Y’all know that I love to meal plan. It just makes life easier when you have special dietary restrictions like we do-it’s really, really hard for me to just “order in”…because there IS nothing I can realistically order in that we can all eat.
Strangely, I put off meal planning for a long, long time. I was intimidated by all of the posts with matching storage containers filled with the same thing over and over…. If that works for you, great. But me? I like variety. I may eat eggs every morning, but I honestly can’t eat thesame style of eggs day in and day out. That’s just boring.
So I had to get out of my own head. I just have to get smart about how I prep my meals and make sure that I set up my menus in advance so that I can be smart with my time. Basically, I had to meal prep for the way myself (and my family) wants to eat.
And you know what? It’s actually pretty simple, so I thought I’d share. I break my prep and meal planning down into a few different steps. I recommend that you take a few minutes
How I Meal Plan
- Shopping List
- Minimal Prep
You’ll notice I didn’t include breakfasts because those are generally granola or eggs, though I will occasionally make a few jars of overnight oats for a treat. I also only plan for a week at a time. Yes, I realize that I could do more, but that seems counterintuitive given how much can change in a mere week when you have little kids and a business to run!
First, I need to figure out exactly what you’re going to eat for dinners. Dinner is generally the most time consuming meal of the day, and so I try to take into account what our week looks like. Once I know what we’re doing, I’m able to think ahead a bit. I write out my dinner menu in my planner or on my weekly calendar (depending on my mood).
Then, I move on to lunch, which is generally easier to do, but still requires some planning, as there aren’t always leftovers. Lately, I’ve been rotating through some fairly easy options:
Salads In A Jar
Salads in a jar are easy to make, but they definitely require some prep on your part. If you go this route, make sure you layer them properly:
- Hard vegetables
- Soft vegetables
When sealed properly, your salad should stay fresh for up to 5 days.
Healthy Choice Simply Café Steamers
I am seriously in love with the Healthy Choice Simply Café Steamers. They have yummy options that fit within my no sugar, no gluten rules that are filling and take just a few minutes.
And, if you’ve never tried them, you need to grab at least one to see the awesome cooking process (I recommend the Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry-and you can view a complete list of their deliciousness here). They have a double-layer bowl that uses steam. Seriously. A steamed meal in the microwave that makes the veggies crisp? It exists. And it’s awesome. Plus, no lengthy prep.
Leftovers are always a nice option-but I never count on them. I live with 3 boys. We rarely have leftovers, and when we do, the boys tend to eat them in the middle of the night and store them in their hollow leg. So again, I don’t generally count on them.
Once you know what you’re having for lunch, write down your options in the notes section of your calendar or the “lunch” section of your meal plan.
I make my shopping list so that it’s easy to get what I need and get out. I am not a huge fan of the grocery store. It’s so easy to spend way more than you mean to if you don’t go in with a plan! So I use the layout of my store to plan my list:
- Cooler section (this includes juices, chilled dressings, etc.)
- Frozen Foods
Make sure that you use the meals you just planned when making your list! Add some eggs and granola or oats for breakfast and you’re set. I love that actually following a meal plan has saved our family a ton of money-no more impulse buys because I know there is going to be food to eat-and it’s going to be healthy for ALL of us (even the gluten free ones).
Prep That Isn’t a Headache
Meal prep was the most intimidating thing to me once upon a time. Now, I spend about an hour on a Sunday. I pop my Healthy Choice Simply Café Steamers into the freezer, put away or start my proteins marinating (if it’s applicable for the week), and then clean and prep my produce.
Seriously. I toss my protein in a ziplock with a marinade, put away my freezer items, and chop some veggies. I even have this nifty chopper to make that job faster.
Then I just box them (like-s so) and stick the chopped goodies in my fridge for use later in the week. So easy, even the kids can do it…kind of. Okay, fine. They can help.
OH! One more tip-Hide your Heathy Choice from your husband if you plan to eat it mid-week. You’ll thank me.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.