Here’s the truth, folks: a few minutes of planning can make your life SO MUCH easier. This holds true for many areas of our lives, but especially when it comes to our nutrition.
I don’t like taking my family out to eat. Timing is difficult; it’s expensive. Not to mention that the food is full of salt, butter and grease. It’s not healthy and can really derail our nutrition goals, especially when we do our best to eat clean. Instead of eating out, we opt to eat in. Each week, we take a few minutes to plan our meals and then Dan does a weekly shopping trip.
I’m a teacher, so during the school year, this is a sanity saver. I get up early, go to work and workout right when I get home. Usually my food is in the fridge and ready to heat up for dinner. Or it’s in the slow cooker and ready to eat. If I had to make a meal from scratch and start with the chopping and sautéing, it wouldn’t be done until 8:00 p.m. Or later.
I know some people hear “meal planning” and think they don’t have time for it. But really, just a few minutes each week will keep you focused so that your meals stay on track. I’ve been meal planning for years now and I’ve discovered a few tricks along the way, so if you’re ready to be more focused on your nutrition, then try these food prep tricks:
Prep on the weekends.
Weekends are a must for food prep. If you can’t make that happen, then find an evening or other set time during the week that you devote to prepping for the rest of the week. Don’t let other things get in the way of doing it. Your nutrition is too important!
Download the All Recipes App.
This little app has great recipes. You can search for specific recipe or use the “a la carte” option to put a meal together with what you have on hand. The reviews can give you great tips on how to prepare or tweak recipes. Be sure to save your favorite recipes for later reference.
Repeat meals to save your sanity.
Dan loves my healthy turkey chili. I make a big batch every single week. I let it cook all day on Sunday. We store it in the fridge and Dan eats it all week long. This recipe saves my sanity! When you find something healthy and tasty, why not stick to it? Or, if you prefer more variety, find a few recipes and rotate weeks you make them.
Use the slow cooker to brown meat.
I use my slow cooker to brown my ground turkey. I simply open the package and throw it in the slow cooker with onions. It only requires stirring every once in a while.
Make your own salad dressing.
There are so many horrible salad dressings in the grocery store. Stay away from them! Especially don’t eat the “diet” versions of dressings (bonus tip: “fat free” and “healthy” don’t mean they are good for you). If you’re going to buy a pre-made dressing, read the label. But I recommend making your own. It’s really not hard at all. Mix some olive oil, vinegar and spices together in a mason jar. And, done! Or, try this Healthy Honey Mustard recipe. There are so many healthy recipe options out there, you’ll be amazed by how delicious, quick and easy homemade dressings are…and you’ll wonder why you ever bought the bottled stuff!
Keep sautéed onions on hand.
Start with 2 big onions. Chop them up and toss them into a skillet with some oil. Sauté them low and slow. Use what you need for a specific recipe and then keep the rest in the fridge as a starter for another recipe later in the week. Onions are a flavor base for so many recipes. It’s critical to have these flavor bases and complexities, so healthy eating tastes good.
Cook in batches.
Spend one day putting together refrigerator and freezer meals. If you’re dirtying up your kitchen once a week, it’s not so bad. That way you use one or two pans instead of five or six throughout the week.
Prep your lettuce for easy use.
We eat a lot of salads. When we get it home from the store, we wash it, and use the salad spinner to rinse and dry it. It’s a great time saver. (If you don’t have a salad spinner, get one! It’s totally worth the cost!) Then chop it and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
Treat asparagus like a flower.
So try this neat little trick to keep asparagus fresh: put the stalks in a cup of water (like you do with flowers) and cover with a plastic zipper bag to keep the tops moist.
Roast your veggies.
Try roasting to get crisp and tender veggies. This brings out the natural sweetness, so kids will like them better.
Slow cook your sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are a great substitute for regular potatoes. We don’t like to microwave them. Instead, we either bake them in the oven for 2-3 hours or put them in the slow cooker for about 4 hours on low. Simply rinse them in water, stab them a few times with a fork or knife, and put in them in the slow cooker. You don’t have to add any water. They will cook themselves. Regular potatoes also work in the slow cooker.
Buy the roasted chicken.
Here’s a protein tip for you: grab a roasted chicken from the grocery store for a quick and easy protein addition to your meal. Put it in salads, quesadillas, soups, etc. Then (we’re not done yet!), boil the carcass for 2 hours to make your own bone broth. Boil with some veggies for extra flavor. Put it in the fridge and scrape off the fatty top. Then you have super tasty (and cheap!) broth for soups.
Chop the veggies immediately.
Too often we buy veggies to feel good about ourselves, but when we are in a hurry, we don’t want to take the time to clean, peel and chop. Instead, do all that when you get them home from the store. That way, when you need to make dinner, the veggies are ready to use instead of being shriveled and wasted.
I hope you found those tips helpful. Remember, this is a process. You don’t have to do it all now. Try one thing and get started with that. But I’m telling you, think a little bit ahead and then time is on your side and you don’t feel rushed. Give yourself the gift of time and thank yourself later.
AND, take a look at this eBook with helpful and easy tips to get your nutrition on the right track. This is Coach Dan’s gift to you. I hope you’ll download “6 Keys for Successful Weight Loss & What You’ve Been Doing Wrong” and read through it today. It’s a quick read with simple tips, healthy snack ideas and a bonus recipe. To get your copy, sign-up below and then check your email for a confirmation message:
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Thanks for stopping by! Pin this info for later, and check my Pinterest board and YouTube channel for more nutrition and fitness ideas and inspiration. Also, be sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.
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Lisa may spend her days as an early childhood Montessori teacher, but when she’s not in the classroom, she’s in the kitchen whipping up new recipes, while adding her own healthy flare with a few simple changes. When she and Dan first got married, she only knew how to make tuna noodle casserole made with Velveeta and cream of mushroom soup. She has come a long ways since then, thanks to cookbooks, the Internet, trial and error, and a passion for healthier living.