My refrigerator made me sad the other day. The side door was the only thing with signs of life. I realized I was either having liquid meals or big bowls of quinoa for dinner. I used to cook, but after throwing away so many perishables, it seemed easier to blend my way to health. Then I got into the idea of meal prepping, and my cooking world expanded.
It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking for one or a family of five, keeping your at home dining options fresh takes work. I used to be satisfied with keeping “staples” on hand. You know those goodies you always crave, but it’s how I’d end up eating bowls of millet with nothing else in them. Nothing more boring.
Looking at fitspiration instagrams, the hash tag mealprep would give me pictures of someone having the same lunch day in, day out. Total snooze. With the element of meal planning though, you can start off your big day, and always have something in rotation. The freezer is our friend when you put Quinoa, Apricot, and Oat Muffin Clusters in there. Or soak chia seeds overnight in hemp milk for a quick breakfast. You’ll always have something healthy to eat for a snack or quick dinner.
Not too many people I’ve talked to do the meal planning. It’s the I’m too busy living my life to plan my food for the week. Or it’s cheaper to eat out. It’s a vicious cycle. I will be honest I’ve left my house in the middle of the night to grab a chocolate snack because I was craving something sweet. Being healthy doesn’t mean denying yourself anything. It means giving yourself options.
I set out to figure out this meal planning. Finding recipes isn’t the problem. We can all attest to this fact. It’s a matter of having basic staples on hand, and adding a special ingredient or two. Maybe you make one special meal every week, and start your freezer rotation.
If you’re like me, everything is digital now. You bookmark recipes, and try it when you have the chance. Having them scattered all over the internet doesn’t really work, so how do you translate all this information into a meal plan? PlanToEat.com seemed to answer all my prayers. It takes all your recipes and imports them into your meal calendar. It also pumps out a grocery list for easy shopping, and moves meals around like an excel spreadsheet cell.
You could do it the traditional route, if you don’t feel like spending the $40/year for the subscription fee, but like I said, this is all about convenient meal planning. Whatever you need to do, so you’re not eating leftovers for days. For me, plantoeat.com helped me visualize the ingredients I was using so there isn’t food being spoiled.
Maybe you’re not sold on the idea of meal planning and prepping. The internet has a plethora of recipes for all your vegan, paleo, and gluten free needs. It also has meal plans for you to get started on this road of food efficiency. PopSugar has a great two week plan of clean eating. The issue I was having, “How to make it convenient for me?”
All these great online sources have links. What was happening though, I ended up with six different tabs for a clean eating game plan, the daily recipes, the shopping list, and I hadn’t even made it to day two’s plan! These tabs also translated to some information being a pdf, some information being a url, and next thing I know, I’m a frustrated health nut who’s eating bowls of plain quinoa.
So what’s my new game plan when it comes to meal planning/prepping. First, figure out what I want to make for the week. Do not get ambitious. Most likely I’ll only make one big meal from scratch. Easy easier, if I can make it a one pan dish like an awesome vegan lasagna. It’s how you start your freezer meal rotation.
Other ideas? Make one day your day to get it all done. The chopping. The prepping. The portioning it all out. You can give up a Netflix movie to make your weekly eating your new friend. It only takes two hours to make those big batches versus cutting up and measuring every single day. There’s no need.
Pre chop your snack veggies and put them in water, like celery, broccoli, and carrot sticks. Soak and cook your nuts and legumes for the week. You can also wash and chop your greens for the freezer. Spread them out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper after you’re done rinsing. Stick them in the freezer overnight.
The next morning, portion them out into individual-sized freezer bags, and viola, smoothie magic. Get to roasting all those veggies you’re gonna eat. Chop, chop away, and like you did with your veggies, put them in individual portion servings so you have them to go in combination with your meal planning.
What was key for me, was seeing what I always liked eating. Seeing the combinations of meals I could make for the week. Not over buying, thinking I was going to use ingredient in some random meal. When you know what you’re making ahead of time, you’ll stick to the list when you’re shopping. No more waste. No more boring meals.
The other key element of meal planning/prepping the modern convenience of the freezer. When you make a one pan dish, make it freezer friendly. It’s how you avoid eating the same left overs day in, day out. You can also make the freezer left overs part of your next’s week meal plan.
Now I understand why you shouldn’t use the phrase, “never.” I never thought I would find home economics sexy, but I do. My online program, ziplock bags, and tupperware is ready to rock this meal planning/prepping. Adios big, boring bowls of millet with nothing else. Hello, tomatoes, cilantro, and sweet potatoes mama planned ahead.