Weeknights and mornings are so busy for us, and I’m sure they are for you too! I don’t know about you, but I don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen each day cooking and cleaning. And I don’t like coming up with something on the spot to cook for dinner. I like being prepared for each meal. When you have a plan, it makes eating healthy so much easier! To help save some time (and sanity) throughout the week, I plan out my meals. Then I grocery shop once for the whole week and spend an hour or two on the weekend meal-prepping. Read on to see how I meal plan and prep for a week.
Why I Meal Plan
On Thursday nights I do my meal planning for the whole next week. I list ALLl the meals I will make that week – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Meal planning is so important. If you don’t plan out your meals, there is a greater chance that you will stop for fast food on your way home from work. Or you might fix something quick and probably unhealthy, like a frozen pizza.
Trust me- I used to do this! Taco Bell was my go-to when I was tired and didn’t feel like cooking when I got home from work. Now that I understand the importance of eating nutritious, real food that fuels my body, I set myself up for success by meal planning and prepping. Taco Bell isn’t even an option for me anymore. Thankfully, my kids are used to our healthy way of eating now! They hardly ever even ask to go to Taco Bell or any fast food restaurants anymore!
How to Meal Plan
The first step to successful healthy eating is to find or come up with some great recipes. I look through recipes on Pinterest, in cookbooks, or I come up with a recipe myself. Sometimes I find good-looking meals on Pinterest and use them as inspiration and create my own version of that food. I also like the challenge of making some of my family favorites in a healthier way.
When you’re meal planning, be sure to pick out meals that are:
- Healthy and nutritious – choose foods that nourish and fuel your body.
- Aligned to any dietary needs you have (or can be easily adjusted to fit your needs). If you have a dairy sensitivity, for example, search for meals that are dairy-free.
- And something your family will enjoy eating! Obviously, we should help our kids expand their horizons and grow to like eating vegetables. I’m not suggesting adding chicken nuggets to the meal plan each night. But if you have a child that despises Brussel sprouts, I wouldn’t add them to the plans for every meal! Try to have a good balance between foods your family likes and foods that maybe they don’t love the most, but are good for them. I think a lot of times we don’t give kids enough credit. When we don’t give them the option to eat junk food and set healthy food in front of them, they’ll probably eat it.
Write out the meals you choose on a meal planning calendar.
To make life even easier, check out my cookbook, Real Food Made Easy! It has 4 weeks worth of meal plans, grocery lists, and recipes all ready to go for you!
When you’re planning, take into consideration any late days at work, events you have at night, etc. Choose something easy for those nights – like a crock pot meal, salad with grilled chicken (that can be grilled ahead of time), or leftovers from another night. We have karate on Thursday nights. So on those nights I plan easy meals that I can put together quickly when we get back home.
While I’m planning my meals, I also make my grocery list. I look through the ingredients on the recipes and see what ingredients I already have in my pantry or fridge. Then I add the ingredients that I still need to my list, along with any extra things like fruit, nuts, or coffee.
Check out this video for healthy lunch ideas for your kids!
I do most of my shopping at Harris Teeter. They have a mobile app, where you can order online, drive up, and pick up your groceries. It saves so much time. I love it! I know a lot of the grocery stores are doing online shopping now too. I’d definitely suggest taking advantage of this if your budget allows.
For me, it actually helps SAVE money. I get to pick what goes in my cart, without little people grabbing stuff off the shelves and adding it to the cart. And when I’m done adding groceries to my cart, if the total is more than I want to spend, I can just delete things I don’t need. For example, if a recipe calls for fresh herbs and, after adding everything to my cart, my total is above my limit, I’ll take the fresh herbs out and just use dried herbs that I already have.
I used to make a list of everything I needed, go into the grocery store, and try to find it all. Instead of making a grocery list now, I just look up the foods on the app, add them to my cart, and order them!
Whether you do this too or you actually go into the grocery store to shop, it is important to make a list. If you go into the grocery store without a list, chances are you’ll get things that you feel compelled in the moment to buy, even if you know it’s not the healthiest thing. There’s also more of a chance that you’ll spend more money than your budget allows.
I usually order my groceries Thursday night to pick up on Friday afternoon, on my way home from work. I wash my fruit and veggies and put all my groceries away right away. Then, I put all the meat in the freezer, except for the meat I know I will be cooking that weekend.
Watch this video to learn more about how I meal plan for the week and to see some other meal prep ideas.
If you have time, I highly recommend doing a little prep on the weekend to save yourself some time and help things run more smoothly during the week.
I usually do my meal prepping on Sunday afternoons. My husband helps out a lot with cooking meals. So when we get home from church on Sundays, usually he starts cooking lunch, while I start doing some meal prep.
I’m not a HUGE meal-prepping-person. I don’t cut up or cook all the veggies I need for the week. When vegetables and fruit are cut, they do lose some nutrients, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to cut up the veggies I need for a meal. However, if it’s between not eating vegetables or cutting up and/or cooking vegetables ahead of time to have on hand for the week, definitely go with the latter. Less nutrient-dense vegetables are still better than none at all.
