I’ve been pondering over a clever angle for this post. Do I do a whole “super top secret” build up, leaving you totally compelled to read on? Nah, that’s a little misleading. Should I give you a glimpse of my
(OCD) reliance on Post-It notes to organize my meal planning, to-do lists, and basically my life? No way, I can’t publicize my crazy (yet). So I guess I’ll leave it at this – introducing the seven healthy meal planning secrets. Done and done.
1. Freeze – My freezer is my bestie. One just wasn’t enough, so we have an additional deep freezer in our garage (who asks for a freezer for Christmas? THIS girl). The first meal planning rule is to make a meal, double it or triple it, and freeze the rest. This tactic works well with soups, casseroles, cooked ground beef, or shredded pork/chicken. Roast a large batch of vegetables, let cool completely, put into sealable bags, and freeze to later add to vegetable soups, stir fries, and egg bakes. Repeat after me, “freezing is my friend”.
2. Master a Favorite Recipe (or two) – Love a recipe? Make it a staple meal! The the more comfortable you are cooking a staple meal, the easier (and faster) it will be from prep to plated. Don’t forget to purchase those ingredients every time you go grocery shopping. The next time you’re in a meal bind, you can easily turn to your mastered, go-to meal.
3. Make Enough for Leftovers – Cook once, eat twice. If you are going through the work to cook a meal, make extra, or double the recipe. Leftovers make great lunches and repeat dinners. Not a fan of eating the same thing twice? Reinvent! Use yesterday’s leftovers to throw on a baked sweet potato, or add leftover meal ingredients to cauliflower rice and make a stir fry. Leftovers also work well in scrambled eggs or a mixed salad.
4. Crockpot Breakfasts & Dinners – Delicious and healthy egg bakes are SO easy to make in an crockpot overnight. Just crack 12 eggs, pour in two cups of milk (coconut milk or almond milk), and add whatever vegetables or protein you have on hand. Cook on low all night, and by morning you’ll have an amazing, hearty, healthy breakfast. Refrigerate those leftovers for the rest of the week. When it comes to dinner crockpot creations, place chicken breasts (or a whole chicken), pork shoulder or loin, beef roast, or short ribs in the crockpot with a little broth and some vegetables on low all day. When you get home, dinner is set (and the house will smell amazing). Crockpot meals don’t have to be intricate – meat and veggies will do the trick!
5. Tinfoil is Your Friend – Chop a batch of vegetables on prep day and wrap them in tinfoil packs for grilling later that week. When you are ready to cook, delicately open the pack, add a little olive oil or butter, some dried herbs, and throw on the grill with burgers, steak, or chicken. Then use whatever leftover vegetables (and protein) you have to add to your lunch salad the next day.
6. Keep an Inventory List – You know those cute ‘lil fridge notepads that have a magnet on the back? Get one and stick it on your refrigerator. When you put groceries away, write down what you have in stock and cross off what you consume. The next time you need to make a meal and are stumped, check your list and throw things together in a skillet. Make a mode podge of Asian flavors with rice vinegar, coconut aminos, and sesame oil. Or throw chili powder, cumin,and salsa in a skillet of goodies for a fresh and spicy kick. Try mixing ingredients with garlic, balsamic, and oregano. Or use your various herbs from your garden and add olive oil. Experimenting with flavors and ingredients from time to time will give you the confidence to build quick meals from scratch, with a dash of this and a sprinkle of that.
7. Go Out – This title is deceiving, I know. But if ya just need to go out to eat, try this little trick. Ask for sides in a separate box or request components on the side. I recently discovered this at Chipotle. Innocently NOT trying to be a cheapskate, I always ask for black beans on the side to feed my son while we eat. He never finishes them so I bring them home for the next day. If a restaurant will let you build your own meal, gives extra sides, or offers unlimited options, take some of that food home (just not in your purse – that’s tacky). Hey, you’re paying for a meal, so get as much from your hard earned bucks as you can! Then use that food to add to a later dish.
No cliffhanger here. Just do-able steps to make meal planning easy and effective! Meal prep can save you time, eliminate stress, help keep money in your pocket by avoiding food waste. What are other planning tactics you do to make life easy and meals healthy?