grating big batches of cheese.
Alright, there you have it – those are my tips to help make your meal planning journey a little simpler.
But remember, what works for our family may not work for yours so adapt, alter and be ok with that. The key is to come up with a basic plan that suits your life.
And even more important – don’t stress if it goes to shit one week, that’s life. Meal planning is here to help you not to add to your stress level. It’s ok to get takeout every once in a while. It’s also ok to drink a bottle of wine and eat half a brick of cheese for dinner sometimes; not all the time, but definitely sometimes.
I hope this post helps you wrap your head around meal planning and start your journey feeling excited and confident.
And if you stay tuned for my next blog, I will be posting our first week’s menu, grocery list and talking about the start of this experience.
Thanks for tuning in, till the next post.