Imagine that you’ve just gotten off work and it was a busy day full of projects and deadlines. You drive your commute home with heavy traffic and when you get home, you’re tired and just want to rest. Your pantry is empty and nothing is on the menu for dinner. What are you likely to do? Stop and pick up food on the way home? Try to throw something together from the freezer?
Now imagine that you get home from work and you have a meal plan posted on your fridge! Since you grocery shopped the previous weekend, you have all the ingredients to make a healthy, fresh meal. In fact, since you meal prepped some of the veggies and whole grains that the recipe calls for, it’s a snap to throw together a healthy meal.
If you take the hurry and unpredictability out of meal preparation, you’ll be rewarded with a much more wholesome, nutritious, and flavorful meal.
Start by saving the grocery shopping for just one or two days each week: Fewer trips mean fewer opportunities to buy more than you need, or the wrong types of food. Shop on the weekends or during times when you aren’t in a rush (or hungry for dinner). You’ll be more focused on what you are buying, and pay closer attention to nutritional information on the labels.
Whenever you can, shop at farmer’s markets, or sign up for your local Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) plan. Check out the website LocalHarvest and use the “Find a CSA” tool to find one close to you! You’ll get the freshest seasonal produce– and discover new fruits and vegetables along the way.
It’s smart to plan your meals ahead of time, and to make the most of the ingredients you already have on hand, with the goal of not wasting anything. For example, if the meal you are making Monday called for one cup of shredded chicken, look for another recipe to make later in the week that will use up the rest. Take inventory of your pantry at the beginning of each week and stock up on the basics (including grains, legumes, onions, and other alliums) that serve as building blocks for healthy meals. Check out my post about building a whole foods pantry.
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Cook One, Eat Twice
Take advantage of “batch cooking”! Whole grains can be cooked ahead of time and included in meals all throughout the week. Roasted veggies can make their way into salads, pastas, omelets, etc. Dried beans and lentils are always good make ahead options that can also be frozen in single servings.
When you batch cook, try doing this on the weekend (AKA “Sunday Food Prep“). By planning ahead and prepping some items ahead of time, it’s much less work for you during the week! Wash and chop veggies, cook large batches of whole grains, hard boil eggs, grill meats, wash and bag salad greens, etc. This shaves off any prep work from your weeknight meals!
How do you plan ahead for healthy meals during the week?