Making something ahead of time for breakfast is a lifesaver! I am not an early bird. I wake up at 5-5:30 because I have to for work, not because I like to! As early as I have to wake up, I don’t always wake up early enough to COOK something for breakfast. But I’m not going to have Pop-Tarts in the house to grab on the way out the door either.
On my Sunday meal prep, I always make something to have on hand for breakfasts. I always cook a pack of bacon or a pound of sausage. I can’t eat nightshades, which is in most breakfast sausages, so I make my own using ground pork and spices.
Besides cooking some meat ahead of time for breakfasts, I also make something else for quick and easy breakfasts. Whatever make-ahead breakfast dish I choose, I make sure it’s one that will last for 2-3 breakfasts for us. This frittata is a favorite I make often.
This week I made egg breakfast “burritos,” a recipe from Bill Staley and Hayley Mason’s Make It Paleo cookbook. Check out their book in the link above. They have a lot of simple-to-make, healthy recipes. This was a fun one!
All I did was cook some eggs like an omelet (without stuffing it with cheese and folding it) and use that as the tortilla! I filled the egg tortilla with my cooked sausage and some guacamole and wrapped it up like a burrito.
I also always have frozen fruit for making smoothies. If you want to be extra proactive, you can fill freezer bags with enough fruit/greens for a smoothie and have them in the freezer ready to pop into the blender. Just add your liquid (I usually use almond milk or water) and any other add-ins (I like to add Collagen Peptides, almond butter, cocoa powder, and maybe some honey or Stevia) when it’s time to blend it up. To be honest, I’m not that proactive! I just mix everything together in the morning when I make the smoothies.
Some breakfasts I make frequently during the week are:
- Sunny-side up eggs with a side of bacon or sausage and a fruit (like berries or grapefruit) or a sautéed veggie (like spinach or mushrooms)
- An omelet with my bacon or sausage I made and some veggies mixed in
- Gluten-free muffins
- Egg muffins
- A frittata
- Sweet Potato Kale Hash
Check out this video to see how I make this breakfast favorite – my Sweet Potato & Kale Hash.
For lunch, to be honest, I don’t prep a lot. I usually have leftovers from dinner the night before. If there aren’t any leftovers, or I just want something different, I’ll make a smoothie or a salad with salmon, tuna, grilled chicken, or chicken salad. Check out my post Healthy Waldorf Chicken Salad for my recipe for delicious chicken salad.
Sometimes on my Sunday meal prep, I bake a whole pack of chicken thighs with ghee (clarified butter), spices, and mustard. I’ll eat one of these chicken thighs for lunch, along with some raw veggies, an apple, and/or nuts. Or I’ll grill some chicken breasts and slice them up. I’ll add these to my salads during the week.
Since starting to eat more healthy, real foods, I’ve cut out a lot of store-bought condiments. Salad dressings, ketchup, and sauces can have a lo of sugar in them, as well as processed vegetable oils. And many of these condiments are so simple to make yourself!
When I meal prep, I usually always make a salad dressing (I like balsamic vinaigrette, honey mustard, and Caesar). Sometimes I make my own mayonnaise (it’s mainly just whipped egg yolks and oil) when I don’t have my favorite Primal Kitchen Avocado Mayo. Use this link to get an extra 25% off your first order at Thrive Market. If you haven’t heard of Thrive Market and want to learn more about this awesome online grocery retail store, check out this video.
This week I made guacamole to add to the breakfast burritos I mentioned earlier. You can find my simple guacamole recipe in my Paleo Steak Fajitas post.
Another condiment I make often is sauerkraut. It’s so simple to make and much more cost-effect and healthier than buying store-bought sauerkraut!
All you do is:
- Slice up green cabbage,
- Add it to a large bowl,
- Add sea salt, and
- Massage the cabbage until it starts to release its water.
Then pack the cabbage down into mason jars and let it sit in a dark place (I set them in my pantry) for about 10 days to ferment. Not only is homemade sauerkraut simple to make and cheaper than buying store-bought sauerkraut, but it has great health benefits. Sauerkraut is a natural source of probiotics, which is great for gut and immune health.
It’s a great idea to have some type of healthy snack on hand to sustain you during long periods between meals. That way you don’t binge on something you probably shouldn’t eat.
One simple snack you can make is a little cucumber salad. To make it, cut up some cucumbers, add some vinegar, salt, and pepper, and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to kind of pickle. Delish!
I also enjoy eating raw veggies, like cucumbers, carrots, and broccoli with a dip like ranch or hummus. So on the weekend, I go ahead and make some type of dip.
You can also mix together some of your favorite nuts, dried fruits, and spices to make a homemade trail mix.
These are just A FEW ideas you can use to start your meal plan and prep routine. Try some of these ideas to set yourself up for success with healthy eating.
Have you tried meal prepping yet? And if so, what do you include in your meal prepping? Let me know if you try any of these ideas and what you think! Happy planning and prepping!